May 27. 2018
Today is Trinity Sunday. This is the Sunday we celebrate the “triune” God – God the three in one – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As I’ve said before, the actual word “Trinity” does not appear anywhere in the Bible. But of course, there are many examples of the Trinity, and there are many “triune” expressions of God, Father, Son, and Spirit.
This chapter in Acts is about the beginning of the Church. And I think it’s plain to see that this story has in it all three “persons” of the Trinity. It tells of God the Father, the Creator of all things, which of course those people knew. It has the story of God the Son, now the Redeemer, according to this sermon of Peter. And of course this chapter is all aboutGod the Holy Spirit, the “person” of God that is now empowering this new Church.
So on this Trinity Sunday, we see further this story of the disciples, now the Apostles, and how they received the power Jesus promised in Chapter one of this book. There he said, “And you shall receive power… and you shall be my witnesses.” This is the day the “Promise has come,” as we said last week. And again, they had no ideawhat was going to happen to them. They had no idea what this day was going to look like. As I said, everything in the previous month of their lives was beyond what they could have ever imagined. And this day was even moreunimaginable! And what I want us to see today, is that weare part of this day! This was only the very beginning of his thing we are part of, this thing called “The Great Ecclesia” – “The Church of Jesus Christ!”
When you were young, did you ever play “Follow the Leader.” I know I did! Neighborhood games like that have gone out of style these days, but they were great for kids! So, do you remember “Follow the Leader?” One person would be the leader and everyone followed after them and did, and said, everything they did. I don’t think it was a game where anyone actually won. It was just fun!
When my son was a toddler, my daughter Jenny and I used to play that game with him – in the Mall! We called it “Follow Paul wherever he goes.” We would follow him in and out of stores, around racks of clothing, behind checkout counters. It was great! And it made me feel what it was like to be a kid again!
When I was older, I played a different game of “Follow the Leader.” I ran a number of Marathon races. And, as a marathon runner, it always amazed me to think that I was in the same race with the best in the world! They didn’t hold one race for the “elite” runners, and then start a separate race for all the rest of us. It was always all one race. And it still is! And so, as I ran, I always knew that somewhere ahead of me, in the same race. were those elite runners – the ones who would win. I would just finish “some time after them.” (And there wasa time when I wasn’t thatfar behind!)
Saint Paul loved the image of the Christian life as being a race. He told the Hebrews, “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” That is a great image! Especially the part he began with, the part about being “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.”
I like to imagine that, especially around this time of Pentecost. We are running the “race” of this life. And sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s rainy. Sometimes we have injuries. But we keep going. And somewhere up in the front of the same race, are these guys, Peter, James, John, and the others. They’re right up there ahead of us. And they’re looking to Jesus, and they’re surrounded by the cheering crowds… And so are we.
I hope you feel that. Sometimes we can feel detached from all of that – so far in the future as we are. (Or way behind in the race!) This, which can be considered “ancient history,” can seemlike “ancient history” to us, can’t it? But I hope you can get that image in your mind today. I hope you can see yourself in that same line, that same race, as Peter, James, and John. And we’re all following Jesus!
And as we run this race, we can be aware of the “Trinity,” the “Triune God” we worship. We can know of the love of God the Creator. Because he loved the world so much – including us – that he sent us Jesus, God the Son. He’s the one at the finish line. Or better yet, he’s the one in the helicopter hovering over the race course, the one we can see the whole way. And to sustain us along the way, like those water stops in a long race, we have the Holy Spirit. He is our assurance, our Hope, our power! And the route is lined with cheering crowds! That “great cloud of witnesses” are those we can see around us, and those we cannot see.
That’s the race we have joined. And remember, on Pentecost, Peter took this “race” back even farther. He told the people about David and how the story of Jesus began there, and even before. Those listening that day were well aware of their past. They were Jewish, or they were Jewish converts, and their past made them who they were. Because of Abraham, and Moses, they were the chosen people.
So we are part of that longer “race” as well. In the great council of Nicea in “The Year of our Lord”(?) 325, the leaders of the church decided that the Jewish scriptures, the Jewish story, was to be part of our story, too! And so we have the “Old Testament” in our Bibles. And that story has culminated in this thing we call “The Trinity.”
Again, it’s too easy to feel “detached” from this “ancient history.” Its hard to put ourselves into it. But I encourage you to try. Because we arein it! We are part of the race.
As you think about all that, I would commend to you the last words of this chapter. Here Luke tells us how much this all affected the people that day. It changed their lives! And it has the power to change our lives today!
“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47)
Eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Help us to know we are part of your kingdom, part of that great cloud of witnesses down through the ages. Help us to live by your redemption and your sustenance, as we strive to be the people you call us to be. For this we pray in our Savior’s name, Amen.