Colossians 1:11-23, Acts 3:1-10
June 3, 2012
We just completed our Confirmation Class, and last week we welcomed that class into Church membership. That’s always a wonderful time for any congregation, isn’t it?! And if you were there, (and even if you weren’t) I hope it made you think about your own confirmation and the promises you made at that time – no matter how long ago it was! I know I thought about mine!!
Well, during the class we tried to relate to those young people the various parts of the faith and belief. And as we were talking about our beliefs about God, we had, what is always a difficult task – that of explaining to them the concept of the Trinity.
That’s what we celebrate today. The Trinity, which is at the heart of all of our beliefs about God. As Christians, we believe that God is experienced in three forms, or “persons” – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our creed is based on that. We say “I believe,” which is “Credo” in Latin! That’s where the word “creed” comes from. We say, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty… And in Jesus Christ, his only Son… And in the Holy Ghost…” There’s the Trinity. And most statements of faith I’ve ever heard follow that formula.
Well, there’s a funny thing about the Trinity, and it’s this. Despite its importance, the word “Trinity” never appears in the Bible! That’s weird, isn’t it? But it’s true. It’s not in the Bible at all! However, in many places in the Bible, God is referred to in “the three persons” – Father, Son, and Spirit. So it’s really just a question of when the actual term was coined. And of course we know it came a little later in history. But the Trinity always existed.
Now, the problem with the Trinity is that it’s not an easy concept for us to understand. It’s hard to fit into our minds the idea that we worship a God who is one, but who relates to us in these three ways. And then, since we tend to use terms familiar to us, and in this case family terms – Father and Son – we tend to think of God in the same way. We think, “Ok, so there’s Father and a Son – two beings – and they live together in Heaven.” It’s like the little girl who was trying to console a sad friend, and she said, “Don’ worry, God and Jesus are with you. But it’s not that simple! We celebrate today the fact that those two persons are actually one!
Let me say that I hope this all seems confusing to you! Because it is! In fact, this is one of those things that if you think you have it all figured out, you probably don’t! And that’s ok. Because I don’t either! But if you’re like most people, you want to understand the Trinity in the simplest way possible. And I’d like us to try to do so today by focusing in on the “second person” of the Trinity, Jesus the Son.
I had us read this passage from Colossians today, so we’d hear again these wonderful words Paul used in his explanation of who Jesus is. He says, “He is the image of the invisible God…” I want you to know today, that the basic Trinitarian understanding of Jesus is that he is God. Maybe you remember how he told the religious leaders “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) Of course, that statement didn’t make them very happy! It was blasphemy to say that you are God. They even started to pick up stones to stone him – to execute him! And it wasn’t just out of anger. They had a lot of clearly written laws about that kind of thing. What he said had serious consequences! I know that’s beyond what we might imagine, but it was all very real to them!
So, Jesus said he was God. And I say that definitively today, because sometimes people in our world, and even in our churches, aren’t sure what to think about him. Was Jesus really God? Or was he just a good teacher? Was he a prophet? Did he really perform miracles? What should we believe? And I was thinking what better day to confirm what we believe about him than Trinity Sunday!
As we do so, I also had us read this passage from Acts. Here in this story, Peter was anything but unsure about Jesus! He spoke very boldly to the disabled man at the Temple gate. (And, by the way, to everybody else within earshot!) He said, “I have no silver or gold, but I will give you what I do have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Walk!” Peter knew! In fact, there was little doubt among the followers of Jesus in those days about his resurrection and about his being God. But there were certainly a whole plethora of questions about those things among the other people of that day! (Wow! That’s three weeks in a row I used the word “plethora!”) Can we even begin to imagine what it was like for them hearing all this for the first time?
Sometimes I wonder (in the current political and philosophical climate) if we are sure about what we think and believe about Jesus. I wonder if we’re up to the task of “giving people Jesus.” Think about it. When we encounter people who are hurting, are willing to say “God cares!?” “In fact, he cares so much about us – the people he created – that he came here himself!” Are we willing to say that? Are we willing to tell people how God became “Incarnate” in Jesus of Nazareth?
That’s not as easy a question as it might seem. And this comes down to the faith of each one of us. Is Jesus just a man, but a man who was only used by God, as some have said? Or, was he God, but not really a man? In other words, he only appeared to be a man! Some have said that, too. Both of those views are troubling. Both deny the deity and the humanity of Jesus. Do we know he was both? Then maybe we should ask, “Are we sure that he was raised from the dead?” That was the central focus of the Church for four centuries. But even about that, there were in those days, and in the centuries since, skeptics who have said “No.”
As God’s people, we should consider all of that. And as we do so we need to go one step further, and we should each ask the even bigger question. How important is Jesus to you? You know, you can “believe all the right things,” and never really answer that question. Many people say they believe that Jesus is God, but they’re still not sure how important he is to them!! I think this is as good a time as any to be sure.
So, take this time and ask yourself those questions. How important is Jesus to you? Is he God? Is he Savior? Is he Lord and head of the Church? And the most important question of all. Is he in your life? If you’re not sure, do something about it! Talk to him. I guarantee he wants to talk to you! And if you can’t do that, ask someone about it!
Then, as we come to this table, as we come to this sacrament, maybe we can understand things a little better. Jesus is God, not just an ‘offspring’ of God. His sacrifice meant that part of God died that day on Golgotha. And in his death he showed us his infinite love! Then, in his resurrection he showed us his power. And in his atonement he showed us his amazing Grace!
That all happened for all for us, my friends! All of us!! So, seek to know that Jesus. Don’t just know about him. Seek him in your life. He is God in connection with us, his people. Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God!
Prepare us, O God, for this sacrament, shared in your presence with your people. Help us to know for sure the Savior whose sacrifice for us is represented here at this table. For this we pray in his holy name, Amen.