Genesis 1:1-19, Acts 2:22-38
May 18, 2008 Trinity Sunday
“Not Bad for a Fisherman!” That was originally going to be the title for this sermon. That’s because it comes from this the very first Christian sermon given by Peter on the day of Pentecost. And he did great! He really “knocked ‘em dead” – or alive, actually! And he was just a fisherman!
Of course, this story shows even more of the power of the Holy Spirit that day. Because not only was Peter “just a fisherman,” but along with the rest of them he was fearful, and he was “keeping a low profile” – until this incredible thing happened! Now here he was, standing before the crowds, speaking with conviction and power. And the crowds responded! And that was not bad for a fisherman! However, the more I thought about this, the more it seemed to me that it was his message that was the important thing. Because his message that day was all about Jesus.
Remember, this was just days after Easter. Sometimes we forget that. Sometimes we think of Pentecost as being a completely separate event. For us, it comes “later on.” It comes after Lent and Easter are over and we’ve taken that “Big Exhale” from all the busyness and intensity of that time of the year. By the time Pentecost rolls around, it can seem like Easter is far behind us. But Pentecost is part of all that, and, we need to connect these two events in our minds, for they are inseparable events. The impact of Pentecost is lost without the impact of Easter. The continuing story of Jesus is lost without the impact of his passion, and death, and resurrection. That’s the connection that Peter made here!
These people in Jerusalem still had all that fresh in their minds. And even if some of them hadn’t been there when this drama took place, they had certainly heard about it. Because it was the topic of conversation throughout the city in those days. Jesus had become quite the public figure. He had been to Jerusalem on a number of occasions, preaching, teaching, and performing miracles. He drew bigger and bigger crowds all the time. And he was the center of a storm of controversy. And I doubt “the talk” about all of that had died down much at all!
I’m also sure many of the people there at Pentecost had witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion! Remember, part of crucifixion was that it was a public spectacle! The Romans crucified people as punishment, but also as a demonstration of what was going to happen to anyone else who would go against their authority. They wanted people to witness it. It was open. It was staged before the public in a big way!
Now we have this follower of Jesus – this fisherman – standing before the crowds, speaking in boldness and power, with all those memories still fresh in their minds! And what does he tell them? Does he simply explain what was happening that day with the Holy Spirit? He starts there. But he moves quickly to the heart of the matter! He uses this first Christian Sermon to focus, not on the Holy Spirit, but on this man Jesus. And tells them that this same Jesus, this controversial figure, this big topic of conversation for the past three years, (and even more so in the past three months) was now exalted and seated at the right hand of God. Those were shocking words to those people! They were hearing that this man, who they though to be a prophet, a rabbi, a teacher – but at the bottom line, a man – was not just a man. He was God. Just imagine what that was like to hear! (And, just imagine the reaction of their religious leaders!!)
I think it’s hard to put ourselves in their shoes. What Peter said then is just part of our doctrine now. Jesus is now understood to be the Second Person of this thing called “The Trinity.” He is part of this understanding about the nature of God that was arrived at after years of careful thought and prayer. The great church councils stated that we worship a “Triune God,” a God who is experienced in three persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
So, as it says on your bulletins, this is “Trinity Sunday.” It is the day we celebrate that “Triune God.” This is the day we recognize and try to understand that deep mystery of the faith. Because it’s not easy to understand! (To some it might appear that we worship three Gods!) By the way, did you know that word “Trinity” does not actually appear anywhere in the Bible?! It doesn’t! But, the full expression of the Trinity, as well as many references to the Three Persons pervades scripture, especially the New Testament.
So we look today at this story where Peter focuses on, and affirms, the Second Person of the Trinity – Jesus Christ. Here he said that this Jesus, the one they had all been talking about, was more than they thought. He was God! And I want you to notice the question they asked. They asked what they should do about it. Think about that. They could easily have asked what they should think about it. Because often that’s all people really want to do! They want to just think about or talk about faith. They’d rather not do anything! But these people asked what they should do! And I think that’s a good question for us, too!
Peter told them that day that Jesus is God. The Church has confirmed that for the last two thousand years! Yet, many people in our world aren’t so sure about that any more. This doctrine of the “deity of Christ” – Jesus being God – has suffered in recent years. Too many people have either outright denied the deity of Christ, or they have so downplayed it in their thinking that they might as well deny it. And many have become so afraid of “offending” anyone with talk of Christ, or with the claims of Christ, that they don’t ever try to say anything about it, anyway. The sad thing is, I’m not just talking about people outside of the Church. We can expect that from them.
Nowadays there are those inside of Churches who aren’t sure about the deity of Christ! So they’ve avoided the subject altogether. They’ve chosen to follow a faith that has little to do with Jesus. Somehow, they’re not all that comfortable with this person claiming to be “one with God.” (Just like those to whom Jesus first said that!) Oh, they’re just fine with his teachings – well, at least those teachings that don’t demand too much of them! But that part about God becoming human, and then dying and coming back from the dead, well, that’s just too difficult for them! That’s just too uncomfortable! That’s just too controversial!
As we look at this major event – and again, Pentecost is a major event – I believe we need to go back to that part of our faith, the part which comes from this message of Peter and is affirmed throughout the New Testament. We need to reaffirm for ourselves, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and is God. He is the Second Person of the Trinity, the second “expression” of God. He is the one who once came to this earth to be one like us, who suffered and died and rose from the dead, and now who now reigns on high with God. So I invite you to take this celebration of Trinity Sunday to reaffirm that for yourself. Don’t be one of those who prefer to follow the teachings of Christ, but have no intention of following Jesus as Lord and God!
I ask you to think today about your personal understanding of Jesus Christ. Do you have a “high Christology? That is, do you give Jesus Christ a prominent place in your beliefs? Or is your “Christology” maybe not so high, and he’s out on the fringe somewhere? I want you to think about your allegiance to Jesus Christ. Maybe today you need to renew your allegiance to him as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. (And he shall reign for ever and ever! Hallelujah!) Today would be a good day for that song, wouldn’t it?
Following that, I’m going to ask you to join me in stating the things we believe, using again these ancient words of the Apostles’ Creed. People have asked me why we don’t use that creed every week. Well, one reason is that I would not want these words to become rote and repetitious, and because of that to lose their meaning for us. Because their meaning is so very important. The creed is the statement of the basic beliefs of the Christian Church. And remember that the term “Creed” comes from the first word in the Creed. It is the Latin word “Credo” which means “I believe.” Notice that’s the first person singular! It’s not “Christians believe” or “the beliefs of the faith are…” It is “I believe.” Well, ask yourself today, “Do you believe?”
As we say those words again, I want you to notice that the creed talks about the three “Persons” of the Trinity. But which of the three does it say the most about? You guessed it – Jesus Christ, the second person. That’s by far the largest section. It says very little about the God the Father – just that he’s “almighty” and that he “created the heavens and the earth.” (Yeah, like that’s a small thing!!) And it says nothing about the Holy Spirit (or the Holy Ghost), other than we believe in him. But there’s a whole story about Jesus Christ. And doesn’t that show the incredible wisdom and the purpose of God?
Think about it. How do we know God the best? We know him best through the “person” of God who came to be with us! That just makes sense! In the Upper Room, Philip said to Jesus, “Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” And wouldn’t we like that, too? Wouldn’t we all feel better about things if we could just see God personally? Wouldn’t faith and belief be a lot easier if God appeared before us and confirmed everything?! Well, remember what Jesus had just said to his disciples! “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” “If you know me, you will know my Father also.” Maybe before you weren’t sure if you knew him. But, “From now on you do know him [because you] have seen him in me.” (John 14:7-9) He said it himself. Jesus is how we know what God is like.
So let us close in prayer. And as we do, I want you to think about Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I want you to think about your allegiance to him, and about your commitment to following him – this Jesus who God has made both Lord and Christ. Let us pray…
Lord Jesus, we thank you that you have come so that we can know more of what God is like. Help us to know you better. Help us to follow you, and to share our lives more fully with you. Help us to live victorious lives, fully alive in you. For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.