Three in One – June 11, 2017, Trinity Sunday
Isaiah 61:1-3, Acts 2:22-38
June 11, 2017
As I said, this is Trinity Sunday. And as I’ve often said, when talking about this subject, the word “Trinity” never appears anywhere in the Bible. But, the “three persons” of the Trinity are mentioned many times. And the Trinity is one of the foundations of the Christian faith!
That’s what Peter was spelling out for the people here in this story from Acts. It was Pentecost, and he was in the middle of his, the first ever Christian sermon. And he affirms the Trinity. “This Jesus, God raised up… Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear.” There it is! The Trinity!
I remember one year I was talking about this – at the first service, I believe – and after some strong statements I made about the nature of God in the Trinity, somebody asked, “Does this mean we are ‘Trinitarians?’”
That almost sounds like a denomination, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is. Or at least it’s a “sect” of Christianity. The Trinitarian movement started at the end of the 12th century, around the year 1198. It was founded by two men, St. John de Matha and St. Felix of Valois. (I hope I said that right!) It was an organization whose goal was to ransom Christians who had been captured by non-believers.
That doesn’t sound like a very “spiritual” or “doctrinal” basis for a belief, does it? That’s because it really wasn’t. It was more of just a name they chose.
But to answer the question, the answer is, “Yes!” “We are Trinitarians.” Not in that sense. Not in the sense of “ransoming the captives,” but we are Trinitarians in nature, in that we worship a “triune God,” a God who is “Three in One.” That’s what I want you to think about today.
Think about our statements of faith – two of the major ones being the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. They are organized around the Trinity. I realized yesterday that I should have had it in the bulletin. But it doesn’t matter. At the end of this message I’m going to have us stand and say together the Apostles’ Creed
When we do, I hope you’ll pay attention to the words you’re saying. You’re mainly going to say things that we believe about the Trinity. Oh, there are some other things at the end. There’s that jazz about the “Holy catholic church,” “the “communion of saints,” “the forgiveness of sins,” etc… But the largest part of the creed, and that which it is organized around, is what we believe about God the Father, about God the Son, and about God the Holy Spirit.
The Creed was all about people learning and remembering what they believe. It was a “teaching tool.” The word “Creed” comes from the Latin “Credo” which means “I believe.” When asked to make a statement of faith, most candidates for ministry use the Trinity as their Guide.
So we take this time today to remember that we worship a God who is “Three in One.” And as I also always say, that’s not an easy concept to “wrap our heads around.” Because we are not “Tri-theists.” We don’t worship three Gods. Some have accused Christians of that very thing. The Jewish people were among the first mono-theists on earth. Everyone else worshipped many gods. The Muslims also say that “Allah is one God.”
Well, we Christians say the same thing. We are mono-theists. But we talk about the different “expressions,” the different “manifestations,” the three different “persons” of God. And even though we know, for a time, that God was in two distinct persons, and that Jesus often prayed to the Father, we know that for all of the rest of eternity, they are one and the same. When those confused disciples asked Jesus in the Upper Room to show them the Father – in other words, “Let us see God!” – Jesus told them, “The Father and I are one.
This is not easy to understand! Yes, we worship one God. But we do sometimes speak as it God is three separate entities. In a benediction, I often say, “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you…” I know that can be confusing. It can seem like God is all “separated out” like that. But it is just a way of including the three “expressions” of God, the three “persons” of the Trinity. Maybe it would help if I said, “May God, who is father, God who is also son, and God who is also Spirit, be with you…” Maybe that would make it clearer.
As we think about that “Trinity,” as all this bounces around in our heads, let me say this. And this is one of those things I also always say! This is not easy to understand! In fact, God is way beyond our understanding. And that makes this, not just hard to comprehend, it makes this uncomfortable. We don’t like the idea of a God who is beyond us!
I’ve always loved C. S. Lewis’ portrayal of God in his Chronicles of Narnia series. He is the great lion Aslan. And Aslan is described as being an “Un-tame lion.” And when the question was asked “Is he safe?” the answer was, “Of course he’s not safe. But he is good.”
Lewis expressed that discomfort very well An “un-tame lion” is not a comfortable thought. Hence the question, “Is he safe?” And because it is uncomfortable, many people want to make it comfortable. They want to wrap God up in a nice neat package, and they want to get it all figured out how he works. But we can’t do that. And whenever we think we have God all figured out, that’s probably when we are furthest from understanding him!
At camp, we sing a song called “Our God is a Great Big God.” And the chorus is, “Our God is a great big God, and he holds us in his hands.” And sometimes, just to drive this point home, I have the campers sing, “Our God is a great big God, and he won’t fit in our heads!”
Well, the good news for us is just that! Our God is a great big God! He is the “un-tame lion!” He is beyond our understanding or control! But, he is good! Let me emphasize that! He is beyond our understanding or control! But, he is good! And when we limit God just to our own understanding, when we try to simplify him to “fit him into our heads,” we also limit our understanding of his power. And then we doubt if he is sufficient for our needs. Yes, it is uncomfortable in a sense, to think of a God who is beyond us! But there is also comfort in the fact that God is able to do “far an above whatever we ask or think,” as Paul told us.
So then, let us affirm all of that, together. Let us stand and say what we believe using the words of the Apostles’ Creed. Let’s all open our hymnals to the inside front cover, so nobody feels self-conscious if they don’t have this memorized. And let us celebrate our Triune God. We can’t begin to comprehend his infinite nature, but we have these words to help us in our limited understanding.
The Apostles’ Creed
Eternal God, Father, Son, Spirit, we worship you this day. We thank you that, in your love for us, you have become part of our lives in these three ways. Help us to grow in our trust of your power in our lives, and to live in the joy of your kingdom. For we pray in the name of God the Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.