What Shall We Do? – June 12, 2022, Trinity Sunday
Isaiah 61:1-3, Acts 2:22-42
June 12, 2022, Trinity Sunday!
So, today is Trinity Sunday. And I’m taking as my scripture this last part of the story of Pentecost. And my title today comes in a series of similar sounding titles these last few Sundays. I hope you noticed that!
Two weeks ago, on Ascension Sunday, my title came from the thoughts of the disciples as Jesus was about to leave them. They were thinking, “What’s next?” And that was my title. Then on Pentecost, the title came from the question of the people who were witnessing the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. They asked, “What does this mean?” Then today, it’s the question the people had after hearing Peter speak. When he was finished, they asked, “What shall we do?”
As I said, this was a big day for God’s people. It was the beginning – and some say the birthday – of the Church. And Peter was a big part of what happened that day. It wasn’t just the might acts of God. Someone had to answer the question, “What does this mean?” So, Peter stood and spoke to the people, and he gave them what is commonly referred to as the first Christian sermon.
And I love the people’s response! Luke tells us that, “when they heard this, they were cut to the heart!” What a great way of saying it! Peter’s words really got to them! And besides being inspired by what he said, they also knew they should respond in some way. And that’s the goal of every good sermon. It should inspire people to action. It should compel people to do something!
“What shall we do?” they asked. And that was a very real question to them. And not just because they were inspired to action, but also because they didn’t know what to do! This was all so new to them! The Holy Spirit coming among them in power was something they had never seen before. Nobody had!
And think about this. They were now dealing with the Trinity. Do you see that? And that was new to them, too. They knew all about God the father. And in recent days, they were coming to grips with God the son. Because they had been witnessing Jesus living among them, and now even risen. And now, in the days of Pentecost, they were learning about God the Holy Spirit!
The Jewish people sort of had an idea about the Holy Spirit. They had the word “Shechinah” which I don’t understand fully, but I know it had something to do with the manifestation of the presence of God. And that was seen in different ways, from the pillar of cloud and fire during the Exodus, to the glowing face of Moses when he returned from the mountaintop. They had the “Shechinah glory” in the Temple. Those were manifestations of God’s presence. But this was something way more. This was God with his people in physical and powerful ways!
So, they were dealing with the Trinity. And I want you to try to think what that was like for them. Because the Trinity is something we take for granted. It’s just part of our faith. You hear me speak of the Trinity every week. Because I usually use a Trinitarian benediction. “May the grace, mercy, and peace of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit go with you…”
The great Creeds of the church are Trinitarian! “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord… And I believe in the holy Ghost…”
So we often talk about God in Trinitarian terms. And yet, as I say every year at this time, the word Trinity doesn’t appear anywhere in the Bible! It’s a word that was used later to describe the Trinity, which is talked about and referred to all throughout the New Testament.
So, we say we believe in the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet, the Trinity is one of the most difficult things in our faith to understand. We worship one God in three forms, three manifestations, three “persons.” That’s a common way of saying it. But it’s not “three people.” We do not worship three Gods. We use illustrations to help us understand that. We use things like the clover. The clover has three leaves, but they’re all part of the same leaf structure. It’s three in one, like the Trinity. Of course, the same thing can be said of poison ivy, but I don’t think the Church has ever made that association!
What makes that confusing to us, is that for a time – a period of about 33 years – God the father and God the son appeared to be separate persons. And we often think of them that way in our minds. When Jesus walked this earth, he would talk about God, his father. And he would pray to him, as though they were separate entities. Yet he also said he and the Father were one. So, it can be confusing.
So back to these people who witnessing all of this. It was all so new to them. Again, they knew about God the father. They were just learning about God the son. And now they were witnessing God the Holy Spirit. So, they were starting to see “what’s next.” They were learning “what it all meant.” And now they were asking this important question, “What shall we do?” That’s the third in our “trinity” of questions!
And that’s been the most important question down through the ages of the church. We talked about James a couple of weeks ago. He asked the question, “Do you believe in God?” And his response was, “So what?!” “Big Deal!” “So do the demons!” And his conclusion was “Faith without good works is dead!”
And he would have totally agreed with Paul, that we are saved by Grace through faith, and not by good works.” But he was saying what Paul would totally have agreed with, that our faith calls us to do something. It calls us to show God’s love to others. It calls us to be good stewards – like you all have been doing! It calls us to seek God’s kingdom first in all we do. That’s more than just belief in the existence of God. It is action. It is doing!
So, think again of this, the last of these three important questions. The first two were learning questions. “What’s next?” “What does this mean?” This last is the key question, “What shall we do?” That’s a question we can – and we should – ask ourselves every day! As you start each day, ask yourself, “What shall I do today for God’s kingdom?”
Eternal God, help us to have the faith and the strength to be your people wherever you call us. Help us to be your witnesses in all we do. Help us to be good stewards of your Grace, and examples of your love to the world. For we pray, this Trinity Sunday, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
The Affirmation of Faith – The Apostles’ Creed.