Friday, May 24, 2013
May 26, Trinity Sunday, "Why We Love the Holy Trinity"
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, Psalm 8, Romans 5:1-5, John 16:12-15
Today is Trinity Sunday. Unlike most Sundays in our calendar, we are not marking any specific Biblical event, but it makes sense to celebrate the Trinity on the Sunday after Pentecost. On Pentecost God exposed God’s self in the Holy Spirit --- God came among us in the third person of God. Fifty days before that, on Easter, God exposed God’s self the Lord Jesus --- God was among us in the second person of God. The Easter season celebrates the mighty acts of God for our salvation as these actions of two persons, so now that the Season is over, we can put God back together!
Notice that God did not expose God’s self as the Father, as the first person of the Trinity. God the Father has chosen to be exposed in the person of the Son and the person of the Spirit. Recently we heard one of the disciples tell Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father and we shall be satisfied." Jesus answered, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." Which means that when you have Jesus you have all of God, not just a part of God. Likewise, when you have the Holy Spirit, you have not just a third of God but the whole of God, in the person of the Spirit. That’s the special Unity of the Trinity, a unity that is unique. God is One but God is free, so God is not confined to the mathematical restrictions of oneness.
So not three gods. Whenever you have one person of the Trinity, you have all three, but in that person. So when you receive the Holy Spirit, what dwells within you is not just a third of God but all of God—the Father, Son, and Spirit, in the person of the Spirit.
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is challenging and even difficult. It is believable, and many people have believed it with integrity, but most of humanity has not. On the one side, it seems narrow and bigoted to claim there is only One Lord God, the God of Abraham, and on the other side it seems illogical to claim that this One God is in three persons. The doctrine has sometimes been reduced to make it easier, but it’s better to increase our capacity for what is difficult.
The Early Church had to do that from the start. After that first Easter and Pentecost, the Church, in the power of the Spirit, explored the truth of Jesus and expanded that truth into the breadth of human culture and philosophy. The Church experimented with language and logic on how best to witness to the mystery of One God in three persons and not three gods. These linguistic and logical experiments were controversial, but they were consolidated into a common formula in A.D. 325 by a church council which met at the little city of Nicea, and the Nicene Creed contains the formula (revised at Constantinople in A.D. 381).
Ever since then, the Nicene Creed is the standard of whether you are orthodox of not. You need to know this. For example, Old First is orthodox. We may be considered liberal or progressive or unconventional, but strictly speaking we are orthodox. The standard is the Nicene Creed. I say this not to boast of it, or even to suggest that orthodoxy has some value in itself. But it’s a symbol of keeping our focus not on the family or on current issues or ourselves or our behaviors, but on the wonderful inviting mystery of the character of God. That’s why.
The Nicene Creed is not in the Bible. It is a summation of the Bible. The word "Trinity" is not in the Bible. It is a distillation of the Bible. The raw material of the doctrine of the Trinity comes from Our Lord himself, from what he said to his disciples, which his best friend John wrote down for us. Jesus spoke of God the Father as a person, and as a person other than himself. He spoke of God the Holy Spirit as another person, and as a person other than the Father and himself. He spoke of three persons: himself, his Father, and the Spirit. And yet the God he spoke of was the the One Lord God of Israel. Not once did Jesus ever challenge the basic Jewish creed that God is One. So it’s the Lord Jesus who got us started on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
I called the doctrine a distillation. What I mean is that the Lord Jesus is the vine who gave us the wine, and the church has taken the wine and distilled it like a spirit. There is some play within these words—the wine and the spirit. The spirit rises from the wine. The wine is the one and only Son of God in his incarnation, God unique in one man, once for all. But the Spirit of God goes out, expands, explores, experiments. The Holy Spirit loves pluriformity, multiplicity, manifold expressions and explorations, many lands and many peoples and many languages, new thought forms, new creations, new ideas, new discoveries of what God is doing in the One Lord Jesus Christ.
With the Trinity there is both an in and out. God calls you into God, in the second person, in the Son of God, who calls you to come to him, who calls you to enter into God, into the life of God, the gracious and loving life of God, which can you enter like a child right at home. And in the third person, in the Holy Spirit, God comes out to you where you are, God enters into your life, your own life, which is unique to you.
God grants you the right to your own life. God does not absorb you. As Melody said to other night: "No one else can know exactly what goes on inside my head. You can’t see into my head, you can’t read my mind. No one can. My ife is unique. No one else has ever lived my life before. No one else has ever had my combination of thoughts and experiences. Only me, I am unique, this is my life." I told her she gave me my sermon.
That’s what God wants, for you to have your own life. A free life, even a free-standing life, but not a self-standing life, that you may be a self who is not selfish. It’s more than just sharing and more than mutual interest, it’s mutual investment, it’s committing to each other, it’s bearing each other and serving each other and suffering for each other. God commits to that with us.
We go in and God comes out. We enter into the suffering and death of Jesus, for the sake of our salvation and redemption and reconciliation, in order to be able to have the fellowship with God that we are made for, but from which we are cut off by the guilt of our sin. That gives us entry into the circle of love which keeps moving between the persons of the Trinity. And that circle of love which is the greatest energy of all then generates a great love rising out of it, like a geyser, like a flame arising from the surface of the sun, and pouring into us, the energy of God’s love which is God’s self, which is God’s soul, God’s Spirit, in the person of whom the whole God enters you. God’s love has been poured into your hearts by the Holy Spirit.
God enters into your own suffering. You know that the Spirit inspires your goodness and obedience, but the Spirit dwells within your troubles and afflictions. The Spirit is inside your fruits and your graces and your good works, but God is also in your groaning and your misery, experiencing your life in you. God loves every part of you from inside you.
Which is why St. Paul can say that we boast in our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us. I have known it to go the other way, that affliction leads to bitterness and bitterness to bad character and from that to despair. The difference is God’s love, which has to sustain through your affliction all the way to hope. And that love is God’s self, in the Spirit, who lives quietly within you.
We love the Trinity because it the Trinity generates the love of God. Greatest love is not self-love but love of the other who will always be other than yourself. The persons of the Holy Trinity love each other in their eternal otherness. And this love God shares with you. That is the secret of your life, and why you exist, so that God can love you, and love you with the love God has within God’s self.
Copyright © 2013, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.