Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
Trinity Sunday / Pentecost I June 11, 2017
Trinity Sunday is often a Sunday that Preachers dread. What can we say about the Trinity? We can talk about the compound leaf of clover and shamrocks with their three leaflets or “ice, water and steam” or a tree with its roots, trunk and branches, but what we are really trying to talk about is who God is and the relationship between God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Is Jesus God? Are they separate beings or manifestations of one being? Have all three always existed or did God create Jesus and the Holy Spirit? I worry that God may be jealous of our love for Jesus Christ. Some worry that we worship three gods rather than one God.
The Articles of Religion as found in the Historical Documents on page 867 of the Book of Common Prayer say “Of Faith in the Holy Trinity. There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
Saying it another way we can say the Father is God, Jesus the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, BUT the Father is NOT the Son or the Holy Spirit, the Son is NOT the Father or the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not the Father or the Son. We worship one God and yet three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity. This is all very confusing and complicated and it doesn’t really clarify our understanding of the Trinity.
Turning to our scriptures and in particular our first reading from Genesis, we read, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” This can be interpreted that in the beginning when God created everything the spirit of God was also there moving over the face of the waters and when God said, “Let there be light” at the spoken Word there was light and it was good. In the beginning there was God, God’s spirit and God’s Word. God is portrayed with transcending, wide reaching power to create a magnificent creation with the spoken Word. God is portrayed as a sculptor who creates intricate figures and breathes life into them. God walks in the garden in the cool of the evening and speaks with this creation. God becomes angry and frustrated with the wickedness of humanity and yet provides a beautiful rainbow of colors as a sign of the promise that the seasonal floods, storms and hurricanes will not utterly destroy all humans and creation. God walks with humanity in times of war, famine and drought providing a safe haven, food and water. God walks with his people in Egypt, in the wilderness, in Jerusalem, and in exile in Babylon.
God rescues his people from physical slavery and the slavery of sin, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” This God who walks with his people and appears to them in the wind and the storm, who leads them with a column of fire and cloud and a star now walks among them as a flesh and blood man, Jesus Christ, who knows the love of family and community and the terrors of assassins, exile and rejection; who loves the poor, the sinner, the lonely, the foreigner and the marginalized; who heals the sick, the lame, the disabled and the mentally ill; who casts out demons; who reads scripture and prays; who preaches and teaches the kingdom of heaven; who gives an example of what it means to be a servant of God and a servant to our neighbor. This Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man, willingly and knowingly agrees to sacrifice his life to a horrendous and shameful death on a cross showing what it means to love and obey God and to love your neighbor.
We hear and see God’s love and support for Jesus at Jesus’ baptism, at the transfiguration, when God resurrects Jesus to new life and in Jesus’ ascension to heaven. We see the work of the Holy Spirit throughout God’s story in the creation, at Jesus’ baptism and at Pentecost. In John chapter 14 verse 26, Jesus promises that “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in Jesus’ name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit continues the work of the Son, reminding us of what Jesus has taught, but also continues to teach us, helping us to continue the work of Jesus Christ in God.
In the Gospel of John chapter 14 Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, “If you know me, you will know my Father also”, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me”. The role and the identity of the Son are distinct from that of the Father, but in getting to know Jesus we come to know God because Jesus is God. The doctrine of the Trinity is not fully developed in the Bible and yet we can see the presence and the work of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, distinct, yet in unity in Scripture. And with Paul can say, may “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all for ever more.” Amen.
But I cannot end here; I want to speak of why this is important to us today, what this means for us in our relationship with God and with our neighbors. Again in John chapter 14:15-17, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” And in First John 4:7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
The relationship of the Trinity is one of love; the love of the Father for the Son and the Holy Spirit; the love of the Son for the Father and the Holy Spirit and the love of the Holy Spirit for the Father and the Son for God is Love (1 John 4:7-21). God is in us and we are in God and so we are also to be in a relationship of love with God and with our neighbors. If we seek eternal life, if we love Jesus Christ we will keep God’s commandments as summarized in the Great Commandment to love God with our whole being and to love all people as we love our selves.
And finally we come to today’s gospel from Matthew and the Great Commission. If we truly seek eternal life and love God following the Great Commandment, then we must proclaim the good news of God to all people, teaching them what we have been taught of the love of God and the Trinity, making them disciples of Jesus Christ and baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Standing as you are able, we will say together The Creed of Saint Athanasius as found on page 864 of the Book of Common Prayer.