6/10/01, Trinity Sunday, C
Takes A Community
"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth... He will glorify me. All that the Father has is mine..."
The highest in life cannot be explained but it can be experienced. Falling in love is a great mystery and friendship is a vital part of life but who can crack the divine mystery of it? And if we can not fully understand "that simple thing called love" how can we be expected to wrap into a neat package the mysteries of God's tripersonhood? We share the experience of Robert Frost, "We dance round in a ring and suppose, But the Secret sits in the middle and knows." (Complete Works, 495).
The reason that we are required to baptize in the name of "The Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit," is that this is included in Jesus' last words spoken and included in the Great Commission as recorded in Matthew 28:19. Although the theological term "Trinity" is not recorded in the Scripture it well describes the three-in-one nature of the Triune God. This doctrine is a revealed mystery that is believed as we personally experience the tripersonal nature of God and as we hear or read about the experiences of others.
We have heard some imperfect analogies. As a child in Sunday School, my teachers would bring in a three leaf clover and say that God is kind of like this; three leaves but one shamrock. Another parallel is that of the household "3-IN-ONE" oil. It is one tiny can of lubricant, but it has many uses. A third example, since we are talking in threes today, is that of water which exists in three states: liquid, steam and ice.
Some say that the notion of the Trinity was more easily accepted by the Middle Eastern mind because in the Greek Theater actors wore masks to portray different roles and these masks were called "personas," or persons. Two weeks ago our family saw the Broadway play, "Stones in His Pockets" in which two fine actors portrayed many personalities.
I suspect that the reason Trinity Sunday is on our church calendar immediately after Pentecost Sunday is to prepare us for the baffling nature of the Trinity. Perhaps the destruction of our supposed understanding was the main point that God was trying to make with the mysterious nature of Pentecost. But still we feel the need to not just dance round the Secret, but to get into the ring with Him and know.
As we have learned
from the story of John Wesley's Aldersgate conversion, understanding
follows experience. After Wesley felt the assurance of the Holy Spirit's
presence in his "strangely warmed" heart he was able to more
clearly discern doctrines that had held him at bay. He had become a
friend of God, a son of Abba Father. Formerly he had only known about
God; now he
One characteristic of friendship is openness. We can not be true friends with folks with whom we have to pretend as an actor on stage. As long as we remain "in character" our inner selves can not be real friends. God Almighty has made an effort to be accessible to us in Jesus, and through Jesus' continuing presence as Holy Spirit, and has invited us to enter into a community of friends with Him. At its best, the Church is a fraternity of intimates. Our local church, "Where the Folks are Friendly," is an example of the Spirit having bonded like-minded believers who share a mutual experience with God in Christ.
The Holy Spirit came, not to fulfill the doctrine of the Trinity, but to bring to fruition God's effort to win his fallen children back into a fellowship, a family, and a community. The Spirit of the Father, and of the Son wants to make his dwelling place in our hearts. What a dramatic fleshing out of his love! How can we miss seeing the picture plainly painted for us? What more could He have done?
If we were required to comprehend Divinity on a strictly rational level many wonderful, yet intellectually limited persons, would be left out. God's point and purpose is to grab us one by one in order to remold our lives. He is the three-in-one seeking us one by one.
This is not Anti-Intellectualism. Instead it is underlining that if God's plan is to redeem humanity it must be simple enough for all. God's plan is not based on our passing some sort of quiz. In His wisdom, God created a story that could be acted out in a cradle and on a Cross and through an empty tomb. Just as we experience a play, movie, or television program, we can feel the power and experience the wonder of "the greatest story ever told."
Who doesn't love a baby? What else is more repugnant to our senses than the execution of an innocent man upon a Cross? Don't we all take hope in the story of an empty tomb? Is not the felt presence of the Holy Spirit a common experience of believers? And after such a precious witness of His Spirit with our spirits, are we not enabled to accept the awareness of the Holy Trinity on a spiritual level deep in our souls?
We all know that even if trinitarianism had been logically laid out, there would still be skeptics and sects of doubters. This is why we celebrate Christian worship in Sanctuaries and not so often in libraries. This is why children lead us and not philosophers.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor