You Stand In Awe Before A Mystery

Holy Trinity Sunday Year B

This sermon is for June 3 2012. It will be preached by a member of the congregation in my absence while I attend the NC Synod Assembly

Today is Trinity Sunday —a festival Sunday on which we celebrate our God—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  And it is not often that we can begin a festival Sunday with an appropriate bit of humor:

Jesus said, Whom do men say that I am?

And his disciples answered and said, Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elias, or other of the old prophets.

And Jesus answered and said, But whom do you say that I am?

Peter answered with the great confession of the Faith: “Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being begotten from all eternity, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating

every other member, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple.”

And Jesus answering, said, “What??????”

Good going Peter! While he might be right, at least I think so, it did sound like a bunch of gibberish. Peter might have done well to listen to the wise words of the contemporary Theologian and Church Historian, Justio Gonzales, when he said: “The Trinity is a mystery, not a puzzle. Love is a mystery, a crossword is a puzzle. You try to solve the puzzle; you stand in awe before a mystery.”

So on this mysterious festival of the Holy Trinity, we celebrate our God who created us and everything we know and everything we don’t know yet, who redeems us—who saves us—from the sinful brokenness of our lives and who sanctifies sustains and restores us and all of creation. Our God who fills all things, surrounds all things and renews all things.  The God we worship is the Holy Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit.

There are many questions we may ask about God throughout our lives.  How big is God?  Is he bigger than a whale? Is he bigger than the biggest mountain? Is he bigger than the world?  Is he so big that he can’t still see me? We are so small compared to all that bigness. What does God look like?  Is he scary looking?  Does he look like a bird or like a ball of fire? Or like an old guy with a long white beard?  If God is invisible, can he still see us?

What is God’s name?  There are tons of questions about God for which we will likely never know the answer this side of the full coming of the Kingdom, but this one we know.

Oh Lord, our Lord, How majestic is your name In all the earth—the psalmist writes. The Hebrews, though they were given the name of God, as Moses received it from God in the burning bush, they were never allowed to speak it.  It was that holy. But when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he gave them and us the privilege of calling God by name —Father.

But God has three parts to his name. One God, three persons. The Father, the creator of all things, is God. Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Lord and Savior, our redeemer from our sin Is God. And the Spirit—the One that Jesus spoke about before he ascended to heaven, the one who renews the face of the earth, the Spirit who came at Pentecost, the Spirit of truth, the Advocate, the Lord the Giver of Life, the Holy Spirit, Is God.

All three are God.  One God. God’s name is Father Son and Holy Spirit.

Now, how is that possible? This whole three in one business?  We can use tons of analogies that have been developed over the years to try to describe the trinity, but in the end, we spend so much time talking about where the illustration falls apart.  God is not like the three petals of the shamrock, the yolk white and shell of the egg or the woman who is all at once a daughter, a mother, and a sister not only because at some point these all break down in their symbolism and fail to explain God as three separate persons or three equal persons or three simultaneous, equal, distinct and unified persons, but mostly these illustrations don’t work because God is NOT LIKE ANYTHING IN OUR WORLD.

CS Lewis, in an attempt to talk about the trinity, wrote about imaginary people called ‘flatlanders’. Flatlanders were people who lived in a two dimensional world. Like a piece of paper, these flatlanders only experience length and width.  So, if we were to talk with a flatlander, about a straight line or even a circle or square, they would completely understand what we were talking about because these are two dimensional and they experience life in this way. However, if we were to try to describe to them a ball or a cube, they would never be able to fully understand what that means because those are three dimensional objects and they only experience two dimensions.  It would seem mysterious to them and though these flatlanders might be able to grasp the idea, part of it would always remain beyond them.  So it is for us and the trinity.  We live in this world where three persons being one is beyond our fully understanding.  Though we are able to grasp the idea, it is, still, a beautiful mystery.

The good news is that our God does not require us to fully comprehend him. We are given the gift of the name of God in spite of our inability to entirely get it.  God does not need us to completely understand him…..he completely understands us.  He has claimed us in that name, he gathers us together in that name and he sends us out into the world in that name. Also, quite significantly, that is the name into which we are baptized.  In fact, all Christians are baptized in that name. Not just Lutherans. It is a defining mark of what it means to be a Christian, to be a disciple of Christ and to be the Church.

We are not baptized in the name of Shepherd of the Hills in the name of Revered Rosemary Peek or even in the names of our mother and father. We are baptized in the name of God.  In our baptism, all of us are united with the God Jesus in his death and his resurrection to new life.  We all bear God’s signature on our foreheads. We are redeemed from the sin and brokenness of our lives and restored and claimed by God our Father in those waters.  And we receive the gifts of our God the Holy Spirit, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, council and might, knowledge and fear of the Lord and joy in the presence of God.

Today, we came together in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Over and over, our God gathers us around his banquet table so that we may be fed with his bread of life; the body and blood of our God. Our God calls us to worship so that we may pray and sing hymns to our God and so that we may be strengthened by the word read and preached and fellowship with one another.

God gathers us in other ways, too.  It’s not limited to only Sunday mornings, church buildings. A God that is three in one is too big to be limited. We are gathered together by God around kitchen tables and in living rooms, by families and friends to share our faith with one another, to pray together, sing together and be the church together wherever we are. And when we do so, we are gathered not in our own names, but in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Additionally, we are gathered AND we are also sent. We are sent out into the world to serve. By virtue of what Martin Luther called the priesthood of all believers, God sends us out in his name to do his work in the world in many and various vocations. Mothers, fathers, teachers, bankers, Grandparents construction workers, hair dressers, manufacturers, cooks, students… whatever God has called you to be, he sends you out into the world to do these things in his name and for his sake.

Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! It is in the glorious, majestic and mysterious name of God that we are baptized, gathered, and sent out.  We bear his name on our foreheads, in our hearts and in our labors.

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