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Exodus 3:1-6; Psalm 93; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:16.
Delivered May 30
Today is Trinity Sunday. As the bishop put it in a message to the clergy he sent out, “wonderful, our predecessors set aside one whole Sunday for us to preach on the Trinity.” One would say this precisely because, of all the doctrines we talk about, teach, confess, the Trinity is the most central and abiding doctrine of our faith, along with the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It is the Revelation of God, the final expression of who God is to humanity. The Trinity, as simply as I can put it, is this: That God is one God, but existing as three Persons, in perfect unity, each both sharing the same essence or being, but also retaining some distinction: the Father, eternal fount of divinity; the Son, eternally begotten of the Father; and the Holy Spirit, eternally processing from the Father. They are all coequal, coeternal, self-existent, and perfectly of one mind, one will, one purpose, one love for each other and for us.
In the time I have to preach on a Sunday, I cannot fully express the importance, the inescapability, the overwhelming mystery that is the revelation that God is Trinity. So instead, I want to reflect, one, on the fact that this is in fact a revelation, not something conceived by clever people about God, and two, that we know this because God chose to reveal it to us.
We would not know this about God without him revealing it. The God of Christianity is not one discovered purely by rational analysis and logic. The main things that can be determined about God through reason, pure human rational thought, are mainly abstractions; if there is a God, that God cannot be limited in space, therefore is infinite (not finite); that God must know everything there is to know, so we say God is omniscient; God must not be limited in power, so is omnipotent.
But this tells us very little about who God is. It mostly tells us what God is. And what we discover is that God is far beyond human comprehension. We can say God is omnipotent, infinite, etc. but we can’t understand it.
Kids, when I was younger, your age, my parents had a big trampoline. Many times, after jumping and wearing myself out on that trampoline, I would lay down on my back and just stare into the vast, blue sky. It went on forever it seemed. I would lay there, and just be in overwhelming awe of the expanse above me. I couldn’t really explain the feeling; it was that I was simply unable to express what I was seeing above me. I felt small, insignificant, like a tiny droplet of water in a massive sea. Now, I could say the sky was blue, or that there were clouds, and even remembered some of the science I learned about it, but at the end of the day, I just laid speechless at how this great space above me was beyond me: I couldn’t understand it, or explain it, or control it.
This is what God is like. God is the ultimate; God was never created, for God has always been; God is far beyond what any of us could ever understand. God should be terrifying to us, because God is so impossible for us on our own to ever know. God is like the vast sky, or the sea, uncontrollable and mysterious; God is beyond our understanding. But kids, that is the amazing truth of the Gospel: God is completely beyond our understanding, and yet God has chosen to tell us about Himself; we know things about God because God loves us, and reveals to us what we need to know.
Adults, we are all so prone to making God palatable, understandable, explainable. But a God that is like that is a God we invent in our own minds. God is more like what Pascal said about the cosmos when he looked into the sky: “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me.”
But our God is not one who is silent. Our God is one who comes to us and says, “I am that I am.” The greatest mystery of our faith is that the God who is utterly ineffable makes himself known. That is why he declares to Moses to take off his sandals, for his presence in the bush makes it holy ground. We treat holy things in a blaise fashion, taking them for granted; but where God is said to be, there we should tremble. Yet, even this revelation tells us little; it is best translated, “I am the one that is.” Human language, even spoken BY GOD, can only begin to explain the reality that is God.
All of this is to lead to the Trinity. Again, this dogma of our faith, that God is one essence, but three persons, is revealed to us in the Scriptures. Turn to John 3. This passage exemplifies the Triune nature of God, not by an abstract philosophical argument, but by God the Son explaining that God is revealing himself in the divine mission to the world.
God is unknowable to us, and yet, there is much we know, and that is because our God reveals to us that which we could never know on our own. We must be born, not just of the flesh, Jesus tells Nicodemus, but “from above.” How is this accomplished? Through the Holy Spirit who brings life. How is it possible? Because of the one who ascends to heaven, the one who descended, the Son. Why is this Son here? Because “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
God the Father, sending the Son; the Son, willingly coming to sacrifice himself, “raising” himself up on that cross so we could see and believe in the work of God for us; and the Spirit, sent when the Son returned, to regenerate us, make us one with Christ, and draw us even into that divine life that Father, Son, and Spirit all enjoy eternally.
This is how we know that God loves us. God could have left us in our ignorance, in our speculations about what God is like. But instead, God pours out the divine life for us in the Son and Spirit, showing us what is true about him, and then invites us into that life.
Our life is shaped by the Triune life. Our worship is worship of the Triune God. And our worship, our relationship with God is only possible because of the Holy Trinity. God is pure spirit without parts, a being utterly above us; yet we know the Father and worship him. We are able to worship the Father only because the Son paid the price of death for us all, rose again to defeat death, and right now intercedes for us at the Father’s side. And we are, in spirit, in the presence of the Father ourselves, because we are united to Christ, something done only by the Holy Spirit, who is perfectly united to Jesus, and upon filling us binds us to Jesus as well. We are in Christ, by the Spirit, the same Spirit who, when we struggle to pray, to speak, to love God and others, prays and speaks to the Father for us, and blesses and strengthens us so that we can love as we ought.
God is the God who sends; God is the God who comes to us and becomes one of us; and God is the God who comes and dwells within us, so that we are not alone on our long pilgrimage through this life. We worship God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we are only able to worship God because of this. God is love because God has, from all eternity, had a relation of love between the three persons. And from that outpouring, we are loved as well. We will spend our immortal lives trying to understand what we cannot, the very nature of God; but yet, God is one who speaks, and reveals to us what we must know. God is the God who is present here, like a fire in each one who believes, yet not consuming us, and the one who will come in the Holy Bread and Wine, the Spirit making them the body and blood of Christ, FOR US, on behalf of the Father. And so we, friends, are on sacred ground, and speak and believe in truly sacred things. In confession let us purge our minds of that which is base and worldly, and raise our eyes to receive what we could never gain ourselves: The Life of the Triune God.
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