June 18, 2017

ONENESS:  THE TRINITY

6/18/17

 

(Sermon, "ONENESS:  THE TRINITY" as Preached)

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Fathers' Day

(as Written)

 

2 Corinthians 13:11-14 (NIV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.  Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings.  May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

Paul’s closing to this letter should sound very familiar.  Only I have added adjectives to grace, love and fellowship.  Even my additions are not original.  I don’t remember where I heard this blessing with “amazing grace” and “extravagant love” and “intimate fellowship,” but it had such an impact on me that I decided to use it. 

Although last Sunday was Trinity Sunday, because of my illness upon returning from Europe, you are hearing the Trinity Sermon today.  In one sense, this seems appropriate in light of our calling God, our heavenly Father.  But, why the idea of the Trinity?  It is not a Biblical term.  Last week’s Scripture, Jesus repeated over and over how he was in the Father and the Father was in him and claimed to be one with the Father.  Yet how does that translate into Trinity?

Kevin DeYoung explains “The doctrine of the Trinity can be summarized in seven statements. (1) There is only one God. (2) The Father is God. (3) The Son is God. (4) The Holy Spirit is God. (5) The Father is not the Son. (6) The Son is the not the Holy Spirit. (7) The Holy Spirit is not the Father. … The Athanasian Creed puts it this way: ‘Now this is the catholic faith: That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons, nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit, still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.’

“… We want to be true to the biblical witness that there is an indivisibility and unity of God, even though Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can all be rightly called God. The Persons are not three gods; rather, they dwell in communion with each other as they subsist in the divine nature without being compounded or confused.

“…Although the word ‘Trinity’ is famously absent from Scripture, the theology behind the word can be found in a surprising number of verses. For starters there are verses that speak of God’s oneness (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 44:6; 1 Tim. 1:17). Then there are the myriad of passages which demonstrate that God is Father (e.g., John 6:27, Titus 1:4). Next, we have the scores of texts which prove the deity of Jesus Christ, the Son—passages like John 1 (‘the word was God’), John 8:58 (‘before Abraham was born, I am’), Col. 2:9 (‘in Christ all the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form’), Heb. 1:3 (‘The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of his being’), Tit. 2:13 (‘our great God and Savior Jesus Christ’)-not to mention the explicit worship Christ willingly received from his disciples (Luke 24:52; John 20:28) and the charges of blasphemy leveled against him for making himself equal with God (Mark 2:7). Then we have similar texts which assume the deity of the Holy Spirit, calling Him an ‘eternal Spirit’ (Heb. 9:14) and using ‘God’ interchangeably with the ‘Holy Spirit’ (1 Cor. 3:16 and 1 Cor. 6:19; Acts 5:3-4) without a second thought.

“…

“The doctrine of the Trinity, as summarized in the seven statements earlier, is not a philosophical concoction by some over-zealous and over-intelligent early theologians, but one of the central planks of orthodoxy which can shown, explicitly or implicitly, from a multitude of biblical texts.”[i]

The Trinity is important for understanding ourselves as God’s creation.  “God, unlike the gods in other ancient creation stories, did not need to go outside himself to create the universe. Instead, the Word and the Spirit were like his own two hands (to use Irenaeus’ famous phrase) in fashioning the cosmos. God created by speaking (the Word) as the Spirit hovered over the chaos. Creation, like regeneration, is a Trinitarian act, with God working by the agency of the Word spoken and the mysterious movement of the Holy Spirit.”[ii]  Whether you believe this creation story as a metaphor or literally, this revelation of God’s nature is still true.

Secondly, “Christianity, with its understanding of God as three in one, allows for diversity and unity. If God exists in three distinct Persons who all share the same essence, then it is possible to hope that God’s creation may exhibit stunning variety and individuality while still holding together in a genuine oneness.”[iii]

And finally, We worship a God who is in constant and eternal relationship with himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Community is a buzz word in American culture, but it is only in a Christian framework that communion and interpersonal community are seen as expressions of the eternal nature of God. Likewise, it is only with a Trinitarian God that love can be an eternal attribute of God. Without a plurality of persons in the Godhead, we would be forced to think that God created humans so that he might show love and know love, thereby making love a created thing (and God a needy deity). But with a biblical understanding of the Trinity we can say that God did not create in order to be loved, but rather, created out of the overflow of the perfect love that had always existed among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who ever live in perfect and mutual relationship and delight.”[iv]

What does this mean for us?  Very few of us fail to embrace the work of Jesus Christ.  Accepting his overflow of love in his sacrifice so that we might wear his righteous robes, once we believe comes very easily.  We can almost live the stories of Jesus here on earth and the kindness he showed to needy persons.  Sometimes, his teachings appear difficult, but we struggle through and relate as best as we can.  We have little vision of his heavenly person.  As we picture him or hear his name, do we not conjure up some image from his life here on earth?  It is in Jesus where our most comfortable relationship with the Trinity usually resides.

Our struggle may begin with the Holy Spirit.  Her responsibility is to guide us into truth and convict us when we are wrong.  We like the idea of Jesus forgiving our mistakes, but we don’t like to be told what to do once we have been forgiven.  Should our relationship with the Holy Spirit suffer because of our own self-will, we may try to distance ourselves from this person of the Trinity.  Learning to become sensitive to the workings of the Spirit in our lives must be part of our Spiritual life.  That sensitivity should be followed by obedience.

God the Father’s love is different for each person.  Because God has chosen to use a Father as his metaphor, some will truly appreciate this image while others suffer.  If you read the Pastor’s letter in the newsletter, you can see that I have little trouble referring to God as Father.  But my mother, whose Father was jailed when she was only 12 because of abuse, never prayed to God the Father.  She couldn’t bring herself to do it.  She always prayed to Jesus.  She had memories that needed healing. 

Jesus told a story about the love of God the Father, the story of the Prodigal Son.  Today, on Father’s Day, I pray that you will allow this song to heal any wounds you might have from your earthly father, great or small, in the presence of the Jesus we worship and in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

Let’s pray.

 

 

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