As many of you have noticed, I haven’t been out of seminary that long, maybe about 5 years. I’ve lost count. But my last year of school I got to go to a preaching seminar. Everyone attending had to write a sermon that was going to be preached, it couldn’t just be for the seminar. And of course, the next sermon I was slated to preach was on these texts, for Trinity Sunday, in a church I had never been to before. I was going there to spend a few weeks preaching every Sunday and basically getting some much needed ‘experience’. And of course, my hero in the preaching world, a priest out in Oregon, was at this seminar, and I was assigned to her group, and I had to preach to her about the Trinity. It was horrible. I didn’t sleep for about a month before hand, my palms sweated when I got up to talk, I nearly threw up. Horrible. I don’t recommend it as a fun thing to do, ever.
But I did ok. I preached ok, that is. And afterwards everyone gathered around to pick apart my sermon. My hero said, ‘well, Anne, that was very good. Some beautiful writing’, I had laid the scene of the upper room—the hot night, the enclosed space, the oil lamps adding more heat to an already breathless situation—it was almost like, she said, a beautifully painted canvas, except with a large piece of construction paper pasted on the middle. The construction paper was my careful theological explanation of the Trinity. I looked at my text and found the rough coarseness of the construction paper. It wasn’t even the same color—the painting was in muted and mellow and beautiful tones, and the construction paper was orange, or maybe hot pink. It just didn’t go.
But that’s usually what we end up with, any of us, when we try to wrap our minds and hearts around something like the Trinity. We have the canvas of our lives, in whatever state it’s in. Maybe some parts of it are beautifully worked out, symmetrical, it makes sense to the eye, it’s a pleasure to look at. And doubtless other parts of the canvass are a total mess, clearly under construction. You might have something sketched out but the final product is nowhere in view. And maybe the middle section is sort of clear, but the colors really need some perking up and the underlying sketch needs some redoing. But its you, you’re the canvas. And then, in an effort to be good and faithful, we apply various things to this canvas, trying to finish the picture—maybe a new routine, or some helpful book, or the advice of a friend, or a new relationship, OR, as is the case this morning, some theological or doctrinal point, like the dual natures of Christ (you know, that Jesus is fully God and fully Man, right? And that it has a practical application to your life? Well it does), or the locus of authority in the church (is it Scripture? Tradition? Both? How much of which?), or, in this case, The Trinity.
I have a lot of newly churched kids in my Sunday School Class. They’ve never heard of the Trinity before.
‘So,’ said one of my little girls, ‘Jesus is God.’
‘That’s right,’ I said.
‘And the Father is God.’
‘HmmHmm,’ I said.
‘Then who is the Holy Spirit?’
‘God’ I said.
‘So there are three Gods.’
‘No,’ I said, ‘One. Hear O child, the Lord your God, the Lord is One, and you shall love the Lord your God with every fiber of your being.’
‘I love Jesus,’ she said.
‘Good, excellent, and he loves you.’
Our brains began to feel tight in our skulls, the room, hot, rather like the upper room with Jesus, as the disciples are all trying to make sense of what he is saying.
‘So,’ Jesus, ‘you’re going away.’
‘Can we go with you?’
‘No, but I will send someone to comfort you, an Advocate.’ says Jesus.
‘Well, than at least show us the Father’
‘If you see me, you see the Father’
A ‘yeah, but’ is on everyone’s lips.
The temptation is to take this wildly foreign and difficult concept and put it up in the corner of the picture and forget about it while you go on with the rest of your canvas. Yeah, I believe in the Trinity. It has no practical application to anything, but there it is, apparently relevant.
Well, it is, even though it is very hard.
It matters because it’s about the nature and form and being of God. And if anything matters in our lives, anything at all, it should be God, right? He made you. He formed you. He has a plan and a purpose for you. And so his Nature and Being matter to your Nature and Being.
To begin with, God is One. There is perfect unity in God. We can say this out loud but we don’t even really know what it means, because we don’t even have unity in our own beings. Our minds and bodies and hearts are constantly at war with themselves. Take me for example. I have a lot on my mind. I would like, I have the will, to get up every day and clean my house, and cook interesting things, and connect with various people on the telephone, and be available to my children. If it was just my mind, my will, there would be no problem. BUT, my body is also involved. And it is at war with my mind and my will. My body says, No. You’re not getting up. I’m very tired and this extra convectionizing heating element says that its better to lie here and stay cool. And then my body, even though my mind says NO, my body says, let’s make a large chocolate cake and eat it very quietly in the kitchen with no lights on after everyone has gone to bed. My body and my mind are at war with each other. Now, of course, I have an excuse, but I know from experience, that even without the excuse, my body and mind are at war with each other. Add in the element of my heart, and you’ve got a real mess. So already within the human person, before you bring in extra human people, in the form of relationships and even just running into people at random, you have division, disunity.
That’s not the case with God. God is completely at unity with himself. One. The Son doesn’t say to the Father, I want to do this today, and the Father doesn’t say to the Son, no I want to do this. They are unified.
They are unified first in love. The are bound together perfectly in love. They love each other so much that each holds nothing back from the others. The Father gives himself completely to the Son, the Son completely to the Father, the Holy Spirit completely to the Father and the Son, the love overflows.
They are unified in purpose. They purposed to create, and they did. They purposed to save and redeem, and they did. They purpose to judge, and they will.
And they are unified in Being. God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is One Being.
Three persons, three distinct recognizable persons—we know the face of Jesus from the Scriptures, we know the moving and work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, minds and bodies, and we know the face of the Father in creation, in the scriptures, in our conscience, One Being.
Why is this hard?
Because you’re one person in one being.
And you’re one person in one being.
And I’m one’ person in one being, albeit divided and disunified against myself.
So God is One. And because God is One in love, purpose and being, but distinct in person, God is close. This is where the rubber meets the road for your daily life.
When the Philip, two chapters back in John, says to Jesus, ‘show us the Father and that will be enough for us’ he doesn’t understand that he is looking at the perfection of God, in Christ. That when you look at Jesus, when you love Jesus, when you surrender to Jesus and accept the work he has done on your behalf—the work of dying on the cross, of rising again, of ascending into heaven—when you accept that and surrender your heart and mind to him, you are not just In Christ, you are In the Father. At that moment the Holy Spirit comes to live in you, to renew, restore, strengthen and forgive you. At that moment you have free clear access to the Father, to communicate, to relate, to love, to know him. When you look at Jesus, you see the fullness of God the Father. You’re not missing anything, you’re not being gypped. When you believe in and confess Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you are brought into the fullness of God’s own life. That love that I talked about before—the overflowing love of the Father, Son and Spirit for each other—that love now pours into you, completely.
Your canvas, your life, is now no longer yours to paint and sort out on your own. You are In Christ. He becomes the painter, the sorter out. And when Jesus is the one who organizes and directs, you don’t end up with any disunified, unsightly construction paper pasted in the middle of your life. When Jesus is painting, everything comes together as a unified and beautiful whole.
But you have to be in Christ.
Now, I know it’s a shocking thought, but its possible to sit all your life in church and never fully submit to Christ and accept his sacrifice and his love. Its possible to sit in your pew, Sunday after Sunday and still call the shots and be the arranger of your life. But if that’s you, than you’re not experiencing the fullness of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So, if you haven’t committed yourself fully to Christ today, do so. Ask him to come into your heart and make you new and clean. Ask him to forgive you of your sins. Ask him to give you the Holy Spirit. Ask him to pour out his love on you and in you.
And if you do this now or this is a new thing for you, let me know now, or at the altar rail, and I will help you pray, or pray for you, that’s what I’m here for.
Jesus loves you, very much. And he wants to give you everything he has. All you have to do is ask him.