The Trinity, you and me

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalm 8
John 16:12-15

The Rev. Dr. Stephen Caine

 

16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-15, NRSV)

 

Let us pray: God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe and the beginning of time you are the Author of creation, the eternal Word of salvation, and the life-giving Spirit of wisdom. Guide us to all truth by your Spirit. Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

 

The story of the Bible is the story of God’s relationship with human beings. In the telling of that story we learn that God is very elusive.  The closer humans seem to get to seeing God, the more it seems that God is invisible.[1]  How do we explain the invisible? How do we explains something we can’t see?  That is what we clergy types feel like we have to do today as it is Trinity Sunday, a Sunday set aside to celebrate and to witness to God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit or in more theological terms a Sunday to focus on the doctrine of the Trinity.  What could be more exciting than to hear a lecture about the indescribable, the mysterious nature of God?  I can think of some many things, watching pain, or grass grow…but I digress.

 

When I was in Confirmation Class, I learned from the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith.  I can remember some of the questions and answers, the first question is; What is the chief end of man?  The answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, 1 and to enjoy him forever.  The other question that is engrained in my mind is – Who is God? The answer: God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.[2]

 

Notice that that is not really an answer to the question.  It is a statement of what God is not who God is.  The creeds of the church are helpful, but only to a certain point.  The creeds of the church tend to describe God in philosophical terms.  While the Bible is much more down to earth as it speaks about God in relational terms.

 

Let’s take the creation story in Genesis.  God created the earth and all that is in it and had placed a man in the midst of creation, then God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone…”  Think about that concept, perhaps this is telling us about the nature of God that God wants to be in relationship and does not want to be alone.  The fact that human beings exist is symbolic of that desire.  Why else would God create us other than to be in relationship with us?

 

We learn this from the Bible which speaks about God in relational terms for example, the Prophet Hosea uses a poignant metaphor for God’s relationship with humanity,

1When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

2The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.

3Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them.

4I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.[3]

 

More familiar passages use metaphors such as, God is like a mother taking us up in her arms; God is like a bridegroom; God is like a father with a wayward child… The psalmist says it so well in our psalm for today, Psalm 8:

4what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

5Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.[4]

 

It is about God, but it is in terms of God’s relationship with us.  God loves and honors human beings and so crowns us with glory and honor.

 

Those who knew Jesus, who walked with him and sat at his feet, who gathered at table with him and heard him teach and preach, believed that in him they knew God, because in and through Jesus, they experienced  the love and the forgiveness that only God could give.

 

Jesus even referred to himself as a mother hen who gathers her chicks beneath her wings. Such relational language points to ways in which we have experienced God, ways in which God relates to us.  In the Gospel text for today Jesus promises that the Spirit will come and guide them into truth. This means that the disciples – the people who spent so much time with Jesus – did not have all the answers.  This means that we, the Christian community then – and now – continues to be dependent.  Dependent on the Spirit and dependent on each other, because the Spirit of God so often speaks to us through our friends and neighbors.[5]

 

Augustine once told his students, “Lest you become discouraged, know that when you love, you know more about who God is than you could ever know with your intellect.”[6]  I find that comforting.

 

So perhaps knowing and understanding God is best done in and through a community that looks outward in relationship rather than inward in knowledge and intellect.  Outward not inward: we are called to bear witness to the love of God in Christ that responds to the needs of the neighbor.  Outward not upward: God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbors do.

 

The complexity of the Trinity means we can best understand God through our love for others by turning our eyes and our hearts outward and extending the love of God to our neighbors.  Then surely the Spirit of Christ is present.

 

Let us pray:

[1] K.C. Ptomey, Jr. A Homily for Trinity Sunday Romans 5:1-5 and John 16:12-15. June 3, 2007 Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville, TN. (Quoting Gregory of Nyssa, as quoted by William C. Placher, The Triune God, [Louisville/London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007], p.11.)

[2] http://www.pcusa.org/resource/book-confessions/p.205  7.004

[3] Hosea 11:1-4 NRSV

[4] Psalm 8 NRSV

[5] Reverend Dr. David Lose, Trinity C: Don’t Mention the Trinity.  http://www.davidlose.net/2016/05/trinity-c-shh-dont-mention-the-trinity

 

[6] The Right Rev. Dean Wolfe is the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas, headquartered in Topeka. http://day1.org/4759-what_kind_of_math_is_this

 

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