John 3:1-17; Romans 8:12-17
I guess it should be no surprise that when you come to church the chances are real good that the preacher is going to talk about God. No surprise there. But every once in awhile – oh, about once a year or so – we have this thing called Trinity Sunday. Big church word there – Trinity. We also use the word, “Triune.” They simply means three in one. Three in one.
So I want to talk to you today about the Trinity – and I’m going to tell you everything I know about the Trinity. Which – let me tell you – isn’t much. But Trinity is a way of talking about God as Father – Son – and Holy Spirit. Not three gods, but one God. A one personed God in three persons.
Confused? Anybody here confused? Yeah. So am I.
That’s why I like the story that’s told about St. Augustine. Augustine lived from 353 to 430 A.D. He was and still is an influential person in the church. The story goes that Augustine was walking along the seashore one day while pondering the doctrine of the Trinity - Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. He seemed to hear a voice saying, “Pick up one of the large sea shells there by the shore.” So he picked it up. Then the voice said, “Now pour the ocean into the shell.” And he said, “Lord, I can't do that.” And the voice answered, “Of course not. In the same way, how can your small, finite mind ever hold and understand the mystery of the eternal, infinite, Triune God?”
Well, whether that story is true or not, I don’t know. But the point is clear. The Trinity – God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is beyond our ability to understand. If you think you understand the Trinity, you don't understand the Trinity.
One of our favorite hymns – Holy, Holy, Holy – which we sing today – has as one of its lines “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.” SO we can sing about the Trinity. We can talk about the Trinity. And we can read about the Trinity. But not quite fully understand the Trinity.
Now, you will never find the word “Trinity” anywhere in the Bible. And yet, as we read the Scriptures – we can only conclude that when the Scriptures talk about God – when it mentions the Father – or the way it talks about Jesus and the Holy Spirit – we can only conclude that all three are talked about as though they are God. All – equally – God.
And yet, we know that we don’t have three gods. We have just one God. A one-personed God in three persons. It is not meant to be understood. And you know what? I’m okay with that. You okay with that? It’s what we call mystery. And I’m okay with mystery.
The mystery itself begs these questions, “Is there a God? And if so, what can we really know about this God?” Now I am keenly aware that there are a lot of people who wrestle with this question. Does God exist? Every once in a while I like to take off on answering that question.
So let me tell you again – that as I look at the world – the universe as I see it – read about it – watch TV documentaries – I can only conclude that this universe – this world – this planet we call earth – it all just could not have come into being in all of its complexity – by dumb luck or by chance. It’s just too complex – and quite frankly everything has the look of being designed and engineered. Even some prominent atheists concede that the universe has the appearance of being engineered.
Just think of how complex DNA is – the way our bodies are made – and the balance of nature – I just don’t see how all of this complexity could have come about by chance. Out of nothing. If space, time, matter and energy all have to exist in order for any of the other three to exist – then this must mean that all four came into existence at precisely the same moment. And science agrees that once upon a time there was this singularity called the Big Bang.
So what we observe – what we experience – in the physical realm could not have just kind of started on its own. I mean – you can't get something from nothing, right? I look at all of this – and I can only conclude that there must have been some intelligence behind all of this – an intelligence that we call God.
But that’s all that my observation of nature and the universe can tell me. That somewhere out there, there is a God. That’s all it can tell me.
So for today I think the question is not whether or not there is a God. The real question is what kind of a God? M y short answer to that is that we can only know what we know about God by how God has revealed Himself to us. And it seems to me that the best – and I would say the only source we have of God’s self-revelation is in the Holy Scriptures. What does the Bible have to say about who God is?
First, we affirm God the Father. The first book of the Bible – the Book of Genesis – tell us, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” We have right at the start God revealed to us as the creator. And as we read through the Scriptures what we discover is that this creator God created the universe with you and me in mind. God is not a far distant God somewhere away out there. No. God created you and me so that we could enter into a relationship with God.
The fact that we refer to the first person of the Trinity as Father says something about what God is like. In fact, Jesus went so far as to refer to God not only as Father but as Abba, which is the Hebrew word for Daddy. Close. Intimate.
Now, I know that not everyone likes that reference to God as Father. And the reason is – usually – that they themselves had a lousy father. An absentee father. A cruel or abusive father. It’s hard to have an image of God as a loving father when your own father was a schmuck. If that’s where you find yourself today, please don’t let that image keep you from having the kind of loving relationship that God the Father wants to have with you. As much as I would like to think otherwise – there is no such thing as an earthly father that even comes close to the kind of father that God our Father is for us. Kind. Sympathetic. Understanding. Compassionate. Forgiving. These are the dominant images that the Scriptures paint of who God the Father is.
And then there is the second person of the Trinity. We know him as Jesus. And when you look to Jesus – you also get a picture of who God is. Jesus himself said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” You hear me say this all the time – if you want to know what God is like – look to Jesus.
So we affirm today that Jesus is also God because that’s what the Scriptures – God’s Word – affirms and so we believe. John’s gospel starts this way “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And then in verse 14 it says, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us,…full of grace and truth.” Who is that Word? Jesus. Jesus is what we call the Living Word of God.
So while our understanding of who God is somewhat incomprehensible – it is a mystery – the Good News is that in Jesus Christ we do get an understanding of who God is. You can read more about Jesus in the Bible – especially in the first four books of the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And the rest of the New Testament tells us what the early church thought about him. Read it! I mean – think about it. The same God who created the universe is willing to go all the way to the cross so that we might have our sins forgiven! That’s what God is like. That’s the God we say we believe in when we say we believe in Jesus Christ.
And then we affirm that the Holy Spirit is God. Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “He.” Not it. The Holy Spirit is never an “it.” The Scriptures tell us that the Holy Spirit has personality. He can be grieved. He can be lied to.
It is the Holy Spirit that gives us power to say, “Jesus is Lord.” In other words – we cannot have faith in Jesus Christ – except by the Holy Spirit.
Well, that’s it. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That’s the best I can do in a twelve minute sermon. Actually – that’s about the best I can do! But someone suggested that we think about it this way. God the Father who is for us, God the Son who is with us, and God the Holy Spirit who is within us.
So – that’s who God is. It’s a long way of introducing the question I really want to ask. Do you know who you are? Do you know who you are? One of the most important chapters in the Bible is in Romans 8. Listen again to what Paul says here. About you. “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God…, you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
And it is in the waters of baptism that we receive that adoption. Here it is that we are named. We are claimed. We are made sons and daughters of God. Another mystery, to be sure. But this is what God says He does for us. This is what little Jackson Paul will experience in just a few moments. Through baptism God adopts us as daughters and sons of God – adopted into God’s loving family.
Folks – I want you to know that you are no accident – the product of an impersonal universe that came into being by pure chance or dumb luck. No. You are a daughter – you are a son – of the living, loving God who has been watching over you from the day you were born.
If our understanding of the Trinity tells us anything about God, it is this. There will never come a time in your life when God will ever stop loving you. No matter what you’ve done – no matter where you’ve been – and if you’re prone to wander – no matter how long you’ve been away. God will never stop loving you.
So even though the understanding of the Trinity is a mystery – my hope and prayer for you today is that your understanding of who you are is NOT a mystery. You are loved with an everlasting love. So daughters! Sons! Let that love of God remind you of who you are – and to whom you belong. Amen