ISAIAH 6:1-8; PSALM 29; ROMANS 8:12-17; JOHN 3:1-17
This may be the Sunday that you determine that your pastor is crazy. Holy Trinity Sunday is my favorite festival of the year. (It is a festival.) I get more out of this day than Christmas, Easter, Pentecost or even, dare I say it, Reformation Day. All other church festivals either commemorate something God has done for the world, send the Messiah, raise him from the dead, or the other festivals acknowledge aspects of history or of the life of faith, like Reformation or All Saints’.
Holy Trinity Sunday is different. The only festival that is celebrated around church doctrine, this day asks to look at who God is and our experience of God over us, God with us, and God in us. Born from this day are the other days we celebrate a God who cared enough to send His only begotten Son, a God who cared enough to die on the cross, a God who remains with us interceding with sighs to deep for words.
The Trinity is mysterious and crazy-making. Not in that the Three-in-One God is in the habit of making people crazy, but that trying to understand it could definitely stretch the limits of one’s sanity. We believe in one God made manifest in three persons. What? The Father, our Holy Parent, birthed creation, but the Son and the Spirit were present and active in that same act. The Son died on the cross for our sins, but spoke with the authority of the Father and through the inspiration of the Spirit who also gave of themselves on Calvary. The Spirit gives us strength and power to live our lives, but does so with the inspiration of the Father and with the love of Christ.
No one person of the Trinity is limited in their role or power. For us to say otherwise is heresy. For Three-in-One God to do otherwise is not in God’s nature. Confused? The Trinity is confusing, challenging and beautiful all at the same time. Let’s break it down as though we were going to give a report. Let’s look at the who, what, when, where, why and how of the Trinity.
Who is the Trinity? The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One God, now and forever.
What is the Trinity? The Trinity is how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have chosen to relate to one another and to the world. Because of the great love that is within God and is God, there is a relational aspect, a relationship, within God’s own self that needs these three expressions. Who you are has several expressions: child, parent, spouse, former spouse, employee, employer, parishioner, volunteer, etc and each of those roles makes up your entire person. You are able to be more than one thing at a time because of the gifts you have and who you have been created to be.
God was not created, but has always been. However, due to the gifts that are God’s own- the Trinity is formed- a relationship that pours out love, mercy, judgment and forgiveness. It is three expressions of one great God, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God.
When is the Trinity? One God, now and forever. From Genesis, we know that the Spirit moved over the waters at creation, bringing forth God’s desire from chaos. From John, we know that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. We come to understand, through faith, that Word is Jesus the Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. From Paul, we learn that our heavenly Father extends to us an inheritance for which we did not work, but so that we might understand and believe that we have a place to belong and a family everlasting as children of God. When is the Trinity? One God, now and forever.
Where is the Trinity? Everywhere. Not only limited to the sacraments or sacred locations, but the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are God above us, God with us and God in us. Our Three-in-One God is always inspiring us to go forth, meeting us on the road and completing the work we cannot finish because of our human nature. Isaiah believes he will die because he is seeing the hem of God’s robe. He believes this because the Lord told Moses that no one could see God and live. Then the Lord moons Moses. (See Exodus 33, where the Lord does indeed show Moses his backside.) Rather than dying, Isaiah is called into the presence of the Lord so that he might know his own calling, his own sinfulness and God’s plan to send him out into the world. God reveals the plans for us in the same way, calling us, forgiving us and sending us out- but never alone. Always we are accompanied by the richness of God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit in all that we do.
Why is the Trinity? Maybe the best way to explain the “why” of the Trinity is to say something personal. I have almost always found the person of Jesus comforting. If I am mourning, I know that he wept over Lazarus. If I am rejoicing, I imagine him smiling at playing children and celebrating with the families of the healed. If I am tired, I imagine him sleeping in the boat during the storm. I cannot be the person Jesus was, but I appreciate that He understands the person I am.
When I found out that I was pregnant two days before Christmas, it was very overwhelming- to say the least. As the first weeks went by, it was hard to fully celebrate this miracle of life because I felt so surprised and very upset that Rob was going to be gone and we would not be together for this experience. So I began to think about Jesus. And then I felt frustrated. Jesus didn’t know how I felt about this. Jesus did not have a baby. He didn’t have mood swings, have to run to the bathroom all the time, worry about missing his spouse and think about the 900 foods he couldn’t eat. (Well, he might have done that. He was following Jewish dietary laws.)
I also thought of this congregation. Jesus did not get elderly or watch a spouse struggle with a terminal illness. All of this began to boil in my mind. This is where some people find comfort in the lives of the saints or Mary or the other apostles, but not me. Not only am I crazy about the Trinity, I am stubborn about the Trinity. If this is how God has chosen to express God’s self, then there is a good reason why.
The thing is, Jesus doesn’t cover all the bases. Jesus is God-with-us, but Jesus is not the only way that God accompanies us or the only way that God understands us. There can only have been one Messiah and so he was sent into the world, not to condemn the world, but that it might be saved through him. When I desperately want to know that Jesus understands what I’m experiencing, I forget that was not the only purpose of God’s human life on earth. Because God has made each of us, out of care and love, God does know what we are going through. We are pointed not only to Jesus, but to the entire Trinity so that we might have confidence that the One who made is us is also the Three who understand and are present with our every emotion and experience. Jesus the person might not have known what I felt or what you feel, but God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is always with us, in the thick of it.
How is the Trinity? They’re fine, thank you. In all seriousness, the how of the Trinity is where people get hung up, stopped and close their minds to God or to God’s full expression. The how of the Trinity is the aspect we don’t have to understand. We believe that Christ is present to us in the bread and wine. We don’t know how, but we believe through the gift of faith. We believe that God adopts us through baptism, when we cannot act on our own, and makes us. How exactly that works, we couldn’t say for sure, but we believe through faith. We believe that the Spirit ever creates in us a clean heart, sanctifying us throughout our live. How? God only knows, but we believe through faith.
So also through faith do we believe in a Three-in-One God, a God above us, God with us and God in us. This is the God who made us, who saved us through the cross and resurrection, who breathes life into us. Holy Trinity Sunday- where we are brought together to acknowledge that we don’t have the control, but God does and God reveals that strength to us in many, many ways. Here we learn that God’s own love and mercy are so great- that it takes three intertwined expressions to show it. Ever creative, comforting and compassionate- the Holy Trinity, the one True God, has the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever.