Some things are difficult to talk about. Love for example. If someone asked you to describe love and explain why you love someone, how would you go about it? To be honest, no matter what you might say on the subject, it would be inadequate.
How would you define beauty? Or joy?
Try one more. GOD. Hmmm. Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, All-powerful, Ever-present, Just, Judge, Merciful, Loving, and on and on. Nothing is enough. We know that anything we say is inadequate.
Today is Trinity Sunday. That Sunday of the church year when we celebrate the Church’s teaching and our conviction that God is Three in One. This is the only Sunday in the long church year that is set aside to focus upon a doctrine. Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and so on all commemorate historic events, and we can understand that, or at least feel like we do, but a doctrine? And a confusing doctrine at that!
The doctrine of the Trinity is the uniquely Christian response to the question of how to talk about God. The doctrine of the Trinity did not spring unannounced from out of nowhere, rather it became more and more clear to the early church as they attempted to better understand and speak about God’s revelation of Himself through Christ.
For starters, the church believed that there is only ONE GOD. They affirmed the patriarchs of the Old Testament who said, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4), and the New Testament writers who said that “ there is no God but one”(1Corinthians 8:4). We are freed from the superstition and fear of believing in all kinds of invisible powers and authorities. One God! Christians along with our Jewish ancestors are, and always have been, monotheists.
But when the Church looked at Jesus. They heard him speak “as one with authority”(Matt 7:29). They heard him forgive sins. In fact devout Jews of the day were so incensed at his behavior that they accused him of blasphemy, because he claimed to do what only God can do. He said “ I and the Father are One.” And “whoever has seen me has seen the Father”. It was clear to the early Church that in a unique way Christ is not just a man sent from God, or a prophet, or an angel. When we meet Christ, we meet God. How can that be explained?
Add one more confusing element to the mix. The Church knew the God who had created the world and everything in it, They knew Jesus whom they had come to worship as Immanuel – God with us. But they came also to know God in another way as well, as present with us as the indwelling power who sustains us. God the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. The Holy Scriptures acknowledges them all, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in fact, in several places it mentions them together.
So what do we have, Three Gods? No – - we started off insisting that there is only one God. From what God has revealed to us, the Church did all that it Could do, it affirmed that in a mysterious way, all three persons are one God. There is no way to separate one from another. One God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
If we want to know what the Father wills and does, then we have to look at what the Son wills and does; for the Father and the Son are One God. If we want to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit in us and among us, we have to look at what the Father and the Son are like; For the Holy Spirit is the spirit of the Father and the Son. Any “spirit’ that contradicts or ignores God the Father in Christ cannot possibly be the HOLY SPIRIT.
Are you getting the message? If we want to know God. We will only become fully acquainted by meeting God as Father AND as Son AND as Holy Spirit.
So the God we worship is the all powerful maker of the universe. This same God is concerned not just with the whirling of the planets, but also with you and me, loving us so devotedly that Scripture says even the hairs of our head are numbered.
The doctrine of the Trinity is a mystery. It was a mystery when the early church first put it into words and it has remained so ever since. But it is not merely an “article of faith” which men are called to “believe” It is not Simply a dogma that the church requires it’s good members to “accept on faith”. Neither is it the invention of scholars and academicians. It is not just the result of intellectual speculation and philosophical thinking. It comes from the deepest experiences of human’s with God as he has revealed Himself to the patriarchs, prophets, and saints. Past generations of the faithful were willing to give up their lives rather than deny the truth of the Trinity that is expressed in the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.
Our Lord Christ, who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, has instructed us, in today’s Gospel, to make disciples and baptize them in the name of this Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And to teach them all that he has commanded. And he has promised us that when we do so, he will be with us, even to the end of the age.