Pastor Sherry’s message for June 7, 2020
Scriptures: Gen 1:1—2:4a; Ps 8; 2 Cor 13:11-14; Matt 28:16-20
The story is told of a Jewish father who was concerned about his son’s lack of a spiritual life. The father had never demonstrated what it was to be a practicing Jew. So, he felt guilty. As a result, he sent his son to Israel to experience his Jewish heritage, and hopefully to help him develop a lively faith. The son returned after a year. He thanked his father for the opportunity to visit the Holy Land and he reported that living in Israel had been both wonderful and enlightening. Then he confessed that while there, he had encountered some Christ-followers and had decided to become a Christian.
The Jewish father was terribly upset, and in the tradition of the patriarchs, he sought advice and comfort from his best friend. “It is amazing that you should come to me,” said his best friend. “I too sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian!” So, again according to long standing tradition, the two friends sought out the wisdom and counsel of a rabbi. “It is amazing that you should come to me,” stated the rabbi. ”I also sent my son to Israel and he too developed faith in Jesus of Nazareth. “What is happening to our sons?”
All three lifted their hands to God and began to wail and pour out their grief. As they prayed, the heavens opened and a mighty voice exclaimed, Amazing that you should come to Me. I, too, sent My son to Israel….
Today is Trinity Sunday, the day the Christian Church celebrates one of its most central beliefs. We believe in One God in Three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You may recall having sung the hymn, “Come Thou Almighty King” (c.1757), which extols all three persons of the Trinity:
Come thou Almighty King, help us Thy name to sing,
Help us to praise, Father whose love unknown
All things created own,
Build in our hearts Thy throne, Ancient of Days.
Come thou Incarnate Word, by heaven & earth adored;
Our prayer attend: Come, and Thy people bless;
Come, give Thy Word success;
Stablish Thy righteousness, Savior and Friend.
Come, Holy Comforter, Thy sacred witness bear
In this glad hour: Thou, who almighty art,
Now rule in every heart,
And ne’re from us depart, Spirit of Power.
To Thee, great One in Three, the highest praises be,
Thy sovereign majesty may we in glory see,
And to eternity love and adore.
We believe the Trinity is One Divine God with 3 personalities or 3 roles. This foundational truth is hard to explain. We call it a “holy mystery.”
We know that St. Augustine of Hippo took nearly 30 years to write 15 volumes called About the Trinity. He continued for years to update and revise it. It is said that he was walking the beach one day, struggling to understand this profound mystery, when he saw a little boy digging a hole in
the sand with a seashell. The boy would run to the ocean, fill his shell, and rush back to pour the contents into the hole. St. Augustine said to him, “What are you doing, my little man?” The boy replied, “I am trying to put the ocean into this hole.” Augustine later wrote that this experience helped him to see that this was what he had been trying to do with his 15 volumes: fit the vastness of the Trinity into the limited container of his mind.
The word Trinity appears nowhere in the Bible, but it is implied: In our Old Testament lessonàGenesis 1:1-2:4–We read the Creation Account: Verses 1-2, In the beginning [time], God created the heavens [space] and the earth [matter]...and the Spirit of God [creative force] was hovering/moved/brooded [in motion] over the waters. John 1 further informs us: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All 3 members of the Trinity were involved in Creation. Notice, the Bible doesn’t try to prove the existence of God. It just states that HE IS. Psalm 14:1 declares–The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Psalm 19:1–The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Our Psalm for today, 8, is a creation hymn. It is quoted 3 times in the New Testament, including once by Jesus (v.6–You made Him [Jesus] ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under His feet.) These words testify to God’s great creative power and His accomplishments. King David asserts (v.1)–O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. In other words, God the Father is the creator of all the earth. In the 1st chapter of Genesis, God the Father says, Let there be…10 times, and whatever He has envisioned or planned comes into being. Even more fantastic than speaking creation into existence, He creates it out of nothing. The Hebrew word for this is bara; in the Latin, it is called ex nihilo. Only God can create something out of nothing. The rest of us must start with raw materials.
Chapter 1 of Genesis also reveals that He is a God of order:
Day 1, He creates light; Day 2, He creates “air spaces” between the waters on earth and the waters in the sky (vertical division); Day 3, He separates dry ground from the seas (horizontal division); Day 4, He creates vegetation, plant life; Day 5, He creates living creatures in the seas and birds of all kinds; Day 6, (vv.24-25), He creates livestock & wild animals;
Then in verses 26-31, He creates humans. Let us make man in our image, in our likeness. This means we have personality; that we are conscious of ourselves (metacognition) and of our actions; and that we are free moral agents. In other words, we get to decide things for ourselves. Notice how God the Father references the other members of the Trinity in this creative act (let us…our), implying there are more than one divine person involved.
Continuing, in Chapter 2, God establishes the Sabbath principle our need for rest following work. This is also evidence that our God is a God of compassion. John Wesley reportedly summarized God’s creative acts in Genesis 1 & 2 by stating, “God created the heavens and the earth and didn’t half try.”
Paul provides us with a Trinitarian blessing in our New Testament lesson today (2 Corinthians 13:11-14)—May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [the Son] and the love of God [the Father], and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Without calling it the Trinity, Paul presumes its existence. Like a good pastor, he wants believers to experience the blessings of the entire Godhead: grace, love, and communion.
Jesus, in our Gospel, sends us out to do the work of the Church in the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20)à…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus invokes the names of all three divine persons.
So what do we learn about the Trinity from our passages this morning? Again, All 3 members of the Trinity existed prior to and were active in the Creation of the world. They are distinct entities but eternally connected in love and communion with each other.
God the Father is Immortal, Invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes….Creation appears to have been His idea.
He is spirit, completely transcendent, wholly other; enthroned in Heaven; compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love, forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Clearly the Father is in command but never dominates or abuses the other two persons. We pray to Him, in the name of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. My earthly father was killed when I was 5 years old. My mother remarried 3 years later. My step-father, unfortunately was verbally and physically abusive to me. Because of this, I initially had difficulty seeing God the Father as anything other than a remote, critical, punishing, and disapproving God. It is only as I have developed further in my faith that I have come to realize He is instead the loving, accepting Father I always wished I had known growing up.
God the Son, Jesus, is our Brother, Savior, Redeemer, and Friend.
He came to earth, God-in-the-flesh, as a vulnerable baby. He demonstrated God’s love by teaching, healing, forgiving, modeling how to live, and by dying for our sins. He demonstrated God’s power by performing miracles, rising from the dead, and ascending into heaven. He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. We sing, What a friend we have in Jesus…and it is the truth, isn’t it!
God the Holy Spirit is the immanence (everywhere-ness) of God, the “with us” God who is always available to us. He is how we experience the Trinity today. He leads, guides, and directs us now; He intercedes for us when all we can do is groan; He sanctifies us and empowers us for ministry.
To echo the hymn, To Thee, great One in Three, the highest praises be, hence evermore; Thy sovereign majesty may we in glory see, and to eternity love and adore!
©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams