We have just finished the season of Easter. We walked with Jesus through Holy Week. Gazed upon the overwhelming image of Jesus nailed to the cross on Good Friday. Immersed ourselves in the wonder and the surprise of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday. Embraced the amazement and disbelief of the disciples as Jesus appeared over and over again to them after his resurrection. Celebrated Jesus’ return to heaven at the Ascension and then the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost last Sunday who helps us to get glimpses of the glory of what God has done in Christ for us. And all of that leads us to today and the celebration of Trinity Sunday. The Sunday where clergy everywhere will be struggling to come up with images or explanations to help make the doctrine of the Trinity logical and understandable. My comment to that would be – good luck. In thousands of years no one has yet come up with an image or an explanation that does not leave questions or have shortcomings when it comes to understanding and articulating the doctrine of the Trinity. Why do we continue to jump on to this struggle over and over again? Does the doctrine of the Holy Trinity really matter? Do you think your relationship with God would be any different without the doctrine of the Trinity?
Historically the Creeds proclaim to us that the doctrine of the Trinity is extremely important. The creeds are basically an articulation of the doctrine of the Trinity. Not an explanation but an articulation. Some would say that since the creeds were not created until the early 300’s that the doctrine of the Trinity was an evolution in Christian thought. We don’t actually find the creeds in scripture. However scripture is full of passages like we had today that when speaking of God and pointing to God are certainly not contradictory to the doctrine of the Trinity and in reality become much clearer in the light of the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity is not an evolution of thought but an articulation of what is revealed to us by Christ.
The Trinity is not some complicated distraction from the simple gospel message that God loves you. It is actually integral to understanding the depth of God’s love for you and the reason of God’s love for you. Although I would not advise going around and randomly saying to people – God loves you and if you want to know that just consider the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Partly because they might ask you to explain it to them and if we are honest pretty much the best response to that is – it’s a mystery and you’re not going to be able to adequately reason it through.
None the less the Trinity is there right below the surface practically everywhere we look. From today’s gospel – “when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you into all truth…..He will glorify me (Jesus) because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has in mine.” Here we have, the Holy Spirit, Jesus the Son, and God the Father working together in some divine dance to reveal and proclaim that they are one. Or from the well know passage John 3:16 – “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” The Father gave the Son. They are distinct persons. The Father cannot be the Son if the Father gave the Son. And as today’s passage proclaims they are intimately connected, “the Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus because he will declare to us what is Jesus’ and who Jesus is. All that the Father, all that God has belongs to Jesus. There is something unique about Jesus. He is referred to as God’s only Son and he is proclaimed to have everything that God has. What is God’s belongs to Jesus. Ultimately what is the parents belongs to the child.
Now, we are all God’s children. That is proclaimed to us in many places in scripture. So how is Jesus different then us? We are children of God by grace. We become children of God by adoption. Jesus is a child of God by nature. Jesus does not become God’s child Jesus simply is God’s child. Let me assure you that as a parent who has adopted children and begotten children they are not different classes of children. There are not different levels of love. There is no difference except that the begotten children inherit physical nature from the parent. The Christian proclamation is that Jesus is God’s begotten child – before all worlds, God from God, light from light, begotten not made. We receive eternal life through the work of Jesus. By God the Father, giving Jesus the Son. Our salvation is trinitarian. Because of God’s love for us God sends the Son for us. God sends the Son to us. The Son of God becomes the Son of Man so that we may become children of God. And then the Father and the Son send their Spirit to dwell in us so we can experience this new life as children of God. Joint heirs with Christ. Listen to how this is put from the letter to the Galatians:
“God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying Abba Father! So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (Galatians 4:4-6)
The Trinity matters because this is who God is. This is who God has revealed God’s self to be. It is who God always was and would be even if there was no us, or no heaven, or no earth. The question is not – is this practical for my life? The question is – do I want to know God? It makes no sense to ask what the point of the Trinity is or what purpose the Trinity serves. The Trinity is not for anything beyond itself because the Trinity is God. God is God in this way. God’s way of being God is to be Father, Son and Holy Spirit simultaneously for all of eternity perfectly complete in a triune fellowship of love. The very essence of God is a loving relationship. The doctrine of the Trinity did not come about to make God more useful. God is the Trinity which proclaims God is love over and above anything else. Jesus said “this is eternal life that they know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) To know God is to know God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The kind of God we have determines the kind of relationship we will have with God. Is your God an all sufficient fountain of joy and love with an inexhaustible supply available for you anytime? Or did God create you, create humanity because God was lonely and needed us? The answer depends on your view of God. Is God a single all powerful entity? Or is God a perfect loving relationship – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – who was never lonely because even in the beginning before anything was made, God already had someone with him – the Word was with God.
This is good news! It tells us God did not create us because God needed somebody to love. You and I are not the result of some human shaped hole in God’s heart. Rather you and I represent the overflow of God’s eternal love for God’s son as though the Father said: – Son this love of ours is just too good to keep to ourselves. So let us with our eternal Spirit make humanity in our own image so others might see and experience our love.
Who is God to you? An all powerful being and judge who is more forgiving then condemning? Not bad but not good enough. The triune God is better by far. The triune God giving God’s self to you in creation and redemption. The same son who was begotten by the Father before all worlds, through whom all things were made, was sent by the Father into this world, to live and die for us and our salvation. And the same Spirit who proceeded from the Father and the Son from all eternity was sent by the Father and the Son into this world to live inside us and bring us to Christ and through Christ to the Father so that we may be taken into God’s family, surrounded by God’s life and love to glorify and enjoy God forever. It is far more then forgiveness. It is far more than a glimpse into or a taste of spiritual life and reality. It is joining an eternal family. It is being conformed to the image of the Son by the Spirit and becoming a partaker in the divine nature, the divine dance. It is the kind of salvation and life and relationship only the triune God can offer.
Don’t make God into your image. Let God make you into God’s image. This is the Holy Trinity. It is not just a doctrine it is our invitation into a new life. It is more than a mystery or a mind bending math problem. This is our God who is love, who gave God’s self, Jesus our Lord and saviour for us and whose Spirit comes to us to declare to us the glory of God in Christ our Lord.