The Beautiful Trinity

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The Holy Trinity is a beautiful picture of God that lays out for us how the creator of all that is moves and acts within this finite world of time and space and sense.  It relates how God comes to us.  He seeks us out, pursues us… fights for us.  He molds us, shapes us… sustains us.  He is ever-present and ever-active.  He is the author of all love that feeds and strengthens the world.

Holy Trinity Sunday
June 15, 2014
Matthew 28:16-20
Peder Stenslie

On Tuesday morning, Shera, Pastor Renee and I met in my front yard for our weekly staff meeting.  We began, as we usually do, with prayer.  We prayed for each other, for members of Heart River, for Y.C.C. students and for others beyond our faith community.  We prayed for our ministry.  We gave thanks for the beautiful gifts of God, that they might bless and strengthen our life together, and so on.

As we prayed, the fragrance and freshness of the morning air was stunning.  The warmth of the sun was glorious.  The song and activity of birds were, of course, all around us.

A Tree Swallow mother was incubating her eggs 6 feet to our left.  A Barn Swallow mother was on her eggs 10 yards to our right.  The songs of Purple Martins, orioles, meadowlarks, goldfinches and Bobolinks filled the air.  While we prayed, we could hear the flutter of wings and birds landing at the feeders.

It was as if creation itself had entered our prayer, lending fragrance, warmth, song, nurture, feeding… flying… to our human words and cares.

When we were done, Pastor Renee said something like:  “If I could start every day like that, I could face anything.”  Shera and I felt the same way.

Our prayer had come alive in a very special way.  It seemed transformed and made beautifully whole with the addition of fresh, fragrant air, sunlight and bird life.

It was a powerful reminder that all creation is joined together in prayer… in longing for nurture and life and joy.  All life is infused with beauty and wonder that we are meant to know and share with each other.

It was a sweet “big picture moment” for us regarding prayer and life.  From time to time, we human creatures desperately need “big picture moments.”  It gives context and correction to our lives that so easily veer off track.

And that’s what today — Holy Trinity Sunday — is.  It is a “big picture moment.”  Some people regard the Holy Trinity as a very dry, intellectual and uninteresting topic.  But they are very wrong.  The picture of the Holy Trinity is beautiful and stunning, kind of like our outdoor morning prayer this week.

Today’s Gospel reading is the closing verses of the Gospel of Matthew.  Jesus gives his disciples some final instructions, commanding them to proclaim the Gospel… share the light and life of God with all the earth.  He then leaves them with this promise:  “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This final verse of Matthew recalls the book’s beginning.  In the first chapter, the Christ Child was proclaimed to be Immanuel, which means “God with Us.”  Christ’s last words to his disciples confirm that promise to be eternal.  God is with his creation always.  Christ is with us always, bringing new life… resurrection… in the midst of a world full of trouble and death.

So what value does the doctrine of the Holy Trinity have for us?  God is an impossible reality for us to understand.  We are creatures of time and space who know our finite world through applying our 5 senses and our capacity for reasoned thought.  We can study the inner workings of the tiniest living cells.  We can lay our eyes on distant stars located in far reaches of our infinite universe.  But all of these things are just creations of God.  The reality of God lies beyond them.  He is not bound by time and space.  He  cannot be measured by our 5 senses, or comprehended by our thoughts.

Martin Luther spoke of this as the “Hidden God.”

“In his essence,” Luther wrote, “God is incomprehensible and dwells in a light which we cannot approach even with our thoughts and to want to inquire into his judgments is truly to strive for things that are impossible.”

However, that doesn’t mean that we are left with a god who is remote, isolated, and unapproachable.

Luther spoke also of the revealed God… those things about himself that God has chosen to reveal to his creatures.  The revealed God is made known to us through scripture, the sacraments, prayer, creation, service… our neighbor.  Most importantly — and this is where the Holy Trinity comes in — God has made it known that he is always physically present with us, in Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Trinity is a beautiful picture of God that lays out for us how the creator of all that is moves and acts within this finite world of time and space and sense.  It relates how God comes to us.  He seeks us out, pursues us… fights for us.  He molds us, shapes us… sustains us.  He is ever-present and ever-active.  He is the author of all love that feeds and strengthens the world.

The Holy Trinity — the picture of God the creator, God the redeemer, and God the Holy Spirit helps us see and come to know God as he has revealed himself to this world… in ways that really matter for us.  In other words, it clarifies for us, not the hidden God, but what God knows we need in order to live faithfully and well in this world.

The Holy Trinity invites us to learn about God the creator by seeing what he has made.  As creator, God is truly frightening in his might.  God as creator blows the mind.  He formed the endless universe, the galaxies and solar systems and planets.  He designed the microscopic cell, the building block of life, and with these cells he created millions of different forms of life on this one planet alone.

God as creator has made all things — and infused them with more mystery and wonder than we can imagine.  More than anything else, it is God as creator that teaches us that the true (hidden) being of God is far beyond our ability to understand or imagine.  That is something we need to know.

God as redeemer comes to us in Jesus.  Whereas God as creator made us and our world, God as redeemer saves us from the only real dangers that lurk in creation — sin and death.  It is an amazing/wonderful story.  God, who stands above all creation, took on human flesh.  With lungs, he breathed the air of this planet.  He labored and sweat under the same sun that shines on us today.  He broke bread and talked with friends and strangers, he embraced and comforted the weak and the lonely.  Like us, he laughed and cried with people he met along the way.

Being “one of us” was the way God chose to save us.  He lived among us and taught us what it means to be human, what it means to be a child of God.  And then, God as redeemer allowed himself to be rejected, humiliated and murdered by the very creatures he came to save.   God endured this humiliation and shame in order to be with his creatures fully and destroy the power of Sin and Death that held them in bondage.

More than anything else, it is God as redeemer (in Christ) that reveals to us the depth of God’s love.  The life and death of Jesus assure us that God loves us far beyond our ability to measure, and he will go to any lengths to save us.  That is something we need to know.

God as spirit is the presence of God that never leaves us.  God as spirit is what Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel when he gives that beautiful promise, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  God as spirit is God in our world, calling people to faith, forgiving, healing and comforting those in trouble, and strengthening those who face danger.  It is God in our hearts making us new, guiding us on his path, and stirring up in us faith, courage and hope.  That is something we need to know.

The doctrine of the Trinity can be terribly confusing if we try to use it in a way it is not meant to be used.  It is not meant to clarify for us the hidden nature and being of God.  We must accept that the full being of God lies beyond our understanding.

Nonetheless, the doctrine of the trinity is important and beautiful.  It is a mysterious, but simple picture of what God has revealed to us about himself.

To appreciate the power and greatness of God we need only consider the works of his hand — the endless universe and vast galaxies, the wonder of life… the miracles of birth and growth.

To understand the full depth of God’s love for his creation (and for you and me), we need only hear the story of Jesus’ life and death.  God took on himself our human nature and suffered humiliation, rejection and painful death in order to free us from those powers within us and without us that would rob us of life.

And finally, to be touched by God’s spirit now we need only open our hearts and call upon God, and we will find God fulfilling his promise, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  And he will put in our hearts his strength, his life, so that we can grow into the faithful children he has called us to be.

This is all stuff we need to know.

Amen.