Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Trinity: God as Christ

Sermon for June 2, 2019 

Read Acts 1:1-11 and Luke 24:44-53

We're going to be talking about the Trinity over the next few weeks. We confess that we worship the Triune God, and yet we rarely talk about what that means. But it’s a concept that allows us to understand the inherent relational nature of our God and why that’s important. So each week for the next three week's we're going to talk about a different person of the Trinity.

And I want to begin by talking a bit about the Trinity as a whole. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches that Jesus Christ our Savior and the Holy Spirit our Sanctifier are truly one with God who made the heavens and the earth and who called Israel to be a light to all nations. God is not a solitary and self-enclosed being. Which is what we often imagine God to be. Indeed, being a solitary self-made being is what  we often aspire to be.

But instead the eternal triune God is in community by God’s very nature and wills to communicate with creatures and to share the divine life and love with them. God’s being is in mutual love and shared life. This is the way God has related to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, and it reveals who God is and how God acts in all eternity.

We are monotheists - we worship only one God, but we believe that God is in three different persons. Which is a concept that is hard to grasp no matter how hard you look at it. There have been a number of metaphors used throughout history to try to help explain it. St. Augustine used the natural world for his example, in much the same way St. Patrick used the clover. Augustine stated:  "The root is wood, the trunk is wood, and the branches are wood, while nevertheless it is not three woods that are thus spoken of, but only one…. [Thus] no one should think it absurd that we should call the Father God, the Son God, the Holy Spirit God, and that these are not three gods in the Trinity, but one God and one substance."

If plants don’t help with this concept, try looking at the several roles that an individual can play throughout their life. In relation to our parents we are a son or a daughter; in relation to our boss or teacher we are an employee or student; in relation to our spouse we are a husband or a wife. Daughter, student, teacher, wife: a person can be all of these people and still be one person.

It’s important to remember with the Trinity that whenever one is at work, the other two are at work as well. John Calvin puts it this way: "To the Father is attributed the beginning of activity, and the fountain and wellspring of all things; to the Son, wisdom, counsel, and the ordered disposition of all things; but to the Spirit is assigned the power and efficacy of that activity." No one part of the Trinity goes off and functions on it’s own, but they all instead work together in the world.

And because we believe in the triune God who is inherently communal, and because we were created in God’s image, we know that we are created in and for relationship. We bear witness to the triune God by our life in relationship. According to Calvin, knowledge of the triune God and knowledge of ourselves are inseparable. If God’s life is in communion, then human life, too, created in the image of God, is intended by God to be life in communion.

From this perspective, sin often takes the form of rejecting life in relationship, of wanting to live only for oneself, of actively and intentionally disobeying the laws of God, of wanting to live apart from God, or of living as though our sisters and brothers did not exist or were there only for our benefit. But sin may also take the form of self-devaluation and self-hatred, of wanting to disappear into another, of neglecting God's purpose because we do not feel worthy of it, or of trying to hide one's personhood and unique talents. In whatever form, living in bondage to sin is living against the world that the triune God offers us. God wills all creation to participate in this triune life of communion.

The concept of the trinity, rather than being simply an esoteric theological concept, instead shapes our entire worldview once we understand it.

And as we look at the individual persons of the Trinity we begin with Christ, the Son, the Redeemer. In a lot of ways, Jesus is the easiest member of the trinity to grasp. He was fully human after all, and that part we understand. Even a human that is perfect as he was makes more sense to us than a distant Creator or a nebulous Spirit. He was our teacher. We have whole gospels written about his life, the things he did and the way he behaved. It helps us to feel like we have some grasp of who Christ was.

And yet, Jesus is also fully divine. He is just as much a part of God as the Spirit or the Father is. We tend to emphasize one aspect or another with Christ. I know I am guilty of focusing on Jesus the man, the rabbi whose teachings I love to follow and whose life is so rich with meaning. But then we run across passages like the one we find this morning. Passages where the divinity of Christ come through. It’s crucial that we find that balance.

Because the poignancy of the Gospel stands out when we see the extent to which God as the human Jesus embraces our humanity. Reflecting the Bible, the Apostles and Nicene creeds narrate the birth, sufferings, and death of Jesus, to show the extent to which God stoops to the human condition, enfolds us in God’s mercy, saves us from our sins, and initiates a new humanity. Paul goes so far as to say, God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. The humanity of the Son is thus as important as the divinity of the Son, and as the Son of God Jesus Christ includes them both.

God the divine thought it was so important to understand what humanity goes through that God chose to become human and experience it himself. And in so doing God gave us both a model to base our lives off of, and reconciled the gap that we had created between ourselves and God through sin. Through the breaking of that community.

By choosing to become human and living in community among us, Jesus healed the separation of sin. He insured that there would always be someone who knew what we were going through; experiencing all of the highs and lows of being human. When we name the Trinity, we call Jesus the Redeemer because he was the one who redeemed us.

So as you go into the world this week live into that community you were created for, in the image of the Redeemer, the Sustainer and our Creator. Amen.