Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Trinity: God as Father

Sermon for June 16, 2019 

Read Romans 5:1-5  and John 16:12-15

It seems appropriate on this Father's day that we conclude talking about the trinity with God the Father. God the Creator.  Usually listed first when we name the trinity, God the father is an image that springs easily to mind.  In fact, in a poll of Presbyterians taken a few years ago revealed that 94 percent of those serve A "Our Father.”

God the Father is a person rich in biblical images. In Luke, God is likened to the father who welcomes home the prodigal son, no questions asked, giving us welcoming grace in the form of a father. Many times in the Gospels, Jesus himself uses the word Abba, an Aramaic word, the closest English translation of which would be "Dad"to intimately address the one who sent him.

Even though we can never claim that any one way of speaking of God captures the fullness of the ineffable divine mystery, people have, throughout the ages, been drawn to parental images for God. It is a good and comforting thing to imagine that God cares for us and loves us as a good father or mother would care or love. It’s wonderful to think of God as one who does not play favorites but who loves all the children.

There was harried father of several young children, who once said, "When our first child dropped his pacifier, we boiled it for ten minutes. When the third child drops her pacifier, we just ask the dog to fetch it, please."Which is pretty common for human But that father went on to say, "When I pray for my children every night, each one is different, but my affection for each one is exactly the same. I suspect God must feel that way too.The details change, but the love remains the same for each and every one of us.

God the Father is a good way to look at our relationship with God. A perfect father who loves and cares for us; one who pushes us to grow into the best version of ourselves. "See what love the Father has for us, that we might be called children of God."There is nothing that can take that identity away from us. We have been adopted forever.

While many of us find the idea of God the father to be a comforting one, there are those of us who have complicated relationships with our fathers. Allowing God to be the father that our human fathers sometimes aren’t, can be a form of comfort to people. It’s an offer of security and support that some of us don’t have in our own families.When we talk about God the Father, we talk about the one who loves us, the one who Created us and seeks to give us good in our lives. Not everything we want, but what we need. What will really bring us joy. We talk about a God who wants us to succeed.

We've gone through all three of the persons of the Trinity over the past three weeks, beginning with Jesus, the divine word. The redeemer. The part of the Trinity who took on flesh and lived among us so God would truly understand what we are going through. We moved to the Spirit, the hard to contain idea that blows through our lives and lights us on fire with passion, with ideas, with inspiration, and draws us closer to one another. And now we have the Creator, the Father, the one who loves us and calls us forward into all that we can be. All different persons, and yet all the same God. We see the relational nature of the world in every aspect of the Trinity.

And so we talk about the Creator, the Father who is the sovereign power behind the universe; the God who makes all things new; God whose love is poured out for the whole world in Jesus Christ. Paul exclaims in joy, "When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God."The Holy Spirit bears witness to our human spirit to the great core truth of Christianity, that through Jesus Christ we belong to God. There is nothing we can do to sever that relationship. We have been perpetually, eternally adopted by God.

The real trick of the Trinity is realizing that it is in some ways, how we describe a God we cannot describe. The theologian N.T. Write explains, "You see, the doctrine of the Trinity, properly understood, is as much a way of saying ‘we don’t know’ as of saying ‘we do know.’ To say that the true God is Three and One is to recognize that if there is a God then of course we shouldn’t expect him to fit neatly into our little categories.  If he did, he wouldn’t be God at all, merely a god, a god we might perhaps have wanted.  The Trinity is not something that the clever theologian comes up with as a result of hours spent in the theological laboratory, after which he or she can return to announce that they’ve got God worked out now, the analysis is complete, and here is God neatly laid out on a slab.  The only time they laid God out on a slab he rose again three days afterwards.

"On the contrary: the doctrine of the Trinity is, if you like, a signpost pointing ahead into the dark, saying: ‘Trust me; follow me; my love will keep you safe.’ Or, perhaps better, the doctrine of the Trinity is a signpost pointing into a light which gets brighter and brighter until we are dazzled and blinded, but which says: ‘Come, and I will make you children of light.’  The doctrine of the Trinity affirms the rightness, the propriety, of speaking intelligently that the true God must always transcend our grasp of him, even our most intelligent grasp of him.”

In other words, the idea of the Trinity is our way of getting closer to a God who defies our understanding by God’s very nature. It is an image that gets us closer to who God is, but does not limit God. We’ve talked about the Trinity these past few weeks so that we might see a little better who God is, how God relates to us and where God is working in the world.

One of my favorite descriptions of the Trinity comes from a poem by Meister Eckhart. "Do you want to know what goes on in the core of the Trinity? I will tell you. In the core of the Trinity the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son. The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit. The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us.”

God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit, all work together in community, constantly inviting us to be in that relationship. To be adopted into the holy family, now and evermore. Amen.