This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached today, the day of The Holy Trinity. The gospel text was John 16:12-15.
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity tells us that God is One, yet God is also Three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is a mystery. I don’t fully understand it, and I’m not sure anyone does. I couldn’t fully explain it if I tried, but I can talk about it, share some reflections. I have three reflections today about the Holy Trinity.
The book of Genesis tells us that in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless, swirling void, chaos spilling over itself. And the Spirit of God swept over the face of the waters. At the very beginning, the Holy Spirit was moving, flying, dancing. Genesis tells us that God began to create the world. Not with hands. Not with tools. With Word. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. As the Spirit swept and danced over the waters, the Word of God created order from chaos. As the Spirit swept and danced, the Word of God fashioned a universe. Fashioned life. Fashioned, eventually, us. Think of your own life. Your life began in swirling chaos, just a few cells in a watery womb. God takes those cells, and forms them over time into something we call “you.” In the sacrament of Holy Baptism, we believe that God’s Spirit again sweeps over the face of the water. And we believe God’s Word is there, and that as you are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is speaking, “Let there be light.” And there is. In Baptism, God fashions you into a new creation. A new creation that takes a lifetime to complete. The Holy Trinity, Father, Word, and Spirit, all there, making room for you. Father, Word, and Spirit? Yes, Word, because John wrote this: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and was named Jesus. Jesus, the Son, is the Word of God.
God has a face, a human face. The human face of God is the face of Jesus of Nazareth. And that, to me, means that God is not a child abuser. Let me explain. We call Jesus the Son of God. But the doctrine of the Trinity tells me that Jesus is not God’s son in the same way that Benjamin is my son. If he were, then God would be a terribly abusive father.
Imagine that I wanted to show someone that I loved them. Imagine that I chose to do that by sending my son Benjamin to die for them. Now that would indeed be a sacrifice on my part. I would be very hurt to lose my son that way. But what else would it say about me? Wouldn’t it say that I am a horrible father? Wouldn’t it say that I’m a murderer?
That’s how the death of Jesus can look sometimes. God so loved the world that he sent his son Jesus to suffer for the world. But the doctrine of the Trinity tells us this: Jesus is not only the Son of God; Jesus is God. Jesus is the Word of God, the very face of God. God did not send someone else to suffer for us…God himself entered this world, as Jesus, and God himself suffered for us. Now that, to me, is not abuse, but extravagant, unconditional love.
This beautiful display adorning our chancel was created for Pentecost. It was created to represent the flames of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the day when the Spirit fell like tongues of fire upon the apostles, and they were given the ability to speak in many languages, to tell the world the good news of Jesus. But I think it is also an excellent image for the Holy Trinity. Because in this image, the flames of the Spirit are flowing directly from the cross. The cross is the central image of the church, and that’s why this cross is so enormous…because it is from the cross, from Christ’s death on the cross, that salvation and redemption were made for the whole world. But nobody would know about that if it weren’t for Pentecost. Nobody would ever have found out what God accomplished on that cross if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit filling the apostles with words, filling them with the ability and the calling to share those words. And the Holy Spirit isn’t just the messenger who tells the news. It’s even better than that. The Holy Spirit doesn’t just spread the news about Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the news about Jesus. The Holy Spirit showers the world with God’s grace. The power that was unleashed when Jesus died on the cross, the power that was unleashed when Jesus was raised from the dead is the very power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the good news of Jesus flowing out of the cross like a waterfall, a waterfall of grace that never ends. A waterfall of grace that flows out and covers the world.
So much for my reflections on the Holy Trinity. Is it clearer now? Maybe, maybe not. But the Trinity is not something for us to understand, but for us to trust and to worship. .