buy isotretinoin cheap Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer
Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; June 12, 2022
John 16:12-15; Romans 5:1-5
Last Sunday we celebrated Pentecost as the day the Holy Spirit arrived to birth the church. In many Presbyterian churches, Pentecost is the only Sunday the Spirit gets any attention. It reminds me of a story often told about a Pentecostal woman who happened to walk into a Presbyterian church during worship. She made her way to the front pew and immediately started responding—out loud—to the minister’s sermon. “Amen. Hallelujah,” she said. “Preach it, brother…Praise God… Yes, Lord Jesus…” As her enthusiasm grew, so did the anxiety of the people around her. Finally, when she stood up to raise her hands in praise, an usher appeared at her side and whispered, “Ma’am, is something wrong?” “No,” she said. “Nothing is wrong. I just have the Spirit.” “Well,” he said, “you didn’t get it here.”
Last week we considered how Pentecost marks the beginning of the work of the church—a work that now falls to believers who commit themselves to the way of Jesus—to the way of Love. Today is Trinity Sunday, or God Sunday, as it is sometimes called. It is the only day of the liturgical year that invites us to ponder a doctrine of the church. While it is true that our Scripture readings reflect the nature of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, since the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, preaching on the topic can be a daunting task. Gregory Nazianzen warned that to speak of the Godhead is like crossing the ocean on a raft. Augustine, one of the greatest minds of the western world, wrote about the Trinity. It took 10 years and 15 books.
But, at the end of the day, what does it matter? What does the doctrine of the Trinity matter to people who are still impacted by a global pandemic? What does it matter to someone who is suffering from cancer? What does it matter to the family dealing with a child who has gone astray, or a couple who is headed for a divorce, or a man who has just lost his job, or a woman who has just buried her mother? What does it matter that God is Father, Son, and Spirit when all we really want to know—most of the time—is that God is God and that somehow, someway, God knows who we are, where we are, and what we need to make it through the day?
While much of the ways of God are and will forever be a mystery, meditating on the Trinity can be helpful because doing so broadens our understanding of God. And as we mature in our faith, it is important to learn how to better articulate what God has done among us, what God is doing now, and what God promises to accomplish. For many Christians, the language of the Trinity has been a useful tool for doing just that. It’s how the doctrine of the Trinity began in the first place.
Although the term “Trinity” wasn’t coined until the 3rd century, there were hints before then. Take our scripture passage from Romans, for instance, in which Paul notes our connection to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Or consider Jesus’ words from John’s Gospel about the relationship between Jesus, his Abba Father, and the Spirit of truth. These, and other texts, became building blocks to craft the historic doctrine of the Trinity. We experienced God’s extravagant Triune Love, and as a result, we naturally started speaking of God as Trinity. It was the same God that we had experienced as the Creator of the world, the Father of Israel. Now we experienced God in the flesh as Son, and as the power flowing from God—the Holy Spirit. In other words, the doctrine of the Trinity helped give words to our faith.
When it comes to experiencing God in three persons, it seems that Celtic Christians had no trouble imagining such a concept since trinitarian language is deeply ingrained in the heart and soul of their spirituality. Frequently, the image of three in one is found in Celtic art and poetry. For example:
Three folds of the cloth, yet only one napkin is there,
Three joints of the finger, but still only one finger fair,
Three leaves of the shamrock, yet no more than one shamrock to wear,
Frost, snowflakes and ice, all water their origin share,
Three Persons in God; to one God alone we make prayer.[i]
Over the years, the Trinity has been illustrated as water that may occur as liquid, solid, or gas; or as an apple that is made up of the peel, flesh, and core—yet all the same apple. Augustine used a tree as a metaphor saying, “The root is wood, the trunk is wood, the branches are wood; one wood, one substance but three different entities.”[ii] While these are good examples, I prefer to think of the Trinity as a circle in which God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are in community with one another. Herein, there is the idea of constant movement and interaction within the Trinity—the Father gives to the Son; the Son returns praise and glory to the Father; the Father and the Son give to the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit draws everything back to the Father and the Son. It is within this community that we are invited to experience and participate in God’s endless love.
Chris Polhill of the Iona Community offers these words:
If we see the Trinity as a circle—no beginning or ending, no top or bottom—Jesus can say: ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me.’ This is the relationship we are invited to join, so that we pray in God and not to God. Here we see God committed to the dance of an equal and unending relationship, willing to suffer rather than force us into relationship. We see the Father and the Holy Spirit in agony with Jesus on the Cross, so close is the relationship…We are invited to be in this relationship, part of the dance, knowing the vulnerability and the joy of love. Instead of constantly searching for the way to God, whenever we pray, we dwell in God, in the Living God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.[iii]
Through the doctrine of the Trinity, we are offered a panoramic view of God’s wonder. We are given enough of the picture to see that God is God and we are the recipients of a love wider, deeper, and broader than we can ever imagine. Moreover, we are invited to join in the dance of Love. So yes, meditating on the Trinity matters because it helps us remember who we are and whose we are. It helps us remember that as believers in the Triune God, we worship a God who is still creating among us, a God who redeems us through Jesus Christ, a God who continues to sustain us through the Holy Spirit. Great is the mystery of our faith. Thanks be to God!
[i] Eleanor Hull, The Poem Book of the Gael, quoted in de Waal, The Celtic Way of Prayer, 39-40.
[ii] Feasting on the Word, 44.
[iii] Chris Polhill, Fire and Bread, 210.
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