Sermon - Trinity Sunday
In the Name…
I was wondering why there are so many Unitarians in California and someone suggested because folks there got tired of preachers who would start their sermons “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Whole East Coast.”
Trinity Sunday is a difficult day for preachers since many feel they have to use the sermon to try and explain the intricacies of the theology of the Trinity. Thus, it can be an even more difficult day for congregations, who have to listen to preachers trying to explain the intricacies of the theology of the Trinity.
Of course, we worship a God who is Trinity, so, in a sense; every Sunday is already a “Trinity Sunday.” Having a feast like today, then, is a bit like having a special “God Sunday.” It also seems a bit redundant given that you may think we preachers are always talking about God. So, it might come as a surprise, then, to realize that most preachers, me included, actually talk rather little about God. Yeah. We talk a lot about what God wants of us or what God has done for us and what God is doing for us, and, that, after all, is the Gospel. But, we don't talk very much about who God is. We tend to leave that to the liturgy and the hymns.
And, yet, it’s important that we should. We live in a society which has largely forgotten what the word “God” means. For a lot of folks, God is some fairy-tale figure in the sky, or a Star-Wars “Force.” We can’t depend on the word “God” to mean, for most people, anything remotely like the God we worship.
So, this morning, I won’t try to define or explain any particular doctrine of the Trinity. I won’t talk about the history of the Early Church. I won’t even analyze anything with really big words. Instead, I’m just going to share how I believe that this God we call Trinity is a profound and holy mystery in which we can live and find relationship, both with God and each other.
Now, the Trinity is really what makes us unique as Christians. It sets us apart from the religions with many gods and it sets us apart from the other monotheistic faiths of Judaism and Islam. Indeed, Judaism and Islam are unitarian even to the point that many of their theologians say that God is completely unknowable and humans waste their time trying to talk about him. Why, then, is the Trinity at the heart of our faith and what does it mean to say that we are a Trinitarian people?
Well, we might begin with the simple statement found often in the New Testament - God is Love. That is one of the most important things the Bible says about God. And, you might think this is really all we need to say about God. The trouble is, what does “Love” mean? We use the word in all kinds of ways. We say we love a cup of coffee in the morning and a beautiful sunset in the evening. We love a song and a TV show. Love can be a self-indulgent sentimentality and a self-destructive obsession. Love can be everything and nothing.
So, saying “'God is Love” is only going to mean something if we can spell out what God's love is. Which brings us to how we can talk about God and that is in telling the story of God's love for the world.
The best way that you can know what someone's love for you is like is to see what it means in practice. The Bible tells us what sort of love God is by telling how God created the world out of love and how he continued be involved with it after he made it. It tells how even when we rejected God's love and spoiled the world with evil, God went on loving us and did all he could to rescue us from evil and win our love for him.
It’s the specific story of God's involvement with the people of Israel. And, it's the story that comes to a general climax with Jesus, when God in his love for us sent his Son to be actually one of us, to live a human life and die for us so that he could rise from death and make it possible for us to do the same. It's the story that continues with God's loving presence in the Holy Spirit in our lives. It’s a story that goes on as the world goes on. It is God’s story and it is our story.
So, in this story we see who God is because we see what kind of love God is. God is self-giving love. He doesn't just sit up in Heaven and wish us well. He gets involved with us. He sacrifices himself for us. And, he shares his very being with us. “God is Love” means that God gives himself for us and to us. And, that is who God is.
And, you notice, I can only tell that story by talking about God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So, we really need all three ways of talking about God. That is why the Trinity is at the heart of our faith and what it means to say we are a Trinitarian people.
If ever, then, we find the concept or doctrine of the Trinity difficult and puzzling, we should just ask ourselves, how could we tell the story, otherwise? Or, perhaps, more importantly, how could we live the story, otherwise?
We are made in the image and likeness of a God who is a Trinity of Persons in a Unity of Love. May we live, and love, then, as the God who dwells in us and we in him.
In the Name…