Sermon for The Holy Trinity, Year A
Based on II Cor. 13:11-13 & Matt. 28:16-20
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
One little boy came home from Vacation Bible School and told his mom that the pastor had said that God was everywhere. "That is true," his mother responded. "Is he in the oven when it's hot?" "Yes," replied the mother. "How about in the cupboard?" "Yes," said the mother. "How about in the fridge when the door is closed and the light is off?" "Oh yes," retorted the mother. "How about in the sugar bowl," asked the boy, as he took the lid off the bowl. "Well, I suppose he is," answered the mother. The boy slammed the bowl shut and announced triumphantly: "Got him!" Of course, the mother had a lot more explaining to do.
As humorous as this story may be, there is some truth in it applicable to how people view God. Oftentimes, people view God in similar ways as did this boy--they think that God is small enough for them to put God into a tidy package, which they are able to control and understand completely. They want a God of their own making, on their own conditional terms, who shall pander to their needs at their every beck and call--a cosmic bell-hop God, as Harry Emerson Fosdick once described him.
Rather than accepting the fact that we humans are created in God's image; they want to create a god in their version of the human image. They want a sanitized, tame God. In short, they want to be god and master over their god.
This temptation to create the one, true God into our own image is the oldest and most dangerous one known to humankind. It's associated with the story of the Fall in the Bible, and it has devastating consequences for both God and humankind. It results in a sinful human condition, which distorts our relationship with God and, along with this, our view of God. Could this be one of the reasons why Christians did not celebrate the festival of the Holy Trinity in the liturgical year until probably the eleventh century?
According to Harry Huxhold: "In the eleventh century, local dioceses observed the festival. In the twelfth century Pope Alexander II discouraged the observance of the day; he believed it unnecessary, because each day of the church's worship was occasion to proclaim the holy Trinity. In 1332, however, Pope John XXII ordered the festival to be observed universally on this Sunday. It has been observed annually ever since."
This festival is unique in the church year in that it is the only festival to be based on a doctrine, rather than specific historical events. The Bible does refer to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--however, no place in the Bible is the word Trinity mentioned. All of this is instructive for us.
What exactly, am I driving at? What, you may ask, does this teach us? Well, I believe it teaches us this: That when we speak of God as the Holy Trinity; when we formulate doctrines of the Trinity; when we worship God as Trinity; when we greet, bless, and baptize people in the name of the Triune God; we do this all with great humility, realizing our God is so much more than all of this.
We shall never be able to capture God; to put God in a neat package of our own making. God shall always remain more than our words and doctrines, our beliefs and expressions of worship, our purest intentions and actions. God is the Holy/Wholly Other God. That means there is a mystery about God, which is tremendous in the sense that it is so awesome and overwhelming, we are unable to grasp this. The mysterious Holy/Wholly Other God is light years greater than our capacities to adequately explain or understand God.
Theologian, Hans Kung, in his book, Does God Exist? makes this point quite well by relating the following incident: "There is a story about a Bavarian parish priest who announced to his congregation on the Feast of the Trinity that this was so great a mystery, of which he understood nothing, that there would unfortunately be no sermon."
Having affirmed the deep mystery of God, we as Christians are able to, on the other hand, affirm an exact opposite truth, which seems to contradict the Holy/Wholly Otherness of God: Namely, that God has come close to us in the human person, Jesus of Nazareth. When we see and know Jesus Christ, we see and know God. The Holy Spirit, working in and through the Word and sacraments, helps us to know and see this Jesus.
How one plus one plus one equals one still largely remains a mystery. The relationships that exist between the three persons, yet one Godhead are not spelled out in great detail in the Bible. Thus, the Triune God is best known in and through a life of worship and service, rather than in esoteric doctrines. Although our God-language is very important, ultimately, all of our analogies to comprehend One God in Three Persons shall remain limited, distorted by our sinful condition, hence incomplete.
So, the next time someone asks you to explain God the Holy Trinity to them, remember the following story, as related by Desmond Tutu, in his book, Hope and Suffering: "Anthony Bloom, the Orthodox master of the spiritual life told the story of a simple Russian country priest who was confronted by an eminent scientist. This chap trotted out apparently devastating arguments against the existence of God and declared, "I don't believe in God." The unlettered priest retorted quickly, "Oh, it doesn't matter--God believes in you." That is what Jesus says to me--God believes in you."
God believes in us all. Because God believes in us all, we are able to worship and serve God the Holy Trinity.
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