Trinity Sunday
The Rev. George Pejakovich
Matthew 28:16-20

NOT MANY PEOPLE SPEND A LOT OF TIME THINKING ABOUT THE TRINITY THESE DAYS, BUT SINCE THIS IS TRINITY SUNDAY WE ARE REQUIRED TO SPEND A SHORT TIME ON THE SUBJECT. THE REASON WE DON’T SPEND MUCH TIME AND EFFORT DISCUSSING THE TRINITY IS BECAUSE IT IS A VERY DIFFICULT CONCEPT TO GRASP. THE GREAT THEOLOGIAN, AUGUSTINE, MADE AT LEAST TWENTY ATTEMPTS TO EXPLAIN THE CONCEPT OF THE TRINITY WITH VERY MIXED RESULTS. ANY ATTEMPT TO EXPLAIN THE CONCEPT OF ONE GOD IN THREE PERSONS IS GOING TO BE DIFFICULT AT BEST, AND, MOST LIKELY LEAD THE EXPLAINER INTO SOME SORT OF HERESY; WHICH IS WHY SENIOR CLERGY LEAVE TRINITY SUNDAY TO JUNIOR CLERGY – THE CLERICAL PRACTICE OF TOSSING THE JUNIOR UNDER THE BUS. SINCE I AM ALREADY UNDER THE BUS, I MIGHT AS WELL TELL YOU WHAT I SEE.

THE WORD TRINITY IS NOT FOUND IN THE SCRIPTURES, BUT THE CONCEPT OF THE TRINITY APPEARS VERY EARLY IN THE CHRISTIAN UNDERSTANDING OF GOD, AS DOES THE CONFUSION ABOUT IT. THE GOSPEL FOR TODAY IS A GOOD CASE IN POINT.

MATTHEW IS THE MOST JEWISH OF THE GOSPEL WRITERS, AND ONE CAN READ HIS GOSPEL AS THE AFFIRMATION THAT JESUS IS THE ONE FOR WHOM ISRAEL HAS WAITED. JESUS IS THE ANOINTED OF GOD, THE LONG AWAITED MESSIAH, YET HIS COMING DOES NOT CHANGE THE TRUTH OF ISRAEL’S CENTRAL CONFESSION THAT THE LORD, OUR GOD, IS ONE. WHICH IS WHY, WHEN THE ELEVEN GO TO THE MOUNTAIN IN GALILEE WHERE JESUS TOLD THEM TO MEET HIM, WHEN THEY SAW HIM, SOME PROSTRATED THEIR BODIES ON THE GROUND IN WORSHIP, WHILE SOME DOUBTED. THE ENGLISH WORD ‘DOUBTED’ IS BETTER TRANSLATED FROM THE GREEK AS HESITATED. THEY DID NOT DOUBT IT WAS JESUS THEY SAW IN FRONT OF THEM; THEY HESITATED TO WORSHIP HIM. IF GOD IS ONE, HOW, THEN, SHOULD THEY REGARD JESUS? HE CONFRONTED THEIR HESITATION WHEN HE CAME TO THEM AND SAID ALL AUTHORITY IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME. THAT IS HOW ONE MUST REGARD JESUS.

VERY EARLY IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH, BEFORE THE GOSPELS WERE WRITTEN, WE HAVE THIS WONDERFUL BENEDICTION OF PAUL FOR THE CHURCH AT CORINTH. PAUL, A FORMER PHARISEE, A FORMER PERSECUTOR OF THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS, WHO STUDIED UNDER ONE OF THE GREAT RABBIS, WRITES, “THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE LOVE OF GOD, AND THE COMMUNION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BE WITH YOU ALL.” WHILE THIS HINTS AT THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY, IT DID NOT RESOLVE THE CONFUSION.

ONE OF THE REASONS THAT THE CHURCH BECAME LESS HEBRAIC AND MORE GREEK WAS OVER THE QUESTION OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT. THIS WAS HOTLY DEBATED, UNTIL EMPEROR CONSTANTINE FINALLY CALLED AN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL TOGETHER AT NICAEA IN A.D.325. BASICALLY, HE CALLED THE LEADERS OF THE CHURCH TOGETHER AND TOLD THEM TO GET IT SORTED OUT, BECAUSE OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT HAS A SIGNIFICANT EFFECT ON OUR UNDERSTANDING OF OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. THE NICAEAN CREED IS ESSENTIALLY A STATEMENT OF HOW WE EXPERIENCE GOD.

THE CREED ATTEMPTS TO EXPLAIN HOW WE EXPERIENCE GOD; AND I WANT TO STRESS IT ATTEMPTS AN EXPLANATION BECAUSE, ULTIMATELY, WE ARE DEALING WITH A MYSTERY. WE EXPERIENCE GOD IN THREE PARTICULAR WAYS: BEYOND US, WITH US, AND WITHIN US. WHEN ISRAEL CAME TO THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THERE WAS ONLY ONE TRUE GOD, THEY ALSO CAME TO UNDERSTAND THAT THERE COULD BE NO IMAGE OR DEPICTION OF THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE. GOD WAS, AND IS, BEYOND AND OUTSIDE OF ALL THAT EXISTS. AS THE GREAT GERMAN THEOLOGIAN, RUDOLF OTTO, WROTE, GOD IS WHOLLY OTHER. YET, GOD’S PRESENCE COULD BE FELT IN THIS WORLD AS A CARING AND LOVING FORCE THAT MOVED THE HEARTS AND SPIRITS OF MEN AND WOMEN. THESE GLIMPSES OF THE MYSTERY BEYOND ALL THAT EXISTS WAS PERSONIFIED AND LIKENED TO A LOVING PARENT. THERE ARE MALE AND FEMALE METAPHORS FOR THE GOD OF ISRAEL, YET THE STRONGEST CONVEY THE SENSE OF A LOVING FATHER.

THIS IS THE METAPHOR JESUS USED WHEN HE TALKED ABOUT GOD WHO IS BEYOND ALL THINGS; HE CALLED HIM FATHER. AS THE DISCIPLES CAME TO KNOW JESUS BETTER, SOME OF THEM CAME TO UNDERSTAND WHAT HE MEANT WHEN HE SAID, “I AM IN THE FATHER AND THE FATHER IS IN ME.” GOD, WHO IS BEYOND ALL THINGS, CAME TO US IN THE PERSON OF JESUS, TO BE WITH US, AND TO LEAD US TO A CLEARER UNDERSTANDING OF HIS PURPOSE AND WILL AS WE COME TO KNOW HIM IN THE LIFE, DEATH, AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS.

AFTER THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AT PENTECOST, ALL HESITATION ABOUT THE WORSHIP OF JESUS ON THE PART OF THE DISCIPLES WAS GONE. THE SPIRIT OF GOD, WHO IS GOD, CAME TO DWELL WITHIN THE DISCIPLES, AND WITHIN ALL WHO KNOW JESUS AS LORD, TO TESTIFY TO THEM OF THE TRUTH THAT ONLY BY LOVING, SERVING, AND WORSHIPING JESUS CAN WE LOVE, SERVE, AND WORSHIP GOD, WHO CAN NOT OTHERWISE BE KNOWN. BY THIS SAME SPIRIT, WE ARE MADE ONE WITH GOD IN JESUS, AND, THROUGH JESUS, WE ARE MADE ONE WITH EACH OTHER.

THIS IS WHAT THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY REALLY MEANS, AND WHICH WE PROFESS EACH TIME WE RECITE THE CREED: THE CONFESSION OF FAITH OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. WE CONFESS, AND PROCLAIM TO THE WORLD, THAT THE GOD WHO IS FAR BEYOND US HAS COME TO BE WITH US, AND WE KNOW THIS TO BE TRUE BECAUSE GOD HAS COME TO BE WITHIN US. THIS MEANS THAT WE ARE THE AGENTS AND THE SERVANTS OF THE CREATOR OF ALL THINGS, THROUGH HIM TO WHOM ALL AUTHORITY IN HEAVEN AND EARTH HAS BEEN GIVEN.

AS THE AGENTS AND SERVANTS OF GOD IN CHRIST, OUR MISSION IS TO GO TO ALL THE WORLD, MAKING DISCIPLES WHERE EVER WE ARE, BAPTIZING IN THE NAME OF THE FULLNESS OF THE EXPERIENCE OF GOD, FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT. WE GO TO TEACH THE LOVING COMMANDS OF THE FATHER IN JESUS IN OBEDIENCE TO HIS WILL, KNOWING THAT AS GOD CAME TO BE WITH US, AND NOW IS WITHIN US, HE WILL BE WITH US ALWAYS.

THIS IS WHY THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY MATTERS, AND WHY IT IS ESSENTIAL TO AN UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A FOLLOWER OF THE CHRIST. IT DEFINES WHO OUR GOD IS, WHO WE ARE, AND WHAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT. WE SERVE ONE GOD, THE GOD OF ISRAEL, BUT WE HAVE COME TO EXPERIENCE HIM IN THE FULLNESS OF HIS REVELATION TO US. IN THAT FULL EXPERIENCE, HE HAS REVEALED TO US HIS LOVE FOR US AND HIS PURPOSE FOR US, AND THE CERTAINTY OF HIS EVERLASTING PRESENCE.

THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE LOVE OF GOD, AND THE COMMUNION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BE WITH YOU ALL.
AMEN

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