Trinity Sunday
Pastor George Pejakovich
Matthew 28:16-20

TODAY IS TRINITY SUNDAY; THE ONE SUNDAY OF THE CHURCH YEAR WHEN WE FOCUS ON A DOCTRINE RATHER THAN ON THE LIFE AND WORK OF JESUS. IN THIS MORNING’S GOSPEL, THE RISEN JESUS SAYS FAREWELL TO HIS DISCIPLES WITH THE WORDS; “ALL AUTHORITY IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH IS GIVEN TO ME.” IT IS THE CLIMAX OF THE GOSPEL, THE CULMINATION OF ALL THAT MATTHEW’S STORY HAS BEEN LEADING UP TO. “I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, TO THE END OF THE AGE.” THE STORY ENDS AS IT BEGAN, WITH THE ANGEL’S PROMISE TO JOSEPH THAT THE CHILD WILL BE CALLED IMMANUEL, GOD WITH US. THE WHOLE NARRATIVE OF MATTHEW’S GOSPEL IS THE STORY OF HOW THE PROMISE OF GOD IS MADE MANIFEST IN JESUS; THAT YAHWEH, THE HIGH AND HIDDEN ONE, WHO IS BEYOND ALL WORDS AND IMAGES, THE CREATOR OF THE WORLD AND THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL, IS IN OUR MIDST, PRESENT TO US FOREVER AS GRACE AND TRUTH. THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY IS OUR ATTEMPT TO EXPRESS IN WORDS THE EXPERIENCE OF GOD WITH US.

WHEN THE DISCIPLES WENT TO WHERE JESUS TOLD THEM TO MEET HIM AND THE SAW THE RISEN LORD, THEY WORSHIPED HIM, BUT SOME DOUBTED. WHILE THIS MIGHT SOUND STRANGE, DOUBT IS A PART OF BEING HUMAN, AND DOUBT IS NOT THE OPPOSITE OF FAITH; FEAR IS. REMEMBER THAT THOMAS DOUBTED UNTIL HE EXPERIENCED THE RISEN JESUS, THEN PROCLAIMED, “MY LORD AND MY GOD.” THOSE THAT DOUBTED DID NOT QUESTION WHETHER OR NOT THIS WAS THE RISEN LORD, BUT WHETHER HE WAS INDEED GOD, AS SOME HAD COME TO BELIEVE. THIS DOUBT WAS ERASED COMPLETELY ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT TESTIFIED TO THEM OF THE TRUTH THAT THE JESUS THEY HAD KNOWN AND LOVED WAS INDEED GOD WHO WAS WITH THEM, AND NOW PROMISED TO BE WITH THEM FOREVER.

THE WORD “TRINITY” DOES NOT APPEAR IN SCRIPTURE, AND THE APOSTLES HAD NO NEED TO DEVELOP A DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY, BECAUSE THEY EXPERIENCED THE REALITY OF GOD IN JESUS AND THE OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. IT WAS NOT UNTIL THE APOSTLES WERE LONG DEAD, AND THE CHURCH HAD SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE ROMAN EMPIRE, THAT THE NEED FOR AN EXPLANATION OF HOW WE EXPERIENCE GOD BECAME A NECESSITY. MANY HERESIES DEVELOPED OVER TIME, AND THERE WERE CONFLICTING UNDERSTANDINGS OF THE RELATIONSHIP OF JESUS TO GOD AND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT. THERE WAS SUCH TURMOIL AND STRIFE THAT THE EMPEROR, CONSTANTINE, CALLED THE WHOLE CHURCH INTO COUNCIL AT NICEA TO SORT THIS OUT. THE MOST IMPORTANT CHURCH FATHER YOU PROBABLY NEVER HEARD ABOUT WAS ANTHANASIUS, WHO SO FIRMLY PROCLAIMED THAT GOD WAS THREE IN ONE, THAT THE EXPRESSION “ATHANASIUS AGAINST THE WORLD” WAS COMMON IN THE EMPIRE. IT WAS HIS UNDERSTANDING WHICH BECAME THE BASIS FOR WHAT WE RECITE EVERY SUNDAY; THE NICEAN CREED.

WHAT IS ATTEMPTED IN THE WORDS OF THE NICEAN CREED IS A HINT OF THE COMPLEXITY OF GOD, WHO WE CAN NEVER UNDERSTAND FULLY, BUT CAN ONLY SAY HOW WE EXPERIENCE HIM IN OUR RELATIONSHIP TO HIM. GOD AS TRINITY, NOT THREE SEPARATE MODES OR MASKS OR BEINGS, TELLS US THAT GOD, FROM ETERNITY, IS RELATIONAL. WE ARE TOLD IN SCRIPTURE THAT GOD IS LOVE, AND REAL LOVE IS ALWAYS RELATIONAL. IN THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE FATHER AND THE SON AND THE HOLY SPIRIT, THERE IS A UNITY OF PURPOSE, OF ACTION, OF LOVE; AND IN CHRIST, BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, THAT RELATIONSHIP IS OPENED UP TO ENFOLD US AS A PART OF THAT PURPOSE, ACTION, AND LOVE.

ULTIMATELY, ANY ATTEMPT TO EXPLAIN THE TRINITY IS DOOMED TO FAILURE, BECAUSE IT IS AN ATTEMPT TO EXPLAIN GOD, WHO IS INFINITELY ABOVE HUMAN UNDERSTANDING. THE BEST WE CAN DO IS TO EXPLAIN HOW WE EXPERIENCE HIM AS CREATOR, SAVIOR, AND SUSTAINER; AND THIS IS WHAT WE CONFESS IN THE APOSTLE’S AND THE NICEAN CREED. THIS CONFESSION SETS US APART FROM THE OTHER MONOTHEISTIC FAITHS OF JUDAISM AND ISLAM, AND HAS EVEN BEEN REJECTED BY SOME DENOMINATIONS THAT CALL THEMSELVES CHRISTIAN. THE CONFESSION OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY IS, HOWEVER, THE ESSENTIAL BASIS FOR WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN. IT IS NOT EASY TO UNDERSTAND, BUT, AS WE MATURE AND GROW IN OUR FAITH, THE REALITY OF GOD, THE THREE IN ONE, BECOMES INCREASINGLY MORE PROFOUND AND MEANINGFUL. IT IS, IN FACT, THE UNDERLYING PRINCIPLE OF WHAT WE CALL THE GREAT COMMISSION.

JESUS’ FINAL WORDS TO HIS DISCIPLES WERE, “ALL AUTHORITY IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME. GO, THEREFORE, AND MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS, BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND TEACHING THEM TO OBEY EVERYTHING I HAVE COMMANDED YOU. AND REMEMBER, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, TO THE END OF THE AGE.” IN HIS SENDING OF HIS DISCIPLES, AND US, HE DOES SO BECAUSE HE HAS THE AUTHORITY TO DO SO, AND THAT AUTHORITY COMES FROM HIS RELATIONSHIP OF UNITY WITH THE FATHER AND THE HOLY SPIRIT. BY CALLING US TO HIM THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT, HE CALLS US INTO THE ETERNAL RELATIONSHIP OF LOVE OF THE TRIUNE GOD. OUR MISSION, THEN, IS TO DRAW OTHERS INTO THAT RELATIONSHIP BY THE WORKING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN US. WE PREACH, WE DISCIPLE, WE BAPTIZE, WE TEACH, AND IN THE COURSE OF THIS WORK, GOD DRAWS HUMANITY INTO GOD’S SELF OF FATHER SON AND HOLY SPIRIT. THIS IS A WORK THAT TRANSCENDS TIME, YET JESUS, THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT, WILL BE WITH US UNTIL THE END OF THE AGE.

THIS, THEN, IS THE GOD WE WORSHIP AND CONFESS; THE GOD WHO WAS EVER, IS NOW, AND WILL BE FOREVER THE THREE WHO IS ONE. THIS IS GOD THE MIGHTY AND ETERNAL WHO CALLED CREATION INTO BEING AND LOVES US INTO LIFE. THIS IS THE GOD WHO IS COMPASSIONATE AND MERCIFUL WHO OFFERED HIMSELF AS THE SACRIFICE FOR OUR SINS, AND WHO BEARS IN HIS HEART FOR ALL TIME THE SINS AND SORROWS OF THE WORLD. THIS IS THE GOD WHO COMFORTS, GUIDES, TEACHES, AND SUSTAINS US IN THE WORK TO WHICH HE HAS CALLED US. THIS IS THE GOD ENTHRONED IN MAJESTY WHO ANSWERS THE LONGING OF THE AGES, AND SHOWS US HIS GLORY IN THE FACE OF HIS SON. THIS IS OUR GOD, THE ONLY GOD, WHO IS TRINITY OF PERSONS, FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT, WHOM WE WORSHIP AND ADORE, AND TO WHOM BE ALL MIGHT, MAJESTY, POWER, AND DOMINION NOW AND TO AGES OF AGES.
AMEN

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