Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Glorious Majesty and Love of the Triune God

Trinity Sunday + Year B + 2015    Fr Robert RM Bagwell+
RCL Readings                                                                       St Paul's Church, Savannah
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31                                                                                            Psalm 8
Romans 5:1-5                                                                                                John 16:12-15

There was a priest who was trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity to his congregation and thought of all of the possibilities for a visual aid to help the congregation to understand the concept: he thought of water, ice and steam, but was afraid that he might be drifting a little bit too close to heresy.  He thought of the shamrock, but was afraid that he might arouse the focus to AGod loves the Irish best@ rather than the Trinity.  Finally, he decided that he would use an egg: the shell, the egg white and the yolk.  All three egg, but distinct in substances and character.  When Sunday morning came, he broke open the egg at the appropriate moment and found to his surprise this particular egg had a double yolk.  Boy was the yolk on the priestCthe yolkCon the priestCit=s a yolkCnow  laugh!

Each of the readings you have this morning speaks of a God who shares his life with us.  Does strike you as odd?  If it doesn't may I suggest it should.  Perhaps we've had that life shared with us for so long, we've just gotten used to the idea, like happens in some of our human relationships. But our readings go beyond this premise.  Our readings go so far as to say God LOVES us!  Now love requires both an object and a subject. This is the only Sunday of the Church Year in our Kalendar named after a doctrine.. But this is about more than a doctrine. This Sunday we celebrate a relationship:  God towards us and us towards God.  This relationship was "consummated" if you will in the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and experienced fully on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit of God came to live in our hearts.

The doctrine itself was much wrestled over in the early centuries of the Church and is so important in our Anglican tradition that it is the first in our statements of faith in our 39 Articles of Religion. There we read: I quote: “There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost”
  It can be said that it is the distinguishing doctrine of the Christian faith.  This doctrine has been celebrated in the Church since at least the ninth century. It was a particular favorite of St. Thomas à Beckett and it is from him that the tradition of calling the season after Pentecost  Trinity season came to be a unique feature of the Anglican Church.
Have you ever noticed how many of our hymns have a Trinitarian theme?  AHoly, Holy, Holy@ perhaps the most popular, composed in the Church of England actually for Trinity Sunday, AAncient of Days who Sits Enthroned in Glory@, ACome Thou Almighty King@, AHoly Father, great Creator@Cthe myriad of hymns that only mention incidental themes of a Trinitarian nature. 

Likewise notice the ancient practice of signing ourselves with the sign of the cross and yet in that signing characterizing ourselves with a Trinitarian designation.  We even teach that the three finger tips joined together in that Aself identification, with the cross of ChristCAsignifyCFather, Son and Holy Spirit in some Catechism classes.

You may think it was alluded to in the first reading where we read: "holy, holy, holy".  But that is the Hebrew way of stating the superlative.  In English we would say: 'holy, holier, and holiest."  Christianity is a Christo-centric and dynamic theism.  As one pastor put it: The Father Purposes; the Son Purchases and the Spirit applies the Divine Will.  Orthodox theologian Thomas Hopko says:  "Whatever God is doing it comes from the Father, the Agent is always the Son who Creates, speaks redeems and sanctifies." Jesus is called the Word of God.  Episcopalian Dorothy Sayers said the Father provides the idea, the Son the expression and the Spirit the consciousness (The Mind of the Maker) Someone has written: "We don’t celebrate a doctrine of the church today, but the unfathomable mystery that is God, who chose to dwell among us, “fully human and fully divine,” and then did not leave us orphans, but gave us a continual share in God’s life through the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is this Spirit that continues to connect us to God and one another in love."

What is the Fundamental Truth Taught Here? That God fundamentally is a relating, relational being!  We are created in His image, our fundamental character is relational. God IS LOVE. We are tri-partite being. We have a body, soul and a spirit. People have sought to define the Trinity in a million waysCbut all fall short.

God is one in unity and diversity. One writer wrote: " Only the Christian worldview can hold unity and diversity together, and the reason it can is because Christian teaching is rooted in the nature and character of a God who is unified and diverse."  Divine love unifies the distinct while giving distinction to the unified. Thus, God is love in motion: dynamic, action ever moving to the beloved. 

God gives life meaning.  Without God life is meaning-less.  We have meaning in relation to others.  We are related to God by adoption.  God adopted us so God is Father to us through Christ by the Holy Spirit.  My youth group in Florida used to sing a song: "We are the Family of God."  That is who we are!   What is the Fundamental Truth Taught Here? That God fundamentally is a relating, relational being!  We are created in His image, our fundamental character is relational. God IS LOVE. We are the only faith that teaches this.  Everything we do therefore in God's name in our lives must conform to this ethic.  God is LOVE.

We are tri-partite being. We have a body, soul and a spirit. People have sought to define the Trinity in a million waysCbut all fall short. It is relationship that defines it.  God chose to be in relationship to you and me. God made you and me in God's own image, body, soul and spirit. Is the human mind adequate to understand the being of God.  No.  It is as the Athanasius creed so aptly says: "incomprehensible."  Gods tripartite being is more easily experienced.  We share in the Divine life in our hearts when we believe, when we are baptized, when we receive the Holy Communion.  When we come to this rail, let us remember it is the extension of the Holy Table, the Altar, and we are eating at God's table each week.  When we read those most beautiful words underneath the cruel tree, the cross on the rood screen, remember that as Jesus was lifted us so He lifts us up to live with him forever.  In closing: May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.  AMEN

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