Sunday Sermon: The Troublesome Trinity

April 30, 2007 at 7:05 am 2 comments

I usually don’t post my sermons for several reasons. One, even though they’re original, they have material from all over the place and I don’t put extensive citations in them (although I usually mention that they are references in passing). Usually, I get illustrations from a couple of places: Wikiletics & esermons.com. Sometimes I get stories or anecdotes from the internet, but many times they’re from life experiences. Anyway, I’m doing a series on the difficult passages and doctrines of the faith and this is the third one in the series, and is on “The Trinity.” Again, although this is the manuscript, they aren’t always preached just as they’re written. So without further ado, here is Sunday’s Sermon.

There are more questions about the Christian doctrine of the Trinity than just about anything else in the faith. In fact, I think it may be the most confusing doctrine of all. There was once a pastor who told the story of a friend of his who was a Christian businessman in California. This man and his wife had friends from India who visited along with their 11 year old daughter. While his friends from India traveled around California on business, they left their daughter with the man and his family. The young girl was full of questions one Sunday morning as the family got ready for Church and she was excited to go along. On their way home from Church, the husband asked her what she thought of the service. She looked confused and said, “I don’t understand why the West Coast isn’t included too.” They had no idea what she meant, and as they were trying to figure out what she was talking about when she finally said, “You know, they’re always saying ‘in the name of the Father, the Son, and the whole East Coast’.” Even though she had it a little bit mixed up, we are always using these words: singing, praising, praying, preaching and blessing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Sometimes we’re get so used to doing this and saying these words that we forget that, in spite of their difficulty, they point to one of the most important and central ideas of our faith – the idea that we worship a God who is “three in one,” the idea of the Trinity.

So, even though the word Trinity isn’t in Scripture, the concept is all over the place. Another of the many examples is found in Philippians 2:6, where Paul writes that Jesus had the very nature of God. The earliest Christians used the doctrine of the Trinity to explain an important paradox. On one hand, they believed, that God is one. This is a foundational Jewish belief, and Faithful Orthodox Jewish men and women still recite Deuteronomy 6:4 twice a day ‘ Hear O’ Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one! Early Christians agreed: God is one. Yet, on the other hand they also believed that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were both worthy of worship and Scripture seemed to suggest they were one with God. The doctrine of the Trinity is the way they came to understand and describe these beliefs. It summarized and holds together three important ideas:

  • There is only one God
  • God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
  • Each person is divine (God)

The following quote is from the late Dr. Walter Martin and helps describe how this is possible in our everyday world. He wrote:

“It is a well-known fact of chemistry that plain water, when placed in a vacuum under 230 millimeters of gas pressure and at a temperature of 0 degrees Centigrade, solidifies into ice at the bottom of the container, remains liquid in the center and vaporizes at the top! At a given instant the same water is both solid, liquid and gas, yet all three are manifestations of the same basic substance or nature: H2O – hydrogen: two parts; oxygen: one. If one of the simplest of all created substances can be three in manifested form and yet remain one in nature, then the Creator of that substance can surely be Father, Son and Holy Spirit – three Persons and one Nature – without any violation of logic or reason whatever if He so wills.”

Now all of this is well and good, but we have to get to the question we always face. What in the world does this all mean? Does it really make a difference to us as we try to follow God in our daily lives? At one point, I could tell you some of what I believed about who God was and is, but I never really grasped God as Trinity. In fact, it wasn’t until about five years ago that I really felt like I started to understand why this is so important to our everyday real-world faith.

I am convinced that the Trinity is essential to who we are as Christians. It means that at the very heart of reality from before the beginning of time as we know it, God has existed as an eternally dynamic vibrant community of love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is something unique and special about the way all three work in unity as one God. God has never been some isolated lonely figure who just got bored and created the universe. Instead the world was created by one God who was so full of love between three persons that it just had to be shared. Through some great mystery God decided to reach out and create our world in order to share that with all of creation. And if that’s the very nature of what is real and true, then it has some important implications for how we live

It means that we are most like God when we come together in a loving community called the Church and then reach out from this place to share God’s dynamic love with the entire world beginning with our community and moving to the ends of the earth. If we come together as the Church and become completely satisfied with who we are and where we are, then we’ve stopped being like God. We’re only imitating our Lord if we decide to reach out and share God’s love in tangible ways with everyone we meet. We’re most like God in the simple act of sharing how God works in our lives. We’re most like God when we take the time to give to someone in need. We’re most like God when we bring someone who’s never known that God is love to hear the Good News of the Gospel. This week, and throughout our lives, let’s imitate our God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as we reach out to share from a love so deep and so strong that it created the world as we know it. Let’s share the love of God…in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Entry filed under: Religion.

Robert Webber 1933-2007 United Methodists, Southern Baptists, and War

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. A.O. Kime  |  May 1, 2007 at 6:51 am

    I enjoyed reading your sermon… I specifically liked your honest approach. Its title got my attention since I had recently written an article about polytheism. However it’s a wonder I read your sermon at all since I had given up on organized religions years ago. I’m glad I did read it though, your frankness warmed my heart. Anyway, if you’re curious as to how a free spirit such as mine views polytheism, see http://www.matrixbookstore.biz/polytheism.htm

    If you have a mailing list… please include me.

    Reply
  • 2. Matt  |  May 1, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks A.O. I appreciate you taking the time to read this. No mailing list, but you can subscribe to the RSS feed from this site if you’d like.

    Reply

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