The Trinity Mystery

June 16, 2019

Trinity Sunday

Let us pray:

Glory and praise be to the Trinity:

to God the Father, heaven’s mighty Lord,

to God the Son, the Father’s Holy Word;

to God the Spirit, by whose light we see;

thus it was, is, and will be, day and night,

from age to age, into the endless light.

Romans 5:1-5

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?

On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;

beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:

“To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.

Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.

Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth–

when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.

When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,

when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,

when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;

and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,

rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.”

John 16:12-15

Jesus said to the disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

The Trinity Mystery

I have a confession to make.  I have a passion.  I love murder mysteries. You may laugh but let me tell you how much I love murder mysteries. I love them so much that when the church calendar rolls around to Lent and we are asked to consider our Lenten discipline, I don’t give up chocolate.  That would be easy.  I don’t give up wine.  Hmmm, not so easy, but do-able.  Red meat?  Again, easy.  No, I give up murder mysteries, year after year, and it never gets any easier.

Let me be clear.  I’m not talking about that oxymoron, the mystery/thriller genre.  It is a mystery, for goodness sake!  There is no violence, no terror; this is not a thriller; it is a cognitive exercise.  Yes, there is a dead body, but we are not privy to the violence.  The only reason a mystery writer starts with a murder is because, according to renown author P.D. James, it is the only subject matter compelling enough to get people to read the book!

P.D. James also explained that the true story in the mystery is in the characterization of the three main players:  The victim, the murderer, and the detective.  The unspoken fourth entity is the reader.  The reader of a mystery is not a passive recipient of entertainment.  The mystery reader is pulled into the detection,  paying attention to the clues and cues, the motives and alibis, studying the character of the victim, the murderer, and the detective who in the midst of the psychological and physiological chaos that precedes and follows the act of murder, he imposes order and resolution.  And, finally every good mystery has the power to change at some level the life of the three main players.  The victim whose life ends, the murderer whose life as they knew it ends with the violence they committed; and the detective along with the readers of the mystery, – you and I – who experience a shift in our understanding of people, good and evil, life and death, hope and despair.

It sounds very much like the mystery we acknowledge and celebrate on this festival day of the Trinity.  Today is Trinity Sunday, a day devoted to a character study of the complex identity of God, i.e. the mysterious Trinity:  One God, Three Persons.  To solve this difficult mystery, we may need to borrow Sherlock’s magnifying glass as we do a little investigating of our own.  I suggest we start with the Nicene Creed as our primary resource for information.

As in my beloved murder mysteries, the Trinity Mystery has three main characters.  They are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  And one unspoken entity, we the readers, the followers, the believers.

The first statement in the Nicene Creed is our introduction to the Trinity: “We believe in one God.”  Not three.  Not twenty-three.  One.  The belief in one god is the foundation of Christian belief. 

And then we are introduced to the three persons or three personas, or three aspects of God, identified by their roles in our lives.

First character: “We believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”  God the Father, the master builder created order and beauty out of chaos, transforming a formless void of darkness into day and night, land and water.  We understand that God is above gender, neither male nor female.  Yet, on this Sunday, Father’s Day, I’d like to put that aside for a moment.  I would rather focus on the template God created for himself and for all fathers.  From Genesis and the Nicene Creed, I put together a list of job descriptors for fathers. These qualifications come straight from God himself.  So this list is for you who are fathers, who hope someday to be fathers, who are uncles, big brothers, teachers, coaches, mentors; and those of you who are father figures in the home, on the field, on the fishing dock, and in the hospital.  Here is your job description, or more correctly, here are God’s expectations of you across the board.  Keep in mind, God led by example; he expects of you only those things that he did.   If you are keeping score, we won’t ask how you did.

God’s Expectations of Earthly Fathers (Job Description for fathers)

  1. Love your Family
  2. Protect your family
  3. Provide your family with a good home, solid, well-built, well-maintained where your family can live safely, securely, and peacefully
  4. Provide your family with what they need for a good life.
  5. Support your family psychologically, with attention, encouragement, guidance, affection, and discipline
  6. Raise your children into adults of character and do that while leading by example, with respect and kindness
  7. Be a role model, a person of character, i.e. be responsible, moral, hard-working, respected and respectful; provide spiritual leadership in your own home.

 Happy Father’s Day, gentlemen!

Second Character:  God the Son.  When humans disobeyed God, they created distance between themselves and God.  In the Father’s love for his creation, he promised to send a leader, a teacher, a savior, the Messiah to bring them back into full relationship.  This Messiah we believe was and is Jesus.  God chose a stellar way of bridging the gap between himself and humans.  He sent Jesus as fully human. A true human being in body.  And then God the Father did something extraordinary.  He moved into Jesus with his own spirit and for the first time ever, God was able to live the Human Experience.  He came to know hunger, thirst, cold, sweat, pain, and sadness.  Jesus bridged the gap. He was the Messiah and the Father was in him. He explained it over and over to his followers, hoping they would grasp the mystery: The father and I are one.   The Father is in me and I am in him.  It wasn’t until he returned to his home in the Father, that they began to understand.

And Jesus, where were you at the time of the crime?   John tells us exactly where Jesus was. “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus) and the Word was God ..  all things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made.”  As the one God, Jesus was there before creation, always there.  He and Father are one and together they created all that was created.

Third character:  We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.     In my opinion, the Holy Spirit is the most mysterious character in this three-part study of God.  At least with God the Father and God the Son, multiple artistic renderings give us visual images of them:  the father reaching down from a cloud in the sky to give life to Adam, Jesus holding a lamb in his arms, or sitting among the children gathered at his feet, or hanging on a cross.  The Holy Ghost?  Not so clear. First our character has more than one name:  Holy Ghost.  Holy Spirit.  Wisdom. Truth. Understanding.  Sometimes male, other times female, never seen, only felt, therefore less important? Let me be so bold as to correct that last thought. 

There would be no Bible were it not for the Holy Ghost, “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”  There would be no church were it not for the Holy Spirit.  In the Gospel for today, Jesus assured his disciples that the Spirit of Truth would come to them, Truth being the strongest material on earth with which to build a foundation.  When the disciples gathered in the upper room and the Spirit descended upon them with a mighty wind and tongues of fire, he gave them the power to speak the Truth in a way that all who heard them would understand and believe.  He gave them what they needed to jump start the building of the church with a foundation strong enough to hold it for all time.

Holy Spirit, where were you at the time of the crime?  The Spirit of God is god.  Like the Father and the Son, the Spirit was present from before the beginning of creation.  Look at our Proverb for today.  Wisdom speaks, “The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, . . .  when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.”

As Jesus ascended to his Father, the Holy Spirit was descending into our hearts.  Jesus gifted us his Spirit, the aspect of the Trinity who delights in the Human Race, who delights in us!  She is deliriously happy to be in our heart!  She is dancing with delight just to be near us!  The joy that only Wisdom brings was Jesus’ gift because he, too loves us!   

          The Mysterious Trinity:  God the Father the master builder who willed the world into being; God the Son who mediated on our behalf to heal our relationship with the Father; who did whatever it took to make that happen; and God the Holy Spirit, the Lord who gave us life, the force who brought it all into being.  A force that continues to change the course of people’s lives even today.  I am sure that every person in here has a story how the presence of the Trinity has made a change in their life.  And I imagine every story follows the outline that Paul gave us in his letter to the Romans.              

Suffering is where it starts.  I’ve heard it said that we learn little from success; and much from our failures, weaknesses, illnesses, and mistakes.  Probably true.  A personal trainer I know once said, “This kind of workout is better to have done than to do.“  Think about it.  The things in life you count as achievements were difficult and demanding, never easily done and certainly not done perfectly.  We don’t seem to value things that come easily. That’s just the way it is with us humans.   

Endurance is the byproduct of suffering.  When we persist, when we take on the tasks that are difficult, when we endure adversity, we build stamina and strength, or as in Paul’s words, endurance.   

Character is a summary statement of who we are, how we cope with suffering, and how we live our lives in a world where suffering is all around us. To be a person of character is to be a person of moral strength and firmness.  A man once said of his mother, “On her tombstone was written, ‘She had no secrets.  She had nothing to hide.’” His mother was a woman of character.

Hope is God’s gift to us for having endured suffering and walked away from it a better person, a person of character.  When that happens, hope travels the path of faith, to peace, to grace, into our hearts.  Hope is the only element in our lives that will never disappoint.  Like the Trinity, it is the ever present, ever powerful wisdom that brings us to an understanding of God’s presence.  Hope is the reassurance that no matter what we encounter, in the end, all will be well.

It is this shift in our lives that we as the readers of the Trinity Mystery experience, that is the shift from hopelessness to hope.  So, do not be intimidated by the mystery; do not reject it in favor of the rational.  Embrace it.  Hold it close to your heart!  Feel the warmth of its light, and the grace showered on us.  Live the Mystery.  Dance with it to the songs and melodies of faith and peace.  And live it gloriously.  You will never regret it. 

And one more thing, this is one mystery you will never have to give up for Lent.  I guarantee it!