Trinity Sunday 2020

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I’ll be honest with you all. At the start of this week, I did not want to preach on the Trinity. I had very little interest in talking about a doctrine of our faith that even after two thousand years of the greatest minds and theologians, we still call a mystery. With everything going on in our world over the past week, the last thing I wanted to talk about was something dense and weighty and chewy like the Trinity. Have you ever had a piece of terrible steak? You just keep chewing and chewing and chewing and it doesn’t seem like you’re getting anywhere? That’s what I felt like at the beginning of this week. Lord, why should I preach on the Trinity with everything going on in the world, in our state, in our city? This isn’t what people need to hear right now.
But I tell you what. I was wrong. I was utterly and completely wrong. You see, for two weeks since the murder of George Floyd and the start of the protests, everyone has been looking for someone who could and would speak a word of healing to the nation. People are looking at politicians, civic leaders from every branch of government, looking for someone to speak a word that could unite the country, that could heal our divisions. The world is looking for a word that can bring us together.
And as I chewed on this mystery of the Trinity over the course of this week, I realized that this doctrine that breaks every category of our understanding speaks a word that can bring us together. You see, the Trinity is not some dry, ivory-tower doctrine of the Church with no worldly significance. Our understanding that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit speaks a word of healing, and speaks into the brokenness of relationships that we’re experiencing today.
So there are three things I want to talk about today. First, I want to ground the reality that God can speak healing into our broken relationships in the reality that God is love, that he is fundamentally relational. Second, I want to talk about how the Triune God is uniquely able to speak healing into our relationships as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And third, I want to look at how our identity as those who know the God who exists as Trinity, how that identity fuels a life of mission as we are sent to mend the broken relationships in our world with his healing power. It sounds chewy, but I hope we can see together how tangible and concrete this beautiful mystery is.
So, in our gospel reading, we read what was probably a familiar passage in Matthew 28, at the very end of his gospel:
English Standard Version Chapter 28

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Now, this passage is given to us in our lectionary because of that phrase, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We say something like this at our baptism services here at Redeemer. If we have given our loyalty to Jesus, we are baptized not into his name alone, but into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - the God who exists as Trinity - the one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
When we say that God is Trinity, that he is one God in three persons, we are not just talking about some doctrine. We are talking about who God is. One way to think about this is to ask yourself, what was God doing before he created the universe? What was he doing before he laid the foundations of the world? The answer to that question goes a long way towards describing who God is at the core of his being at the bedrock of what makes God God, and this is exactly what the Trinity helps us to see, at least in part.
To say that God is three in one is to say that God is love. Even before there was any thing to love, God existed in a perfect community of love in himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To say that God is Trinity is to say that God in his very being is relational.
If God were just one and not three-in-one, than until he created other beings, love would not exist – because love requires someone to love. So from all eternity until God created something to love, there would exist power, and sovereignty, and glory, and holiness, but not love. If God were just one, then love would not be essential to who God is.
But God is not one. God is three in one. God is Trinity, which is to say that God is relational, he is love, and it is from that community of perfect love between the Father, Son, and Spirit, it is from their love that they create the world, and it is from that wellspring of love that they create you and me.
God did not create us because he wanted to love someone or be loved by someone - that was already happening to perfection in the Trinity. Rather, God created us because he is love, and his love overflowed into the world that he created and into the people that he created, which is to say that the building blocks of our existence is a loving relationship, love expressed in community. God is relational and he created us to be like him, so we also are relational.
No one, when on their deathbed asks that someone bring them their bank statements. The one who is dying never asks that someone bring their trophies or certificates or their fancy cars or boats. What do people want to see when they’ve reached the end of their life? They want to see that which is most important to them: they want to see their family and their friends. Why? Because God created us to be like him, and he at the core of his being is a relationship of love. This is what we proclaim when we say that God is three in one.
We were made for relationship, but because of our sin suffering has entered into the world that was lovingly knit together by our Triune God, and that suffering is the result of our relationships gone wrong. In our sin we’ve broken relationship with God, with one another, with creation itself, even with ourselves. And because of these broken relationships, our world that exists to be filled with the overflow of God’s love is instead filled with suffering.
Broken relationships are the worst. Have you felt that unique pain that comes when a relationship of love sours, bends, and breaks? Or maybe a relationship that is cut short for some reason, maybe they’ve moved or pass away? It’s a unique pain to experience a break in relationship because it feels like we lose a part of ourselves. Relationships have a way of forming us. We are who we are because of the relationships that we’ve had, both the positive and the negative ones. Why is this the case? Because like our God, we are fundamentally relational beings. We were made to be together with one another in a loving community, and so when that community is broken, it feels like we’ve lost a part of who we are.
The protests that we are seeing in cities across the country are the result of a relationship that has broken. These protests, they are the hot tears of a community that is suffering from the pain of a million shattered relationships. And perhaps the most distressing thing for us as the Church is that if we listen, we can hear the voices of so many of our brothers and sisters of color, our fellow Christians, who have suffered this pain for generations. We are dealing with a wound that is wide, and long, and high, and deep. Is it any wonder that we’re looking for someone who can offer healing? Someone who can bring the oppressed and the oppressor together again?
When we declare that God is three-in-one, we declare that God is a God of love, and if someone who loves you sees that you are in pain, they come to you in love to comfort and heal. And this is what our God does. Our God is love overflowing, and his love overflows into the suffering of our world. And because he is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit he can uniquely bring healing into our broken relationships.
What is the baptismal formula that Jesus gives us in Matthew 28? What is spoken over everyone who puts their trust in Jesus and is baptized? “I baptize you into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” What does it mean to be baptized into the Name? In the Bible, the Name refers to the essence of someone. It refers to their core being. When God tells David that his son Solomon would build the temple, God says that he would build a temple for his Name. His name would fill the temple. Countless times in the Bible, God changes someone’s name, and it’s always indicative of a total transformation of that person’s identity. The name refers to someone’s core identity. So when we are baptized into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we are welcomed into the identity of the God who is Trinity, we are ushered into his family, his life, his loving community that is fundamental to who he is. In 2 Peter, he says that we have become participants in the divine nature, which is a fancy way of saying we’re part of the loving community that is the Trinity!
And how this happens is the reason we celebrate Trinity Sunday! Again and again in the Scriptures, we are told that when we turn to Jesus who is God the Son, we are united with him. Our status as children of God is gifted to us because we are clothed in Christ. Our life is hidden in Christ. His death is credited to us because we’ve been united to him. His righteousness is credited to us. His resurrection is given to us. The love that the Father has for the Son poured out on us, because we are united to Jesus. We are adopted into the loving community of the Triune God because we’ve been clothed in the Son. Every gift of God is given to us because we are clothed in the Son. And this is not earned, but it is a work of pure grace. What is Christ’s by nature is ours by grace.
So God the Father chooses to love us by sending God the Son who redeems us and brings us into a new life and a new identity and it is God the Spirit who then activates our new identity to manifest the love of God here in our world that is suffering. What does the Holy Spirit do? He waters and grows the seed of our new identity in Jesus so that it bears fruit in the world. And what is the first fruit of the Spirit? Yes, it’s love! What else could it be? It is love. The Spirit cultivates the love of God in a world filled with broken relationships.
This is how the Triune God can uniquely speak healing into our present context. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all working towards what end? The restoration of relationship. Our relationship with God, yes absolutely, but more than that, our relationship with one another. Those who have been baptized into the name of the Triune God then have a unique ability to mirror in this world the loving community that is our God, and as we see in Matthew 28, those who are baptized in the name of God are sent out into the world to mend broken relationships in all places through his healing power.
Today the eyes of our nation are open to a wound that has been festering in muted silence for generations. Unfortunately, history shows us that our country has a short attention span, and its eyes will inevitably be drawn to something else, but the eyes of the church cannot turn away from this any more. Our identity as those who have been baptized into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit does not allow it, because our identity calls us to mirror the God who is love. To emulate his desire for relationships to be restored. This isn’t a someone else’s rift, but it is a tear that runs right through the Christian church. The wound runs wide and long and high and deep. But there is something wider, and longer, and higher and deeper than this broken relationship. And so I want to close us out with this prayer spoken over a church two thousand years ago struggling through it’s own relational rift. I ask that you’d extend your hands outward and upward as we pray over our ourselves, our church community, over our city and over our nation.
The New International Version Chapter 3

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

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