Our Three-in-One God Trinity Sunday
Genesis 1:1-5 Matthew 28:16-20
Have you ever been to a circus? I like watching the tight-rope walkers. They do amazing things while traversing a cable that has been strung between two posts—a cable that is under tremendous tension. Both posts are trying to pull the cable in opposite directions, and that is what makes a tight-rope tight—makes it possible to walk on it. Circuses don’t have “loose-rope” walkers—it just wouldn’t work. The tension is what makes tight-rope walking possible.
Well, today I am going to ask you to walk with me on a tight-rope of sorts. It’s a line that is strung between two opposing forces, pulling in opposite directions. Let me say from the get-go that it is important that we acknowledge this tension, and that we understand it is necessary, because we cannot walk on a “loosey-goosey” rope!
Here is the tension: God is in a relationship with us, and God wants to be in relationship with others; and, at the same time, God has been revealed to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This Trinitarian view of God is very different from the concept that many people have of “The Higher Power.”
Here’s how that tension is lived out in my life: I am the kind of person who likes to relate to others by finding commonalities—things we hold in common, things that seem to have the power to unite us. And because I want to be in relationship with others, I have a tendency to downplay or ignore those things that we don’t have in common. And I observe this avoidance of disagreements in all the world around me—especially when we talk about our understandings of who God is. A conversation among a crowd of people that includes Christians, Muslims, and Jews will most likely include some kind of statement that says, “We all worship the same God, right?” We desperately want this to be so—because it would give us some great common ground on which to build relationships.
It would be convenient to forget about the Trinity (as God is revealed to us) and to embrace a much simpler, more generic kind of god that we could all agree on. Wouldn’t this promote relationships? Sadly, no.
And here’s why: In order to have a genuine relationship with you, I have to be the real me—not the “me” I am pretending to be in order to have some common ground with you! No real relationship can be built on fakery. As Trinitarian Christians, we can acknowledge a great deal of common ground with all kinds of people—and we should—but we cannot walk away from who we truly are. We are a people who have a dynamic relationship with a God who lives in a three-fold relationship as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
You see, our God is a relational God. I believe that you are worshiping with us today because the Trinity has drawn you here, and because this relational God living in you keeps putting you in touch with other people, reaches out to you through others, and makes it possible for you to relate to others.
And it is my fervent hope that you are being drawn to be a part of a church that is full of people who may be very different from you. (In fact, it is by being a part of a group that is diverse that you and I are challenged to grow and develop in our faith!) Being part of a church means 1. Being in relationship with others and 2. Being in relationship with God.
Now, of course, there are others who wish to get in touch with “the divine” or “the spiritual” through solitary meditation and individual effort alone. But Christianity is not one of those groups! As William Willimon says, “We are inherently relational because our God is relational.” Christianity is not a solo endeavor.
So let me restate the dynamic tension I am feeling as I walk this tightrope: God is calling us to be in relationship with others—but, at the same time, holding on to the Trinity can be a source of division with folks who have a different understanding.
It might be that the concept of God in Three Persons is so daunting that we are ready to abandon it or relegate it to the back of our minds. But we are called to worship the true and living God rather than a host of false (generic) gods that are so readily available. Here’s how David Cunningham explains it:
In the Trinity, Christians try to account for the complex Biblical testimony that, “1. God remained all-powerful and transcendent, and yet 2. Jesus, who died and was raised by God, was somehow also God; moreover 3. The Spirit, poured out on the church, is also God, and yet 4. There is only one God.”
Oi! My brain hurts! Maybe it would help to use music as a way to see how something can be both multiple and singular at the same time. In music, more than one thing happens at a time. It is important in music that each note be sounded clearly and distinctly, yet we enjoy hearing a mass of different notes all played at once! Simultaneous multiplicity is encouraged in music. Harmony does not seek to include individual notes standing alone—but rather to rejoice in their interesting relationships, contrasts, and contributions to one another.
In our Genesis passage today, we heard the beginning of the account of creation. In the second verse, it says, “a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Another translation has it, “The Spirit of God hovered over the waters.” You see, the word for wind and spirit is the same word in Hebrew—“ruach.” It is the breath of God—that which breathes into the inanimate clay, bringing it to life.
And in our passage from Matthew, we heard Jesus promise, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Earlier, Jesus had explained to his disciples that the Father was going to send the Spirit to fill them (which it did on that day of Pentecost when a mighty wind blew through the room and anointed them and impelled them out into the world.) We take this as the fulfillment of his promise, to be with them always.
These and other Scriptures tell us about 1. God creating us, 2. Coming to live beside us (in Jesus) in order to save us, and 3. Coming into us to breathe life into us. God above us, God beside us, God within us.
So, on this Trinity Sunday, I am asking you to walk a tightrope with me—a rope that is kept taut by the tension pulling it in two opposing directions. One call is to hold fast to our God who has been revealed to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; another call is to develop and cherish relationships with others, including those who do not hold to the Trinity.
And today, the Spirit is asking us to walk another tightrope. We are called to stand up for those who are unfairly treated because of the color of their skin. And we are called to stand up for those who risk their lives to protect us. This is not an either/or—this is a call to both/and! So, how do we do this? We walk the tightrope of our faith with the words of Jesus echoing in our ears, “Remember, I am with you always.” As we receive The Lord’s Supper, we invite the Spirit to live in us.
This is how we do that which seems to be impossible!