“You Don’t Need to Have It All Figured Out or Why We Need the Trinity” June 7, 2020
“You Don’t Need to Have It All Figured Out, and Why We Need the Trinity”
“You don’t need to have it all figured out. Just be with me.” ~ ‘Jesus’ from ‘The Shack’ by Wm. Paul Young
A bishop was at a church for a Confirmation ceremony. In front of the congregation, 9 young people from the ages of 13 to 16 were lined up waiting to be confirmed. This was a big event; a solemn occasion. Now, the Bishop had decided that in his homily he would quiz the teenagers he was supposed to be confirming. So he asked them, “Who can tell me what the Trinity is?” They all looked at their shoes, in that way that teenagers do. So he called on one young man, “Can you tell me what the Trinity is?” The young man mumbled a reply, in that way that teenagers do. The bishop then said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that.” The boy sighed, in that way that teenagers do, and replied, only slightly louder, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The bishop, wanting the boy to speak up so everyone can hear him, said, “I’m sorry, I still didn’t understand.” This time the boy, rolling his eyes, in that way that teenagers do, spoke up loud and clear. He said, “You’re not supposed to understand it. It’s a mystery.”
And so, there you have it. The Trinity explained in 10 words or less. And welcome to Trinity Sunday, the 2nd week in this, the season of Pentecost. So, what do we do with this thing we call The Trinity? This concept of God in 3 persons has been a part of our belief system since….well, forever. In today’s gospel text from Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And so they did, and so do we to this day. At baptisms, weddings, funerals – any occasion or ceremony that requires calling upon God’s holy presence, these words are used. Countless hours and millions of words have been spent explaining the Trinity so that we might understand this somewhat abstract concept, but let’s be honest: every time you have heard the Trinity explained or found yourself explaining it to someone else, hasn’t there been a little voice in the back of your head saying, “What’s the point here? God is God, isn’t that good enough? Why do we have to split him up just to bring him back together again?”
So, in keeping with our theme of “understanding” this Sunday, I’d like to take a stab at why the Trinity is relevant, why it is important, and how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit can truly bless our lives even if we don’t understand it. I’d like to take a stab at why we need the Trinity.
The Father. A mentor of mine years ago pulled me aside after I had offered a prayer to a group at dinner. “You know,” she said, “opening a prayer with ‘Our Father’ is maybe not the best thing to do in some circles. Have you ever considered that there might be some who have been abused by their dads? The mention of the word ‘father’ to them is not necessarily a positive thing. It can act as a trigger to bring back some awful memories.” I thanked her and said that I had never considered that.
Later on, I thought, “What a shame. What a shame that you might associate the presence of the God of love with an abusive father just from the mention of the word father.” So let’s be clear – when we speak of ‘God the Father,’ it has nothing to do with parents, or priests, or even Father Time, for that matter. When we speak of ‘God the Father’ we are speaking of God the Creator, the God of wonder; we are speaking of the awesome presence of God. This is partly why I need the Trinity. I need the assurance of a power bigger than me – a power bigger than all of us. And I rest in the assurance that it is a power of good. It keeps me honest, it keeps me square, and it keeps me focused on a life of purpose. In today’s reading from 2 Corinthians, Paul’s final words to the church are, (2 Cor 13:13) The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The love of God – that’s what fuels us; that’s what feeds us. Can we ever fully understand it? I certainly hope not. The words of David from the 8th Psalm come to mind: What is mankind that you are mindful of them? What are human beings that you care for them? Yet we know that our loving God does pay attention. We have to know, that for all our quirks and foibles, someway and somehow, we are still considered worthy. Someway and somehow we are loved unconditionally. We know this because of the presence of:
The Son. Once again, I’ll refer to Paul’s message wishing the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to the church in Corinth. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ…” If you have spent any time at all with the theology of John Wesley, then you know about grace. God’s grace that we know through Christ is more than the gift of forgiveness. It is a gift with fringe benefits, undeserved yet endless and without condition. Through the Son – through the life and death of Christ – God made known the gift of forgiving grace. It opens doors, it breaks down walls, and it unshackles the chains. It offers new life, and that’s not just some catchy phrase – it really does. Which brings us to:
The Holy Spirit. In Paul’s final words to the Corinthians, he wished “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” to be with them all. I looked through a number of different translations, and they all read the same – “the fellowship.” So, we have the love of God to sustain us; we have the grace of Christ to empower us; now we have the fellowship of the Spirit to…what? What do you do with the fellowship of the Spirit? Well, the question almost answers itself – you do. When we meet in worship (even now!) when we meet in study, when we gather in common purpose to be the body of Christ, we are the fellowship of the Spirit. When we are driven to prayer, that is the movement of the Spirit. The Spirit moves; it’s not passive or static. The ache in your heart because you miss congregational worship and singing and just being a church – that’s the stirrings of the fellowship of the Spirit.
So call me old fashioned, but I need the Trinity. I need to separate the flavors in this delicious soup that I call my faith. The love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the fire of the Spirit – we don’t need to understand them. We only need to embrace them and make them our own. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – we need them now more than ever before.
Amen & Shalom