Trinity Sunday (May 22, 2016)
- First reading and Psalm
- Second reading
Romans 5:1-5 | New Living Translation (NLT)
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
This Sunday we observe Trinity Sunday. The Trinity is one of the core doctrines of the church and yet probably one of the hardest things to explain about Christian doctrine. We can try to explain it, but nothing in our physical world comes close and when we try to
explain it using analogy or metaphor, the doctrine of the Trinity breaks down. The diagram to the the left probably does the best job a diagraming the Trinity – God in Three Persons and yet this Three is One. The Father is God – the Son is God – the Spirit is God and yet the Father is not the Spirit – the Spirit is not the Song – the Son is not the Father. And – at the same time – the Trinity exists as all three at all times and in all dimensions.
As you think about it, it all seems a bit incomprehensible. Perhaps that’s why we have so few hymns and song written about the Trinity. I remember reading an article in Worship Leader Magazine a few years ago. “The only way most of us are familiar with Trinitarian songs are “Father, we adore you…Jesus, we adore you…Spirit we adore you.” or “Father, we love you we praise you and adore you…” and we continue with the rest of the verses of Jesus, we love you and Spirit, we love you. Even in the traditional world Trinitarian songs are hard to come by. The most familiar would be “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and “Come Thou Almighty King,” and possibly “All Creatures of Our God and King.” Another hymn would be “Eternal Father Strong to Save.”
The Trinity is not something we are comfortable with and so we avoid it. In our New Testament scripture for this week, we have Paul, while not making the Trinity explicit, he at least refers to the Three in One nature. All three persons of the Trinity are included in this passage.
In John 16, we have these words of Jesus:
“There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now.When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’
Again while not explicit, we have the three persons of the Trinity – working as One. Each person of the Trinity brings each other part glory. Each part the Trinity works to save us, sanctify us and set us apart. Because each member of the Trinity brings each other glory – we too will be able to share in God’s glory because of the work of Christ in our lives. Because of the incarnation – because of the cross – because of the death – because of the resurrection – because of what Jesus did for us and in us and subsequently the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives – we can live the kind of lives that bring God the glory, through the grace and mercy of Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.
The Holy Spirit works in our lives two ways:
- The Holy Spirit empowers us live holy lives. This is the reason that God can command us to “Be holy as He is holy.”
- The Holy Spirit empowers us to works of service.
For many years in the Wesleyan Church, we emphasized the first part, but not the second. If a holy God can empower us to live a holy life – something that we can’t do on our own, He can empower us to do works of service – even miraculous works of service.
It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that we can live the way God desires us – it’s by the redeeming work of Christ in our lives that we are saved and stand in a place of grace – a place of undeserved privilege.
These are great words to hear when we run into trials. I have often repeated these words that are similar to words found in the first chapter of James’ letter. Paul writes “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
I encourage you this week, to live in the power of the Trinity.
Below I have included an ancient creed of the church that describes the Trinity in great detail. I first learned of this creed several years ago while attending Michael and Rebecca’s church in Canada – which happened to be on Trinity Sunday.
This creed is named after Athanasius (A.D. 293-373), the champion of orthodoxy against Arian attacks on the doctrine of the trinity. Although Athanasius did not write this creed and it is improperly named after him, the name persists because until the seventeenth century it was commonly ascribed to him. It is not from Greek (Eastern), but from Latin (Western) origin, and is not recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Church today. Apart from the opening and closing sentences, this creed consists of two parts, the first setting forth the orthodox doctrine of the trinity, and the second dealing chiefly with the incarnation and the two-natures doctrine.
Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith.
Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.
Now this is the catholic faith:
That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity,
neither blending their persons
nor dividing their essence.
For the person of the Father is a distinct person,
the person of the Son is another,
and that of the Holy Spirit still another.
But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one,
their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.
What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.
The Father is uncreated,
the Son is uncreated,
the Holy Spirit is uncreated.
The Father is immeasurable,
the Son is immeasurable,
the Holy Spirit is immeasurable.
The Father is eternal,
the Son is eternal,
the Holy Spirit is eternal.
And yet there are not three eternal beings;
there is but one eternal being.
So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings;
there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being.
Similarly, the Father is almighty,
the Son is almighty,
the Holy Spirit is almighty.
Yet there are not three almighty beings;
there is but one almighty being.
Thus the Father is God,
the Son is God,
the Holy Spirit is God.
Yet there are not three gods;
there is but one God.
Thus the Father is Lord,
the Son is Lord,
the Holy Spirit is Lord.
Yet there are not three lords;
there is but one Lord.
Just as Christian truth compels us
to confess each person individually
as both God and Lord,
so catholic religion forbids us
to say that there are three gods or lords.
The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone.
The Son was neither made nor created;
he was begotten from the Father alone.
The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten;
he proceeds from the Father and the Son.
Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers;
there is one Son, not three sons;
there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.
Nothing in this trinity is before or after,
nothing is greater or smaller;
in their entirety the three persons
are coeternal and coequal with each other.
So in everything, as was said earlier,
we must worship their trinity in their unity
and their unity in their trinity.
Anyone then who desires to be saved
should think thus about the trinity.
But it is necessary for eternal salvation
that one also believe in the incarnation
of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully.
Now this is the true faith:
That we believe and confess
that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son,
is both God and human, equally.
He is God from the essence of the Father,
begotten before time;
and he is human from the essence of his mother,
born in time;
completely God, completely human,
with a rational soul and human flesh;
equal to the Father as regards divinity,
less than the Father as regards humanity.
Although he is God and human,
yet Christ is not two, but one.
He is one, however,
not by his divinity being turned into flesh,
but by God’s taking humanity to himself.
He is one,
certainly not by the blending of his essence,
but by the unity of his person.
For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh,
so too the one Christ is both God and human.
He suffered for our salvation;
he descended to hell;
he arose from the dead;
he ascended to heaven;
he is seated at the Father’s right hand;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
At his coming all people will arise bodily
and give an accounting of their own deeds.
Those who have done good will enter eternal life,
and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.
This is the catholic faith:
one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.