Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers in the congregation*. Father’s Day is a special day for many of us, with gifts and BBQ’s and such…but it is also a bit like Mother’s Day, in that it can be a difficult day for others.
Some of us may have a difficult relationship with our father…or some fathers may have difficult relationships with their sons and daughters…so this day may be happy for some, but hard for others. Like Mother’s Day, it can be filled with emotional land mines buried across the hours of this day.
I hope that today is a good celebration for those celebrating, and for others who are not enjoying this day, I hope you can try and carry it lightly…just for today. Just for today, set it aside and do something you would normally do on a Sunday afternoon, and let it be. Don’t dwell on today too much…just for today.
Today is also a day that we celebrate a special day in the church. We celebrate a lot of days in the church calendar, like Christmas, Easter, Pentecost…those are celebrations of events in our history, like the birth of Jesus, the Resurrection, the Coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church…
Today it’s a bit different. Today we do not celebrate an event, but rather a doctrine: an idea of how we understand God and make it a statement of what we believe. Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday.
The Trinity describes how Christians understand God. To be perfectly plain about it, the Trinity is one God in three personalities: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…One in Three, and Three found in One…Some people like to describe it as Parent-Child-Spirit, to free God from gender identity, which I think is a good idea.
The word trinity comes from the Latin “tri”, three, and “unitas”, unity. So trinity is understood to be “three-fold unity” as God’s nature. Clear as mud, right?
At this point, a lot of people say something like, “Ok, stop-stop…I get it: 3 in 1, 1 in 3. You’re over-explaining. So what? Why is this important?”
Well, it was Big Stuff in the early church, and it’s Big Stuff today for much the same reasons.
Judaism was one of the first monotheistic religions in human history: the belief in God being a single, supreme deity. Up till then, most were polytheistic, believing in multiple gods, like the Greek or Roman deities.
Judaism understands God as the One Supreme Creator God…it’s a major defining characteristic of Judaism, our spiritual parents, and it is summed up in one of their basic prayers call The Shema. It is about 3 paragraphs long, but starts with the declaration: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” Anything that even seemed to contradict this statement was a heresy and a sin in the Jewish world of the first century.
So, you can imagine the problems they had when this upstart rabbi Jesus and his disciples went about saying, “Jesus and God are One.” And then further when they started talking about this Holy Spirit entity, quoting Jesus in today’s Gospel, “When the Spirit of truth comes, it will guide you into all truth for it will not speak on its own, but will speak what it hears…it will take what is mine [Jesus, Son of God] and declare it to you.”
This kind of talk made a lot of monotheists set their hair on fire, and it became a big issue and stumbling block in the Jewish community relative to their Jesus-following brothers and sisters. So it was Big Stuff back in the first century.
But why is it Big Stuff today? That’s a good question.
It’s a good question, because we need to always “Start With Why” in our walk of faith. Always start with the why of things. Not what, or how, but why.
Everything we do as Christians is based on our belief that God exists – God is real, God exists, and is our Supreme Creator.
Everything we do as Christians is based on our belief that Jesus is God’s Own Child, and is co-equal with God.
Everything we do as Christians is based on our belief that God and Jesus are living with us presently in the existence of The Spirit, and still talks and leads us to this very hour.
These three statements is the why of how we live, move, and have our being. It’s sorta like our Shema.
The way we live our lives shows our belief in how we recognize and worship God, follow the teachings and examples of Jesus, and listen together for the voice of the Spirit among us…because in all three ways we are worshiping-following-listening to God’s Own Self.
This explains why we worship the way we do, with beauty, and grace, and creativity.
This explains why we live the way we do, trying our best to imitate the life of Jesus.
This explains why we study Scripture, pray, come together in fellowship and listen to one another with respect, listening to the voice of our Comforter and Advocate, the Holy Spirit, among us. In all ways, we recognize the three-fold presence of God.
We can tell people about all the cool things we do and the gracious activities we support, but we should always start with WHY when we talk about our life as Christians, even our life here at St. John’s. The question WHY lies at the very heart of human nature, and answering the question WHY answers the deepest longing of each and every person.
This is why the idea of the trinity has a place of honor among us – it is how we see and understand God, and it affects everything we do. That is Big Stuff. Amen.
*Sermon at St. John’s-Tower Grove, June 16, 2019