In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Church sets aside this day to remember what has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ: that we worship one God in unity of being and trinity of persons. Gallons of ink have been spilt by theologians down the centuries explicating the doctrine of the Trinity, and I won’t attempt to recapitulate that project here this morning.
What I would like to do, rather, is to try and say something about what the doctrine of the Trinity means for us, why its important, and how it affects the life of faith.
The Bible is, essentially, the story of God’s relationship with man. It doesn’t take long – about two chapters into Genesis – for us to blow it. Mankind turned away from God almost at the very outset. We became estranged from him. Like prodigal sons and daughters, we squandered our inheritance, and left the house of the Father, wandering far in a strange land. And we almost forgot the house of the Father. Sin is essentially a turning away from God, a turning toward the self, or towards anything other than God for the sake of the self. To sin is to allow ourselves to be taken-in by the beguiling serpent who whispers in our ear that we do not need God; that in order to be free, we must throw off the restraints with which God has tyrannously burdened us.
And that is precisely what mankind did at the beginning, and it is what we have gone on doing ever since, both as individuals and as societies. But to turn away from God is to forget who we are – that we were created by him and for him, that his will was that we should be heirs of his estate, lovers and rulers of creation, that we should find ease and fulfillment in his presence. If any of you have read the Lord of the Rings, or seen the movies, you will remember the character Gollum, who through murder and exile, hid himself in a cave, where he became a monster. About his exile Gollum says, “We forgot the taste of bread, the sound of trees, the softness of the wind. We even forgot our own name.”
The story of salvation recorded in the Bible is the story of our feckless flight from God, and of his lovingly and determinedly pursuing us. In the Old Testament, God chooses a people, from among all the nations of the earth, to be his special possession. He cultivates a relationship with them and they come to know him not merely as a god among all the gods of the nations, but as a benevolent and merciful Father, who keeps them in his care, who guides them, and who vindicates them in the presence of those who would enthrall them.
But throughout the history of God’s provident care for Israel, there was in the background God’s promise to Abraham: that God was indeed not merely one national god among many, but that his purposes extended to blessing the whole creation through the seed of Abraham, that there should “come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and [that] a branch [should] grow out of his roots.” Uniquely among the religions of the world was the idea among the Hebrews that the objective of the God who dwelt in Zion, was the sanctification of ALL people, and the renewal of the face of the whole earth.
And so in the fullness of time, Jesus was born of a Virgin, and in him a mystery hidden since the foundation of the world was made known: that God’s object in renewing the face of the earth was the enlargement of God’s dominion of LOVE. For what we find in the face of Jesus is the eternally beloved of God, his only-begotten Son. And so we discover in Christ the mystery of God not merely as the transcendent – and therefore supremely distant – otherness with whom men yet have ritual dealings; but also, and more importantly, we discover an eternal communion of love, mutuality, and self-gift. And we find, uniquely among all the religions of the world, that God does not demand propitiation for our offenses, but that he has pursued us in mercy, and that his unforeseen, unknown, and unknowable plan from before the ages, was to UNITE US TO HIMSELF, to pour out his own inner life on the world of men, a world which had turned away from him, toward death, because of man’s pride.
And so the third term of the Godhead – the Holy Spirit – was made known through the coming of the eternal Son. The Holy Spirit, being the very mutuality of Father and Son, the very communion of love in which Father and Son abide with one another in a single essence from all eternity; this Holy Spirit was poured out on the world at the consummation of the Son’s ministry in the flesh. For through the cross, human nature is inextricably bound to divine nature in the one flesh of Jesus Christ: WHO WE ARE is eternally knit together with WHO GOD IS.
Because our nature has been brought into the communion of the Godhead, the term of that communion has been unleashed, as it were, on mankind. We have “gained access” to the love that God is, through the blood of the cross. As Paul says: “through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2.18).
Because of the coming of the Son in the flesh and the reconciliation he wrought on the cross, God has been fully disclosed, and this full disclosure is the mystery of Pentecost, the pouring out of His Spirit “on all flesh”. So we now live in the dispensation of the Spirit, and have “received power” from on high – to do what was never really possible for men: to do good, to forgive one another, and to die such that we live. Thanks to grace, the knowledge of God is possible. And through the power of the Spirit, we have been given power from on high, to transcend the domination of the world, the flesh and the devil, and find life abundant in the communion of the triune God…
…to whom be endless glory: Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.