Lectionary Year B
June 15, 2003
Step VI - Contemporary Address
(JFC) This exposition will try to deal responsibly with the data the text gives us to get
some handles on the mystery of a three person God.
B. Describing the Audience
(JFC) Our exceedingly capable minister begins worship with a welcoming word and
declaring that, "As the Apostle Paul has said, let us greet one another in the name of Christ," to which the pew sitters arise, approach and exchange greetings (again, for the most part), some unhappily doing so. Therefore, the Head of Staff has asked me to preach a sermon on that liturgical custom on the date of Trinity Sunday and Fathers Day.
(JFC) a sermon entitled for this working draft, "Issues with the Trinity"
Since the Early Church began formulating doctrines of belief, issues have arisen with the doctrine of the Trinity. So, on Trinity Sunday, annually, we try to deal with some of what this tri-unity of God means. We know it is beyond us to comprehend God (Isaiah 55:8f and I Corinthians 2:9-13), to limit God to three persons, etc. Yet, Isaiah 6:1-8 and Romans 8:12-17 might help us become more comfortable and familiar with this God.
I. The Trinity
A. First, God Fathers. It's a verb, God fathers us. We call this God, "Abba, Father". God loves us as parents love their children. God calls us, "My children." We call God, "Abba, Father". These are terms of genuine affection. Of course, our own earthly fathers love us, yet humanly and imperfectly. God's love is perfect and perfectly divine.
B. Second, God comes to earth as Son of God, Jesus. As such, Jesus gives all He inherited as the Son of God and Christ shares all with us as joint heirs. Ronald Goetz says in Grace Unlimited, "It's this standing in grace. It's this having no other way to account for where one is. It's this sense of having been held and fed and loved, as a child is loved, that drives us, as it certainly drove Paul, to a sense of grace universal." God's grace moves us to be thankful and our gratitude moves us to praise, obey and serve God.
C. Thirdly, God, the Holy Spirit leads us, very closely relating to us. God fellowships (another verb usually used as a noun, here used as a verb) with us. God fellowships with us, via the Holy Spirit. Moltmann says, "It is a characteristic of the divine Spirit not merely to communicate this or that particular thing. Rather God's Spirit actually enters into fellowship with believing men and women -- if indeed God's Spirit himself becomes their/our fellowship. Now, "fellowship" is more than a "gift" of the Spirit. It is the eternal, essential nature of the Spirit himself. The Spirit does not merely bring about fellowship with himself. He himself issues from his fellowship with the Father and the Son, and the fellowship into which he enters with believers matches his fellowship with the Father and the Son. It is therefore a trinitarian fellowship."
So far we've dealt with some of what Scripture and the Historical Development of Scriptural Interpretation have to say about the doctrine of the Trinity. It's been almost a
lecture. Now, it's time to experience what this Triune God has to offer us here and now.
A. So, dealing with the Doctrine of the Trinity calls us to experience the three persons of the Triune God. First, Jesus' grace = Physically, when we stir from our comfortable pews, where we are comfortably seated until we get directed to get up, move and even speak to one another. Isaiah hears God say, rather rhetorically, "Whom shall we send . . . Who will go for us?" The triune God is calling us to get up and go and be on the move. When we get up and go get mobile, we are doing something both obediently to God's Word and healthy for us and others whom we greet. Relationships are healthy to foster.
B. God's love = Psychologically/emotionally, this liturgical greeting opening worship calls us beyond ourselves, to look one another in the eye, genuinely to greet each other, much more than merely flippantly and/or superficially, but to exchange our being with another being, all God's children. We express value to one another, we recognize everyone's God-given dignity. It is said, "Blessed are the flexible for they shall never be bent out of shape." Let us practice flexibility. Presbyterians can do flexible. Let's try it.
C. Holy Spirit's Fellowship = Spiritually, when we give of ourselves unreservedly, we receive others similarly. These givings and receivings are some of what the world needs. We read, "The Greek word for communion or fellowship . . . refers to a shared reality. It means partaking, sharing, fellowship and communing. Love communicates itself. The one who loves always gives herself or himself in the one who is loved." (John 3:1-17)
In the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three facets of God in relationship and inter-dependence. The divine community of the Trinity images for us what it means to be "in community". Recently an Anglican priest in Oxford wrote: "What life have you, if you have not life together? There is no life that is not in community. And community only when lived in the praise of God." We might still need more data to get all the way to comprehending the triune God. Ralph Waldo Emerson's 200th Birthday was late last month; one commentator suggested, "Emerson never arrived at a final answer." Perhaps that's where we remain, re: the nature of the Trinity. Still we can praise a mysterious God and love and serve a God beyond our imagination's ability to understand.
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