Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Now let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Savior & Redeemer.
This Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday, one of those festival Sundays that seem a bit baffling, at first. We understand the significance of Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. But what exactly do we celebrate on Holy Trinity Sunday?
I remember trying to sort this out in seminary. We went through Church History and talked about the places throughout history that more sense was tried to be made of the Triune God (ex. The difference, in length and detail, between the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed & the Athenasian Creed.)
Then we discussed all the ways people try to explain the Trinity in “simple terms” which never worked to well. The decision I came to is that the Trinity is a complex thing that we cannot fully wrap our minds around, anymore that we can limit the infinity of space, limit the way wind blows or why water can only be contained for a period of time before Mother Nature resets things. So instead of trying to explain what the Holy Trinity is…I think we should concentrate on what the Holy Trinity does.
Let’s see if our texts help us out much this weekend.
First, we observe that God had been graciously active before we ever knew it.
- Before the earth was separated from the waters, God prepared space for it.
- Before the sun, moon and stars were created on the fourth day, God made space for them on the second day.
- Before the sea creatures and flying creatures were made on the fifth day, God made space and food for them on the third day.
- Also, before land animals, including humans, were created on the sixth day, God made land and food for them on the third day.
God delights in creation. And like any artist, God prepares materials and a space to work in before beginning the creative process.
The Gospel doesn’t seem to help us much either with understanding the Holy Trinity. And Jesus certainly didn’t spend any time indoctrinating his disciples on these matters which would later split the church. He alludes to the Triune God: we see him pray to God and he tells the disciples that he will send a Comforter. But Jesus spends far more time instructing the disciples on how they should treat the poor and destitute, about their relationship to the larger culture, and about their role in creating the Kingdom in the present.
You get a much better understanding of the Trinity by reading all the lessons together. These aren’t unfamiliar aspects: God as creator of the world and lover of humans; Christ who came to create community; the Holy Spirit who moves and breathes within us and enables us to create community.
Notice that we have a God who lives in community, with the various aspects of God (Creator, Savior, Spirit) and with us. It’s an image that baffles our rational minds.
I’d say God definitely thinks community is important and should be a priority.
So, maybe it’s not helpful to spend so much time trying to understand these matters with our minds, but instead we should spend that time understanding with our hearts. As I said earlier, maybe we should focus on what the Triune God does, not what the Triune God is.
The God that we see in our Scriptures is a God of action. We see God creating all around us and we are called to do the same. This is not a God who saves us so that we can flip through TV channels. Our God is a God who came to us in Jesus to show us how to be people of action: Go. Make disciples. Baptize. Teach. We do this by loving each other and God. We love not just by experiencing an emotion. Love moves us to action.
And that action doesn’t have to have the boldness of those first disciples. They went very far when Jesus said to them “Go and make disciples.” But many of us don’t need to travel more than a mile or two before we will find someone who needs us, someone we need, or someone with whom we could form community.
How do we do that? We can find many possibilities in our stories about our creator and our savior and our comforter: rescuing captives out of bondage by being a voice for the voiceless, teaching, feeding the hungry and eating meals together, being an adult kids can look up to at Day Camp, having conversations with both the popular people and the outcast, sharing resources, cleaning up messes, telling truth to power, and ways I haven’t even dreamed up yet.
We live in a time when the world offers us so many opportunities to act in the way that God acts. How can we love our neighbor? There are so many ways to do that. Theologian Frederick Buechner reminds us in his book Wishful Thinking: “The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” And you know why that is so beautiful and meaningful…because Jesus promises to meet us there too.