“God is Three in One”                                                                        June 3, 2012

John 3: 1-17                                                                                         Stephens City UMC

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

I.                   On this Trinity Sunday when we also recognize and honor our graduates I want to make use of a story concerning one of the greatest religious thinkers of all time and that is St. Augustine of Hippo who lived back in the 4th and 5th centuries.

A.    Augustine wanted to both understand and to be able logically to explain the Holy Trinity.

1.     Since he lived in North Africa he wasn’t far from the sea and one day while taking a walk along the beach he began contemplating the Trinity.

2.     Suddenly, he saw a little child all alone on the shore.

3.     The child dug a hole in the sand, ran to the sea with a small cup, filled the cup with sea water and then emptied the cup into the hole she had made in the sand.

4.     Back and forth she went, a multitude of times repeating this task.

5.     Augustine approached her and asked, “Little child, what are you doing?”

6.     She answered, “I’m trying to empty the sea into this hole.”

7.     “How do you think,” Augustine asked her, “that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole using this tiny cup?”

8.     She answered back, “And you, how do you suppose that with your small head you can comprehend the immensity of God?”

9.     And having said that the child disappeared. (Trinity by Father Munachi E. Ezeogu, p. 1)

B.     Certainly St. Augustine was a man of great faith but his faith caused him to seek understanding.

1.     For you who are graduating or have graduated we have been witnesses of your faith and hope that your faith has also caused you to seek understanding.

2.     But as Augustine learned we hope you have learned to do so with humility.

3.     There are matters that are mysterious in life and the Christian doctrine of the inner relationship among the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is certainly not easily understood.

C.     We Christians have come to this doctrine for a number of reasons.

1.     First, the scriptures, while they never use the term Trinity, speak very specifically about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

2.     So this doctrine is scriptural.

3.     In John’s Gospel Jesus explained to the disciples that the Father had sent him (the Son) and that he (the Son) would be sending the Holy Spirit.

4.     The Holy Spirit would teach the disciples the things of the Father and the Son.

5.     The Father did not teach one thing and the Son teach another thing and the Spirit teach yet a third thing.

6.     The teachings of the Father and the Son and the Spirit were the same teachings.

7.     Because the Father and the Son and the Spirit are one the teachings are the same truth.

8.     Second, when we talk about God’s mighty acts of salvation we are saying a lot.

9.     In the story of salvation the Bible begins with creation and so the term Father is applied to the act of creating.

10.             In the story of salvation the Bible talks about God’s Son redeeming us from sin.

11.             In the story of salvation the Bible leads us to understanding that we are to be God’s holy people, a holy priesthood which requires us to be sanctified and that inner work so understand by the Holy Spirit.

12.             Therefore, we have not three distinct gods but one God who works in three distinct ways so that we might truly be saved.

13.             That’s saying a lot, but that is what we have experienced for we have been created, redeemed and sanctified.

II.                 And so these personal experiences with God the Almighty affect how we live in keeping with God Himself and there are two observations I wish to make on this.

A.    First, God does not exist in solitary individualism but in a community of love and sharing.

1.     “God is not a loner” says Father Munachi Ezeogu in his article on the Trinity.

2.     God does not isolate Himself, therefore, His people are not to isolate themselves.

3.     That is why we Christians are to be in the world but not of it.

B.     Second, Father Ezeogu makes an interesting point when he writes that true love requires three partners.

1.     This is counter to modern day culture which is so individualistic and is so concerned with “I” and “me.”

2.     Christian faith calls upon us to relate in two directions that requires three entities.

3.     The first direction is vertical as we are to relate to God.

4.     The second direction is horizontal as we are to relate to other made in the image of God.

C.     Rather than living by the standards of our culture which is a self-centered “I,” the Holy Trinity challenges us to live by an I-and-God and neighbor principle (Trinity by Father Ezeogu, p. 2).

1.     If all you have learned in life has led you to want to be a Christian then the way to accomplish that is to live in a relationship of love with God and with all humanity.

III.              That is exactly what is taking place whenever we celebrate Holy Communion.

A.    God through the body and blood of His Son in the power of the Holy Spirit relates to us in a mysterious way at the table of our Lord.

1.     Simultaneously as we come to this table we find ourselves relating to our neighbors, our brothers and sisters in the faith, others whose faith is causing them to seek understanding.

2.     Even all our heads together will not allow us to completely understand the mystery of the Blessed Trinity but that’s OK.

3.     Because God is One and God who is the perfect relationship is banishing all evidence of self-centeredness in our lives so that we might learn to live in love with God and with one another.