“Lessons on the Trinity”                                                                  May 26, 2013

John 16:12-15                                                                                   Stephens City UMC


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


I.                   In the life of the Church we have special Sundays to remember specific historic events such as Easter which recalls the resurrection of Christ and Pentecost which we celebrated last Sunday when we recalled how the Holy Spirit came and the Church was born.

A.    Those Sundays focus on important historical events but today is Trinity Sunday and it is the only Sunday that focuses on a doctrine.

B.     When we talk about the Trinity we are saying that God is three in one.

1.     God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

2.     I will say those words today at 11:00 a.m. when I baptize Lydia Theresa Lancie, “Lydia Theresa (which is her Christian name, Lancie is the family name), I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

3.     Now when I speak those Trinitarian words I am absolutely being biblical BUT the term “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible.

4.     According to the Rev. Ed Markquart whose stuff I’ve been reading lately there are 23 Bible verses in the New Testament about the Trinity but the term itself does not appear in the Bible. (Markquart, The Trinity, date?)

5.     An example of what does appear is II Corinthians 13:13 where Paul writes this blessing, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God (the Father), and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

6.     The word “Trinity” grew out of scripture passages such as that and was first coined around 200 A.D.

7.     The root of Trinity is “trinitas” which is Latin and refers to three.

8.     The early Church Father who developed this term was Tertullian who lived in Carthage in North Africa.

9.     He was a lawyer and was converted when he was an adult by one of the most brilliant Christians of all time – St. Augustine.

10.              Tertullian spoke and wrote in Latin and he also coined the word “persona.”

11.              What he had experienced and believed was that God is three different persona or auras of personhood.

12.             God is Father, God is Son, and God is Holy Spirit.

13.             Since Tertullian isn’t the easiest theologian to understand (I mean how many of you read some Tertullian every night before you go to bed) a more recent theologian who makes the same points but is more comprehensible is Dorothy Sayers.

14.             Dorothy Sayers wrote a book entitled The Mind of the Maker and she offers this analogy.

15.             Think of a play by William Shakespeare, say Hamlet.

16.             The play was first in the mind of Shakespeare.

17.             Secondly, Shakespeare wrote it down on a piece of paper.

18.             Thirdly, the play was acted out on stage.

19.             Now, which of those three expressions is truly the play Hamlet?

20.             The one in the mind, the one on paper, or the one on stage?

21.             The fact is that all three are expressions of Hamlet.

22.             Sayers said that illustrates the doctrine of the Trinity – there are three different expressions of God in that God is Father, God is Son, and God is Holy Spirit and all three expressions are fully God.

C.     To further illustrate what Tertullian and Sayers are saying allow me to apply the three “persona” to myself.

1.     You know me primarily as Jeff Butcher, the pastor.

2.     You know me as a person who preaches, who prays, who teaches, who officiates at weddings, who officiates at funerals, and who attends 10 million meetings.

3.     Basically, you know me as Jeff Butcher, the pastor.

4.     But there are other dimensions to me.

5.     Also I am, Jeff Butcher, husband, as Jan and I have been married for almost 38 years.

6.     38 happy years on my part but you’ll have to ask her if it’s been 38 happy years on her part.

7.     Anyway, we have an emotional relationship and intimacy that you may think you know about, but you don’t.

8.     That’s because our relationship is between the two of us and you are not part of the core of our feelings for one another.

9.     You can observe our relationship but you can only observe, you are not in the emotions Jan and I feel for one another.

10.             The third part of me is that little boy and teenager who grew up in three states, primarily in the town of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and you’ve heard some of the stories I’ve told about my childhood and youth.

11.             So you’ve heard a few of those stories but you don’t know them like my mother did and my father and my sister do.

12.             Those people know Jeff Butcher from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, but you don’t.

13.             So all in all there is a wonderful complexity to me as a human being and to you also.

14.             There is the persona of the pastor, there is the persona of a husband, and there is a persona of a child.

15.             To know me in all my complexity and fullness is to know me in all my personas. (Based on illustration by Markquart, The Trinity, date?)

D.    Folks the same is true with God.

1.     If you want to know God in all of His wonderful complexity and persona then you need to know God who as the Creator of the heavens and the earth is at the same time a loving Father.

2.     You will also be blessed to know God the Son who loved you so much that He sacrificed Himself on the cross for you in order that you might be forgiven of your sins.

3.     Finally you will be empowered to know the presence of God the Holy Spirit who is in you at this very moment.

4.     It is when you know the full persona of God that you really get to know God.

5.     Getting to know more about God in all His fullness is one of the joys of this life.

E.     And it is in our Gospel lesson for today that we read the promise that we can come to know God in all His fullness.

1.     John 16:12-15 is another of the Bible passages where the term Trinity does not appear but the relationship among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is described.

2.     Jesus was preparing to complete His time here on earth and He lamented that He still had many things yet to teach His disciples but those matters would be too much for His disciples to take in and to bear at that time.

3.     Fortunately the time would come when they could bear those teachings and so Jesus explained to His disciples that the Spirit of truth would be sent to them to guide them into all truth.

4.     And Jesus was talking about God’s truth.

5.     The Spirit who would come would speak God’s truth.

6.     God’s truth is Jesus’ truth and Jesus’ truth is the Spirit’s truth and the Spirit’s truth is God’s truth.

7.     God’s truth is not separate from Jesus’ truth and Jesus’ truth is not separate from the Spirit’s truth and the Spirit’s truth is not separate from God’s truth.

8.     That’s because the three are one so if you have encountered one then you have encountered all three.

F.     And having that encounter is what is really most significant as far as I’m concerned.

1.     While I hope that you have a deeper understanding of the Holy Trinity because of what I’ve said today, my greatest hope is that today you’ve had a revelation.

2.     Revelation doesn’t come to you because you’ve thought your way through something.

3.     Revelation is about being open.

4.     Revelation is about experiencing the presence of the Triune God.

5.     Revelation is about having a glow inside of you (or as John Wesley said, “I felt my heart strangely warmed.”) that conveys the blessed assurance that God is with you through the Spirit of the risen Christ.

6.     That is what Jesus promised would happen when He told His disciples that the Spirit of truth would come.

G.    So let us have that experience by using No. 2118 from TFWS “Holy Spirit, Come to Us.”

1.     (Demonstrate tune, review English and Latin, 3 times in English, 3 times in Latin, total of 5)

2.     Get comfortable and let us take an attitude of openness and prayerfulness so that we might feel the Spirit of truth enter us in order to receive the blessing of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit.