The Pas Trinity Sunday
11 June 2017
Psalm 8 pg 711
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Holy One, whose fingers sculpted sun and moon; Holy Spirit, who brooded over the waters of creation; How Word, who lives in us; may we share in your grace, love and communion, so that we may live in your likeness; for you live in unity and diversity, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
When we look at them, the readings for today give us a clear picture of the nature, and the varying roles of God. But the readings are doing this because, today, we celebrate the Trinity.
We celebrate the triune nature of God – three persons, one God – a mystery of Christianity that humanity has been discussing, debating and attempting to figure out for over 2000 years, now.
In the readings for today, we see God the Father who creates, and who created each one of us.
We see God the Son who has redeemed each one of us and continues to teach us how to love as we are loved by God; and we see God the Holy Spirit, who is the counsellor, the advocate.
The Holy Spirit is the guide that Jesus promised who continues to be with us, and who leads us in the paths that God wishes us to fulfill in our lives, whose arrival we celebrated last week, and today celebrate the three in one.
To explore this, in our lives, in our faith, we have the three creeds to which Christianity adheres. A creed, by definition, is a statement of faith. It’s a statement by which we live out our faith, it’s something we can rally around and state with confidence our belief, our faith.
We have the Apostles’ Creed which is used regularly, and especially at baptisms. It holds the heart of our faith as Christians, as the children of God.
When we read it, it’s to the point, and it gives us strength when we need it in the crowded and cramped places in our lives. It starts with the strong, confident words “I believe,” which means it is a pillar upon which we lean when we are in need of God, when we need to be reminded that we are the children whom God loves, always.
We have the Nicene Creed that expands upon the succinct words of the Apostles’ Creed. This is the creed we use when we gather together, when we celebrate the seasons and festivals of the Church, as a community with the words “We believe.”
The Nicene Creed talks more of the nature of Jesus, of the Son of God. It talks more of the role of the Holy Spirit. Its language is more formal, and it formally invites us to be a part of the community that makes up the body of Christ, that makes up the children of God.
And often we stop there.
We often forget that there is a third creed, and other than reading it and acknowledging it in the whirlwind of confirmation lessons when we are in our youth.
Having said that, though, the Athanasian creed is our third statement of faith, adopted alongside the other two as we struggle to comprehend the full nature of God. As we seek to learn and understand the interrelatedness of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
At the same time, I absolutely love the Athanasian creed.
It’s not one of the creeds we use on a regular basis because of its length, but as we’ve said, as we see in the words of the creeds, we’re seeking to understand, to comprehend difficult concepts. Concepts that we don’t always agree upon as we discuss and debate and understand the love that God lavishes upon us, as we seek to understand how to live in and with that love.
In his attempt to be succinct, to be direct in how God is three persons in one, it’s a great eye opener, while at the same time, it can make us go cross-eyed as we strive to understand Athanasius’ passion to state the independent, yet interrelated natures and persons of God.
Just one brief ‘disclaimer’, though. The creeds were formulated before the rise of the Roman Catholic church, so when the creeds use the word “catholic”, it means “universal.”
A legend tells us that Athanasius, who was a bishop at Alexandria, Egypt, attended the council of Nicaea in the 4th century, and after one heated session on the triune nature of God, he wrote this creed on his journey home to Alexandria from Nicaea. The legend tells us he wrote this creed from the back of his donkey as he traveled home.
We can see that it is a creed that is infused with his passion to understand the interconnected, yet independent nature of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three persons, yet one God.
So, the Athanasian creed says:
Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith. Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally.
Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in Unit, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.
For the Father is one person, the Son is another and the Spirit is still another.
But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.
What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit.
Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Holy Spirit.
The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite.
Eternal is the Father; eternal is the Son; eternal is the Spirit: And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal; as there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited.
Almighty is the Father; almighty is the Son; almighty is the Spirit: And yet there are not three almighty beings, but one who is almighty.
Thus the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God: And yet there are not three gods, but one God.
Thus the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord: And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord.
As Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.
The father was neither made nor created nor begotten; the Son was neither made nor created, but was alone begotten of the Father; the Spirit was neither made nor created, but is proceeding from the Father and the Son.
Thus there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons, one Holy Spirit, not three spirits.
And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons.
Whoever wants to be saved should think thus about the Trinity.
It is necessary for eternal salvation that one also faithfully believe that our Lord Jesus Christ became flesh.
For this is the true faith that we believe and confess: That our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is both God and man. He is God, begotten before all worlds from the being of the Father, and his man, born in the world from the being of his mother – existing fully as God, and fully as man with a rational soul and a human body; equal to the Father in divinity, subordinate to the Father in humanity. Although he is God and man, he is not divided, but is one Christ.
He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity. He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures. For as the rational soul and body are one person, so the one Christ is God and man.
He suffered death for our salvation. He descended into hell and rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
At his coming all people shall rise bodily to give an account of their own deeds. Those who have done good will enter eternal life, those who have done evil will enter eternal fire. This is the catholic faith. One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.
And yet, in their words of encouragement, we can often get lost in the explanation of the interrelated and independent nature of God. A language that is intended to allow us to see God, three persons, one Trinity.
At the same time, when we contemplate God without the community around us, we often forget that we’re part of the larger family of God, the body of Christ.
So, looking back at the readings for today, the reading from 2 Corinthians offers words that are designed to bring us together, to help us to uphold and encourage each other, because even as we see God’s three natures, three persons, we also see that God is one God, not three gods, as we are one community of many participants.
Paul tells us, “Encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Cor 13:11b)
There was a time, when we would live our lives on our front porches, on our back decks, in each other’s lives. But life has changed, and today we live our lives in our homes, isolated from each other, and yet, still looking for God, looking for companionship, looking for that sense of family, of community.
Well, I can say that here, we have family. Here, we have God in our midst. Here we have each other.
The Celtic expressions of Christianity are great in their attempt to remind us that we are a necessary part of creation, and that this includes a connection to all of nature, and to the rhythms of the seasons around us, as well. They emphasize that we are an integral part of the creation that God has made, that the Son redeems, that the Holy Spirit guides and encourages.
We can see this in the reading from Genesis, when we recount God’s ‘hands on’ approach creation, including creating you and me, and all of humanity.
We can see this in the words of Paul as he urges us to pull together, not only in this time and place as we seek to be the people of God, but also reaching out to those who aren’t here, to those who share our heart centred in God around the region, around the world.
We can see this in the words of the gospel as Jesus encourages us to share the message of God’s love, as we are encouraged to invite everyone we know and love to join us we revel in the words of the creeds, as we come together as the body of Christ, as the children of God, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.