1 + 1 + 1 = 1 (No, it’s not “new math”)

The Pas                       Trinity Sunday

Year A – 11 June 2017

Genesis 1:1-2:4

Psalm 8 pg 711

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Matthew 28:16-20

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.

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When we look at them, the readings for today give us a clear picture of the nature, and of the varying roles of God. But the readings are doing this because, today, we celebrate the Trinity.

Today, 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, as well as absolutely every aspect and everything within creation.

We see God, the Son, who redeems each one of us through the passion, crucifixion, and resurrection; and he 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 and the one-in-three.

To explore this mystery, 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.

First, 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, as well as encapsulating our baptismal promises before God and each other with, and on behalf of, the newly baptized.

When we read it, it’s poignant, it’s to the point, and it’s able to give us the strength we need 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 now, and always.

Then, we have the Nicene Creed that expands upon the concise words of the Apostles’ Creed. This is the creed we use when we gather together, when we celebrate the seasons and the festivals of the Church, as a community with the words: “We believe.”

The Nicene Creed talks more of the nature of the Son of God, and 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, to be a participant in the community that makes up the body of Christ, that makes up the children of God.

And often we stop there, satisfied that in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds we’ve managed to describe the triune nature of God, because, if we ponder it, this is a really, really big mystery.

We often forget that there is a third creed in our faith lives as Christians, and other than reading it or maybe acknowledging its presence in the whirlwind of confirmation lessons, in our youth, we generally don’t return to it; this is the Athanasian Creed.

And we often don’t return to it because it’s long. It’s confusing, and it tends to make us dizzy, even when we’re just sitting there reading it.

The Athanasian creed is, corporately, our third statement of faith, adopted alongside the other two as we struggle to describe, to comprehend the full triune 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 used on a regular basis because of its length, and it’s language, 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 often don’t agree upon as we discuss, debate, and seek to understand the love that God lavishes upon us, as we strive to understand how to live in, with, and through that love.

In his attempt to be succinct with such a complex topic, to be direct in how God is three persons in one, and one person in three, it’s a great eye opener.

At the same time, it can make us go cross-eyed as we strive to understand Athanasius’ desire 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, and to help us to do the same.

So, the Athanasian creed says:

Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith. …

Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.

And Athanasius goes on from there attempting to define and to explain as clearly as possible what is truly a mystery to us all.

And yet, in their words of encouragement, we are often able to get lost in the explanation of the interrelated and independent natures of God. A language that is intended to allow us to see God, in three persons, in one Trinity.

Athanasius uses such words as: “uncreated,” “infinite,” “eternal,” “unlimited,” “almighty”. He returns again and again to the idea that this is one God in three persons with three similar but not quite the same natures, beings, and purposes. As I’d said earlier, he strives to be succinct, to be clear and concise in describing that our hearts tell us is real, that the pages of the bible describe to us in myriads of little and big ways, and upon which our faith rests.

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.

And what is this able to give us, today, as we seek to find our way forward in our world where the rules are changing faster than some change their socks? (Personally, I’m not necessarily in favour of socks, so…)

In looking back at the readings for today, Paul 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 with many participants who makes up the body of Christ.

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 willingly our lives on our front porches, on our back decks, looking over each other’s fences, and in many ways in each other’s lives. But life has changed, and not just because we are faced with a pandemic. Today we are more inclined to live our lives in our homes, physically 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, even though we are currently physically separated from each other and making use of live casting to connect with each other in a corporate way.

Here, we have God in our midst.

Here we have each other. Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus tells us: “20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”” And today’s gospel says: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.””(Mt. 18:20, 28:20b))

So, whether that body of Christ that is our family of faith gathers who here, there, online, in our backyards, or across lanes, roadways, provinces, or nations, Christ is with us. And if Christ is with us, then so is the Holy Spirit, and then so is the Father and Creator of the Universe.

And we know this because we are looking at the triune nature of God, one in three and three in one, always.

The Celtic expressions of Christianity are wonderful in their attempt to remind us that we are a necessary part of the creation of God the Father, 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, not just once a year, but every day, in every way we are able to imagine.

We 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 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 through reaching out to those who aren’t able to be here, to those who share our heart centred in God, around the world.

We 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.

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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