Here we are on the day that the Church celebrates The Most Holy Trinity.
But let me assure you that I am not going to use a Shamrock to try and explain the Holy Trinity. Nor am I going to talk of a mirror with three sides reflecting one person with three different perspectives. In fact, I am not even going to try and explain the mystery of three persons in one. Why? Because we all accept it, we start our prayers by announcing it, we recite it in the Nicene Creed and we just finished celebrating 50 days after Easter, the third nature of God – the Holy Spirit. It is a mystery of our faith that we accept and take into our Christian consciousness.
So what am I going to do? I am going to try and take you deeper into the mystery of the Holy Spirit so that you can appreciate the effect of the Holy Trinity in your daily life.
And I am doing that because of the Gospel that the Church has selected for this Sunday. It is probably one of the best known verses in the Bible.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” You probably sang a paraphrase of this as a child in Sunday school or CCD when you sang: “ Jesus loves me, this I know, because the Bible tells me so.”
It’s also such a great summary of the Christian message, for it tells us of God’s love, it tells us of what that love did for us, and it tells us how we are able to receive that love.
You see the underlying DNA of the Holy Trinity is love but we need to understand that.
We find the love of God, so expressed in the Holy Trinity as God the Father who watches over us and loves us; Jesus, His Son, who died for us so that we might have eternal life and still lives in us or as Mother Theresa once said: “ The cross reminds us of how much Christ loved us and the Eucharist reminds us of how much Christ loves us. Finally, we have the love of God expressed in the Holy Spirit, that constant, internal presence that lives within us, guiding us and helping to remind us of the better path.
We all have different views in our head about who God is and what God is like. God does reveal himself to us throughout the Bible and we learn a few key things about him. We know that he has a bit of the disciplinarian in him, as any good parent has. He has suggested certain things that people should do if they want to live good and healthy lives. He gave us the Ten Commandments. He set up rules for his people to live by. Again, I like to think of this as good parenting. God also tells us in the Bible that he is a jealous God. He wants his people to follow him. God also tells us in the Bible that he is all powerful, but that he gives us control of our own lives. And again and again, he tells us that he loves us. Just what are some of those key indices?
“But that he gave his only begotten Son” — Jesus came into this world for a reason. It wasn’t just a fluke, and Jesus wasn’t just a great teacher. Jesus tells us himself that he was the Son of God. And Jesus did things that only the Son of God could do. But again, Jesus being the Son of God and Jesus coming to this world is a sign of God’s love. Jesus was special. And his coming to this world, which we celebrate each and every Christmas, and his living in this world and teaching us how to live, and his dying for our sins and rising on the third day which we celebrate at Easter time, all were done out of love.
“That whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” — Here is the hope and the part where we come in. If we believe in Jesus, if we accept him as our Savior and Lord, then we shall not perish but have everlasting life. We’ve spent some time at this church talking about what it means to “believe in” Jesus. It’s important to realize that to believe in Jesus doesn’t just mean that we are to accept some facts as true. Instead, our actions and our faith are much more connected. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior we discover that our lives are changed, we discover that we are not living for ourselves anymore but living for him. This is what it means to believe in Jesus. It means that we are to follow him and love him and submit to him. And submission is tough for a lot of people. Because God also gave us free will. Sometimes I wonder whether it was a way of God having fun with us. He gives us free will almost as if He is daring us to choice: use that free will to follow him or use that free will to follow another, darker path – one that alienates us from Him.
And so humanity discovered sin, we discovered unfaithfulness, we discovered selfishness, and we discovered the things that go along with this like pain and death. And we can see throughout history and even in our own lives that these things have a control that sometimes seems overwhelming. We condemn ourselves by living lives of selfishness, by refusing to love our neighbors, by worshipping materiality more than our spiritual relationship with God, by letting pride and fear rule our lives. When these things are in control in our lives, our relationship with God is hurt. There is a divide between us and him that these things cause. And the fact is that we cannot cross that divide. But God, in his wisdom and in his love, sent his Son to cross that divide and show us that we don’t need to let pride and selfishness and fear rule our lives. Instead we can follow him. Instead we can live again as his children and have that good relationship that he created us for. Instead we can allow him into our lives to change our lives. But these things, pride, selfishness, sin, they have power over us, they have a hold on our lives that they aren’t ready to give up.
Look deep in your hearts and tell me that it isn’t so. If your answer is that it isn’t so, then you are truly an exception. Because all of us – all of us – fight that battle every day. And so there needed to be a sacrifice to conquer that power that sin has over us. So God himself offered the sacrifice, in the death of his own Son. And because of this, the condemnation can end. Because of this — the death and resurrection of Jesus– not only can our sins be forgiven, but their power over us is gone.
THISis the freedom that God offers. THIS is the power that God has. THIS is the love that God shows. We all have sins, we all have things that have power over us, even today. We all have problems that we cannot work our way out of. Don’t be ashamed of this, for you aren’t the only one like this.
But wait. There is one other side to this free will coin toss. It comes in the form of the Holy Spirit.
If you want to understand just how creative God can be, look no further than this Sunday’s readings. This is Trinity Sunday, when our minds are challenged to comprehend something that is, frankly, incomprehensible: one God in three persons.
But God’s creativeness so far exceeds our own. And His love overwhelms us.
He is a God who loves us so much…He created us, as God the Father.
He is a God who loves us so much…He became one of us, as God the Son.
And He is a God who loves us so much…He remains with us, as God the Holy Spirit — abiding with us and continuing, in astonishing ways, His creation.
God wants to share Himself with us – to give all that He has.
Here is a God so generous…He gave us Himself, in flesh, to suffer with us and die for us.
Here is a God so generous…He continues to give us Himself, through the appearance of bread and wine, here at this altar.
Here is a God so generous, He shares with us gifts of the Holy Spirit:: wisdom and understanding…courage and piety…knowledge and counsel and fear of the Lord.
Here is a God who loves us beyond our wildest imaginings – three distinct persons, but with limitless possibilities.
And He wants us to discover that, and celebrate that. He is constantly calling out to us.
Now some of you may be saying: OK, nice message about how much God loves us but we know that. You are talking to the choir here.
AM I? AM I?
God created you to live in a special relationship with him. He created you to have a special purpose, a special meaning to your life. He created each of us for this. You don’t need to work yourself to a certain point before he will have anything to do with you. Give him control. Allow him in. He will fill you, he will make the changes he needs with you. You don’t need to get to a certain point before he will say yes to you. He’s saying yes to you right now. He loves you.
It is truly that simple. Accept Jesus, allow him into your life, and you will find salvation, not only from hell, but from the sins and trials that plague you here on earth. God is offering this to you out of love. He is offering this to you because he wants you to live a better life, because he wants you to know the joy that his love brings.
Years ago, a dear friend did a needle point sampler for me, it read “Lord, may my life be a prayer.” Think about that. What a gift if each of us could live our life as a prayer.
You can be a better person. Not because you are able yourself to conquer the sins and difficulties in your life, but because God will conquer them for you. This is what he offers to all who know him and follow him. This is what he offers to all whom he loves. Let him love you, let him be the focus of your life, let him work in you, let him show you the unique special gifs that he gave you, let him make you new.
All of this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen