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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Trinity Sunday - 05/22/2016

On this Holy Trinity Sunday, I get to help us look deeper into the Triune God, the image of God that is so unique to Christianity … My first thoughts about the subject this past week were in fact flashbacks to my seminary Systematic Theology classes. These are the classes where we go deeply into our understanding of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and actually this isn’t so very difficult when we look at them individually. But when we look at how our God is a Triune God, when we look at our belief in the concept of One + One + One = One (and not three), it’s not so simple. In fact it’s fairly easy to get into trouble using bad analogies or careless language.

And we seminarians did get into hot water theologically because this is complicated stuff. For instance, if we tried to over-simplify, saying the Triune God is “like” an egg, with yolk, white, and shell, it definitely didn’t go over well with a professor who would explain that there are three separate parts to an egg, but God has no parts. Even using the analogy of three modes of water – ice, liquid, and steam – would be a problem, because water changes its form going from state to state, and God doesn’t change form. In our classroom situation, we’d be called out if we would talk about the one substance of God being mixed or having parts. God has no parts! The persons of the Trinity coexist.

It was hard to wrap our brains around the Trinity, eyes glazing over as we heard the explanations … the three Persons of the Trinity are distinct but not separable … each person, as it were, has only one ingredient: the divine essence which is the one God … each person has the one substance, essence, nature . . . Tough to follow, tough to grasp as young seminarians.

But, … eventually, we all made it through Systematic Theology, and the one thing that has really stuck with me concerning the Trinity is remembering one professor’s image of dance and flow for our Three Persons-in-One God: the flow through imagining a God who creates us in love, who redeems us through the resurrection of Jesus, and who by way of the Spirit joins us together in community. There is movement in this, and if we look at the four scripture readings for today, we can begin to see that flow:

 Proverbs pictures “Wisdom”, a created entity, Wisdom at the very beginning, present as God creates the mountains and the earth, the skies and the sea. We envision Wisdom delighting in humans. And the Psalmist goes on to enlighten as to the role humanity plays in God’s great scheme of things. God, the Father, who created the world and the Father who created us with love and care. 

And then Paul, in his letter to the Romans, speaks of having peace with God through Jesus Christ, telling us, that because of the resurrection, we too, can participate in the glory of God. God, the Son in Jesus Christ, has restored our relationship with the Father through his suffering, death, and resurrection.

And the last of today’s readings from the Gospel of John, has Jesus himself reminding us that the journey with the Holy Spirit will be one of guidance into truth, the truth of the Son and the truth of the Father. This is the same Spirit present when Wisdom was created before the beginning of the world, the same Spirit providing hopeful reassurance to Christ’s community during Paul’s time.

Proverbs, Psalms, Paul, and John, are there to help us understand the dance and flow, but when words fail us and doctrine is too profound and mysterious to truly comprehend, the image of dance is a pretty good way to describe the work of the Creator and source of life; the Redeemer in Christ; and the Sanctifier in whom the church and all creation lives.

Are your eyes starting to glaze over with this mystery? What does all of this mean for us now, in 2016? How can we grasp a little piece of this mystery today?

John’s gospel tells us that Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you…” Jesus has revealed much in his teachings, and the Spirit will continue to reveal. The disciples don’t know everything even though they’ve spent a great deal of time with Jesus. They need the Holy Spirit to share more, to tell more. In John’s Gospel, we hear that the Spirit speaks what the Spirit hears from God as it is revealed by Jesus. The disciples need the Holy Spirit.

And we are just as dependent as the disciples. We don’t have all the answers either, and the truth that we hear today is going to be different than what has been heard through the ages. The truth is dependent on our circumstances now. Our time is not like that of the disciples, it is unlike Martin Luther’s time, and it’s different from that of the era in which many of us were raised. The world continues to change rapidly, and like it or not, the Holy Spirit is continuing to update our understanding of what God has done in Jesus Christ.

Because understanding and interpretation continue to change over time, it brings uncertainty and that can be disconcerting and a bit scary.

At the same time, we don’t get very far believing we can know everything, thinking we have all the answers.

We Lutherans don’t claim to have all the answers. Because we are liberated by our faith, we are freed to ask questions and express uncertainties. Our confirmands have been doing this, asking questions like: “What is Salvation?” and “Why do my friends need to be baptized?” And we should all feel free to ask questions like this. As we’re often told, there aren’t any bad questions. It’s okay that we don’t have it all figured out. It is okay to realize that even though we often have the best of intentions, we mess up and we get things wrong. The Holy Spirit walks beside us, helping us figure out deep and difficult things like faith and forgiveness and redemption, even the Trinity, strengthening us as we go forward in mission to make a positive contribution, as we help those experiencing tough times, times of sadness, times of confusion.

We Lutherans are different. Some of you have probably had a chance to hear the first of the Northern Great Lakes Synod commercials that is making the rounds on social media. As part of the Synod’s commitment to “Witness” in this time of “Worship, Witness, and Welcome”, four commercials have been made to explain what we Lutherans are all about. Much of the first video was filmed right here at Bethany Lutheran, and if you haven’t seen the ad campaign you can access it through a website called “church is good.” Here’s what the first couple videos talk about, and you might be surprised.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is a place to ask questions, to hear a word of hope, to get to know Jesus; it’s a place to find belonging, to make a difference, to be comforted, and to explore the mystery of God. Each of the four videos ends with this statement: “Liberated by faith, we embrace you as a whole person, questions, complexities, and all.”

John’s gospel today reminds us that the Holy Spirit is with us because Jesus did not reveal all when he walked the earth. There was much more to say, then and now. The Spirit continues to guide us in all truth, speaking not on the Spirit’s own but speaking for Christ as an action of the Triune God.

On this Holy Trinity Sunday, I recall the words of Dr. Priebe who said this: Wherever God acts, it is an action of the trinity, with the structure from the Father through the Son/Word and actualized in the Spirit’s power.

The Trinity is a doctrine that is profound and perplexing . . . But we really don’t need to be able to explain it.

The Trinity flows deeply through all that we are, all that we believe as the church.

Amen.

Vicar Terry Frankenstein

 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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