Three In One
Today in the church it’s Trinity Sunday, or Heresy Sunday as some theologians call it because of all the bad sermons that try to explain this idea of a Triune God. As Martin Luther once warned, “To try to deny the Trinity endangers your salvation, but to try to comprehend the Trinity endangers your sanity.”
Considered to be one of the most important teachings in Christian faith, the doctrine of the Trinity is also one of the most difficult to understand. It suggests that God is most perfectly revealed as Three, but is really OneIt’s a mathematical conundrum that had our Jewish ancestors confused and writing it off as a bunch of gobbledygook.
Anyone who has spent a lot of time in church has probably seen a minister explain of the Trinity using an egg. It has the shell, the yoke, and that clear gooey stuff; three parts yet one egg. Now think about making an Angel Food cake, which requires using only egg whites. The shell and yoke get tossed out. The problem with this illustration is that it’s impossible to separate God from God.
A better example is water. It can be a liquid, solid, and steam. All unique, yet all the same: H2O. But like doctrine, water it can be polluted…so there’s that.
Last year, Pope Francis used a fidget spinner as an example. “As the spinner spins faster, the three arms seem to become a single disc, yet they maintain their individuality.” He went on to explain that just as an improperly balanced spinner won’t work very well, neither will our faith if our view of God is improperly balanced.
Today I’m not going to try to explain the Trinity, which would be crazy. Instead I’d like to look at how the three work together in us to keep us properly balance with God.
While I thought about this question, my daily bible verse popped up in my notifications feed. It’s the one we read today. Like a divine message, it reveals a lot about the trinity.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly." Titus 2:11-12
Read Paul’s passage again and you will notice that nowhere in these two short verses is the word Trinity mentioned. That’s because the word is nowhere in the bible. But that doesn’t mean the Trinity isn’t there…in a different form…in a different word. That word is Grace.
Right up there with life itself, grace is God’s greatest gift to the world. More than just forgiveness or a get out of jail free card, grace is both an invitation to be in the presence of God… and a call to be the presence of God in all that we do.
Paul writes, “The grace of God has appeared.” But this didn’t just happen randomly. Think about it, in order to receive a gift, the gift must first be given, right? As logic would suggest, for something to appear it must first belong to someone or something.
Everything has a starting point. The chicken had the egg. Or the egg had the chicken. The same way a baby chick is born, the grace of God comes to life in God – the Divine Parent – the first part of the Trinity.
God initiated grace because lets face it, we’d be doomed without it. To quote Hannah Montana “Everybody makes mistakes. Everyone has those days.” Our divine parent knows that “nobody’s perfect, and we got to work it, again and again until we get it right.” Grace is God’s way of saying, “I get you. I love you. And I’m rooting for you to succeed. But please stop singing Hannah Montana!”
Grace originates from God’s heart. And just as it is with God’s love this divine grace knows no boundaries. It is inclusive, given to all who want it – not because we earn it, but because God knows us and knows we need it.
I like the Message’s translation of this passage. It says, “God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone!” Grace shows how God is for us, and wants nothing from us… but us… even if we make mistakes from time to time.
Paul tells Titus, “The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people.” The grace that first appeared in God’s heart comes to us in the fullness of God’s love who is Jesus, the Savior, the second part of the Trinity.
Christians profess Jesus as Lord. And describe him as a shepherd, a rock, a stronghold and refuge, a brother and a friend. In the Bible he is called the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Word of God, and Emmanuel, which means God with us.
There are many ways to speak of Jesus but his purpose remains singular… to bring salvation to all of God’s children. Jesus is the bearer of God’s grace that saves us from ourselves.
Love is what we were created from, and love is what we were made for. Just as God shared Jesus with us, so too are we to share this gift with others. Through Jesus God’s love flows to us, and through us, so that God is with us always.
Paul wrote, “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us in the present age to live lives that are upright, and godly.” As if just getting by in today’s world isn’t hard enough that now we have to be godly? What happen to this idea of “nobodies perfect?”
I’m not so sure God is asking us for perfection but for practicing our faith daily. God gives us grace because living in grace and thriving in love takes practice. Like Hannah Montana, “we got to work it, again and again until we get it right?”
The good news is when we accept the gift of Christ Jesus we also receive the Holy Spirit, the third and final part of the trinity.
As we discovered last week for Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes to us so God can be as close to us as our own breath. The Spirit is our advocate that fights for us, and lifts us up when life knocks us down. Like a personal trainer or life coach, the Spirit keeps us focused on the will of God and trains us to live in Christlikeness.
From God’s mouth to our hearts, the Spirit swirls around creation uniting us to be in kinship with God and with each others. The Holy Spirit is our constant reminder that God is in us – revealing to us the way of Jesus that leads to our salvation.
The Creator, the Savior, and the Sustainer: Three unique parts of One God, working together to unite the world in God’s love.
I fear I have overly simplified the Trinity. And it’s possible I might be called a heretic for doing so. It wouldn’t be the first time. And I doubt it will be the last. Thankfully, God is gracious and forgiving.
So before I get burned at the sake I will leave you with an illustration of the Trinity that has been passed down by the early church fathers. They best described this complex idea as a simple circular dance where all three unique elements of God hold hands and move together to the rhythm of one heartbeat. A lot like the fidget spinner idea, the three dance in sync and in perfect balance – yet they maintain their individuality.
This Divine Dance reminds us that no matter how we define the mystery of God…it will always be a holy community held together by the love of God. We too are created in the image of a loving community. Like one body, made up of different parts, we find our balance being in God’s love and being God’s love to one another.
The Triune God invites you to be in the center of this sacred dance, and welcomes all of us into this heavenly community, naming us children, sons and daughters, heirs to the blessings and grace of Christ Jesus.
In this Spirit we are able to dwell in the gracious love of the God who is for us, the God who is with us, and the God who is in us. Now and forever, Amen.
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has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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