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ROMANS 8:12-17|ONCE, TWICE, THREE TIMES A GOD

May 30, 2018
Posted by Office Staff

ONCE, TWICE, THREE TIMES A GOD

ROMANS 8:12-17

MAY 27, 2018

 

WITH APOLOGIES TO LIONEL RICHIE, AND EVEN MORE SO TO GOD, I BORROWED AND MODIFIED RICHIE’S SONG TITLE, AND TURNED IT INTO MY SERMON TITLE FOR THIS MORNING: ONCE, TWICE, THREE TIMES A GOD.

 

THIS MORNING IS TRINITY SUNDAY.  THE CHURCH’S ANNUAL OBSERVANCE WHEN IT FOCUSES ON THE TRINITY – GOD, FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT.

 

“GOD IN THREE PERSONS, BLESSED TRINITY!”  WHY SHOULD WE CARE?

 

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE THAT CHRISTIANS BELIEVE IN ONE GOD WHO IS REVEALED IN THREE WAYS?

 

WE’LL GET TO THAT, BUT BEFORE DOING SO, LET ME TELL YOU WHAT I’M NOT GOING TO DO THIS MORNING.  I AM NEITHER GOING TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND NOR EXPLAIN THE TRINITY TO US.  WHY?

 

WELL, ONE, IT’S IMPOSSIBLE.  TWO, THE CHURCH HAS TRIED TO DO SO FOR 2000+ YEARS AND HAS NEVER REALLY SUCCEEDED.  AND THREE, NEITHER EXPLAINING NOR UNDERSTANDING IS REALLY ALL THAT HELPFUL IN THE LONG RUN…

 

AND BELIEVE YOU ME, I HAVE TRIED OVER THE YEARS.  I’VE USED EVERY METAPHOR AND ILLUSTRATION FOR THE TRINITY THERE IS.  THE CLASSICS – FATHER, SON, AND HOLY GHOST;

 

THE HAND OF GOD (FATHER), THE LAMB OF GOD (SON), AND THE DOVE (THE HOLY SPIRIT).

 

I’VE USED ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING WITH THREE SIDES TO IT – A TRIANGLE, THE TREFOIL, THE THREE LEAF CLOVER (LIKE ST. PATRICK USED), THE FLEUR-DE-LIS, THREE OVERLAPPING CIRCLES, THREE ENCIRCLING FISH.

 

I’VE TRIED TO EXPLAIN IT TO THE CHILDREN USING THREE FORMS OF WATER – LIQUID, ICE, AND STEAM.  AND AS A TREE – WITH ITS DIFFERENT PARTS – ROOTS, TRUNK, FRUIT.

 

I’VE EXPLAINED TO THEM HOW I AM A HUSBAND TO KAREN, A FATHER TO OUR CHILDREN, AND THE PASTOR OF THE CHURCH – ONE PERSON, THREE ROLES.

 

I’VE TWISTED THREE CHORDS INTO ONE ROPE; I’VE EVEN RECITED THE THREE MUSKETEER’S OATH – “ALL FOR ONE, AND ONE FOR ALL.”

 

THOSE OF YOU WHO READ THE BOOK, THE SHACK, WILL REMEMBER HOW THE AUTHOR OF THAT BOOK PORTRAYED GOD THE “FATHER” AS A BLACK WOMAN;

 

GOD THE SON, AS A RUGGED CARPENTER; AND GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT, AS AN ASIAN WOMAN IN A MULTI-COLORED DRESS.

 

OUR CHURCH’S CONFESSION, CREEDS, AND CATECHISMS HAVE TRIED TO EXPLAIN; AND HELP US UNDERSTAND THE TRINITY OVER THE CENTURIES, PERHAPS ONLY MUDDYING THE WATERS IN THE PROCESS.

 

MY GUESS IS, AFTER ALL OF THAT, AND MORE, WE ARE NO CLOSER TO UNDERSTANDING OR EXPLAINING THE TRINITY THAN WE WERE BEFORE;

 

AND THAT’S WHY I’LL NOT GO DOWN THAT PATH THIS MORNING, BUT INSTEAD, TRY TO TALK ABOUT OUR EXPERIENCES OF THE TRINITY.

 

MY GOOD BUDDY, AND FAVORITE AUTHOR, FREDRICH BUECHNER, TALKS ABOUT THE TRINITY LIKE THIS:

 

“FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT MEAN THAT THE MYSTERY BEYOND US, THE MYSTERY AMONG US, AND THE MYSTERY WITHIN US, ARE ALL THE SAME MYSTERY.  THUS, THE TRINITY IS A WAY OF SAYING SOMETHING ABOUT US AND THE WAY WE EXPERIENCE GOD.”

 

TRUTH IS – WHILE WE BELIEVE IN ONE GOD IN THREE PERSONS;

 

ANOTHER TRUTH IS – WE PROBABLY HAVE A FAVORITE – THE PART OF THE TRINITY ON WHOM WE FOCUS MOST OF OUR ATTENTION; MAYBE, EVEN, ON WHOM WE FOCUS MOST OF OUR LOVE; THE PART THAT IS MOST HELPFUL FOR US.

 

FOR SOME OF US, THAT WOULD BE GOD THE FATHER; THE GOD BEYOND US; THE GOD OVER US, AND OVER ALL THINGS; THE GOD IN CONTROL OF ALL THINGS.

 

FOR US, THIS IS THE GOD WHO IS UP THERE, OUT THERE, SOMEWHERE, AND EVERYWHERE AT THE SAME TIME.  THE ALL KNOWING, ALL SEEING, ALL POWERFUL GOD, WHO RULES OVER ALL.

 

A LOVING GOD, YES, BUT ONE WHO IS MORE GIVEN TO POWER AND CONTROL, AND CREATING THINGS, AND MAKING THINGS HAPPEN.  BIG THINGS!  COSMIC THINGS!  THE GOD OF THE BIG PICTURE!

 

BUT, ALSO, THE GOD OF THE THINGS IN OUR LIVES; AND IN THE LIVES OF THOSE WE LOVE; THE GOD WHO’S AVAILABLE TO US WHENEVER, WHEREVER WE NEED GOD TO BE;

FOR THINGS LIKE HEALING, AND IN TIMES OF TROUBLE; THE GOD OF OUR NEEDS, OF HEALTH, AND WEALTH, AND WELL-BEING.

 

THE GOD TO WHOM WE PRAY FOR THINGS, FOR OURSELVES AND OTHERS, SOME WHICH WE (THEY) DESPERATELY NEED; AND OTHERS MAYBE NOT AS MUCH.

 

WE LIKE THE GOD OF THE BIG PICTURE, WHO CAN ALSO GET DOWN WITH THE DETAILS OF OUR LIVES, WHENEVER, WHEREVER WE NEED GOD TO DO SO.

 

THEN THERE ARE THOSE OF US WHO ARE MORE COMFORTABLE WITH, AND COMFORTED BY, AND HAVE A GREATER AFFINITY FOR, GOD THE SON.

 

JESUS.  OUR FRIEND.  OUR BROTHER.  THE TANGIBLE GOD.  THE ONE WE CAN SEE, AND HEAR, AND TOUCH, AND HOLD ONTO, AND WHO CAN HOLD ONTO US, WHEN WE NEED IT MOST.  THE ONE WHOSE WORDS WE CAN READ.

 

WE LOVE GOD THE SON THE MOST.  WE LOVE HIM BECAUSE “HE WALKS WITH US, AND TALKS WITH US, AND TELL US WE ARE HIS OWN.”

 

GOD THE SON, THE ONE WHO SEEMS TO BE THE MORE (OR THE MOST) LOVING PERSON OF THE GODHEAD.

 

THE SON, WHO GAVE US THE BEATITUDES, AND THE GOLDEN RULE, AND PARABLES, AND MIRACLES, AND WHO TELLS US TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS HE LOVES US; WHO TELLS US TO FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER AS HE FORGIVES US.

 

GOD THE SON WHO TAUGHT US TO PRAY: “OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN…”

 

IT IS THE SON WHO SHOWS US WHO GOD IS, AND WHO WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE; THE RELATABLE GOD.

 

THE ONE WHO LOVED US SO MUCH, THAT HE WAS WILLING TO DIE FOR US – TO SHOW US WHAT FORGIVENESS, LOVE, MERCY, GRACE, AND PEACE REALLY LOOK LIKE.

 

GOD THE SON, WHO WILL BE OUR JUDGE COME JUDGEMENT DAY, BUT – WHO HAS ALREADY BEEN JUDGED IN OUR PLACE, SO THAT HE MIGHT WELCOME US WITH OPEN ARMS INTO GOD’S ETERNAL HOME.

 

THEN THERE IS GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT.  THE PART OF THE GODHEAD WHO IS MOST LOVED BY THOSE WHO LIKE A LITTLE MYSTERY WITH THEIR GOD.

 

THE FILMY, ETHEREAL GOD.  THE GOD WHO YOU CANNOT SEE, BUT WHO BLOWS THROUGH OUR LIVES, AND ALL OF LIFE, THE EFFECTS OF WHICH YOU CAN SEE, IN THE TREES, IN THE WORLD, IN PEOPLE’S LIVES, IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH.

A GOD NEITHER FAR AWAY AND IN CONTROL; NOR THE GOD BESIDE US, WHO LOVES US LIKE A BROTHER; BUT THE GOD WHO IS WITHIN/WITHOUT; AND WITHIN ALL THINGS.

 

THE GOD WHO IS AT ONCE COMFORTING AND INSPIRING; THE FEELING GOD AND THAT FEELING WE HAVE – THAT IS INDESCRIBABLE – A FEELING OF LOVE, AND CARE, AND COMFORT, AND JOY, AND PEACE, AND ABIDING.

 

GOD THE SPIRIT IS THAT POWER THAT IS WITHIN US AND BEYOND US; THAT WE CAN’T QUITE PUT OUR FINGER ON; A FEELING OF TRANQUILITY, EVEN IN PLACES THAT ARE ANYTHING BUT; THAT FEELING THAT EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY.

 

BUT, AS WE SAID LAST SUNDAY, ON PENTECOST, THAT SPECIAL DAY OF THE COMING OF GOD’S SPIRIT, IT IS ALSO THE GOD WHO CAN SET OUR HAIR ON FIRE, OUR TONGUES A WAGGING, AND OUR HEARTS TO CARING.

 

THE GOD OF PASSION, AND JUSTICE, AND INSPIRATION.  THE SPIRIT THAT ENLIGHTENS, ENCOURAGES, EMPOWERS, ENABLES, ENNOBLES, AND IN-SPIRITS US TO DO FAR MORE THAN WE CAN THINK OR IMAGINE.

 

IT IS THE SPIRIT – THE STEAM THAT DRIVES THE ENGINE OF OUR LIVES OF FAITH, MOVING US FORWARD TO ACCOMPLISH THE WILL OF GOD FOR OUR LIVES; FOR THE LIVES OF OTHERS; AND FOR THE WORLD;

 

THAT “GOD’S KINGDOM MIGHT COME, AND GOD’S WILL MIGHT BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.”

 

MY GUESS IS WE EACH HAVE A FAVORITE PART OF THE TRINITY; THE PART WE LOVE MOST; THE PART WITH WHOM WE FEEL THE GREATEST AFFINITY.

 

BUT WHAT WE KNOW TOO, IS THAT FEELING, THAT LOVE, THAT AFFINITY WITH ONE OR THE OTHER OF THE PARTS OF THE TRINITY…

 

(AND HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS!)

 

IS THAT IT CAN CHANGE FROM TIME TO TIME; DAY TO DAY; FROM CIRCUMSTANCE TO CIRCUMSTANCE; FROM EXPERIENCE TO EXPERIENCE, OR EVEN WITHIN AN EXPERIENCE.

 

MOMENT BY MOMENT, MINUTE BY MINUTE, INSTANT TO INSTANT, THE PART OF THE TRINITY THAT IS BOTH MOST ACCESSIBLE TO US, AND MOST HELPFUL TO US, CAN CHANGE!

 

ONE MINUTE WE MAY NEED THE BIG, BOLD GOD IN CHARGE OF IT ALL;

 

IN THE NEXT, WE MAY NEED A FRIEND IN JESUS; AND A MOMENT LATER, A COMFORTER, THE BLESSED SPIRIT OF PEACE.

 

THEN THERE ARE THOSE TIMES WHEN WE NEED TO KNOW THAT GOD KNOWS WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE US; WHAT IT’S LIKE TO LIVE IN THIS LIFE, THIS WORLD;

 

LIKE JESUS KNOWS.  “NOBODY KNOWS THE TROUBLES I’VE SEEN, NOBODY KNOWS LIKE JESUS.” 

 

ONLY TO FIND, THEN, LIKE JESUS, WE NEED THE HELP OF ABBA, FATHER, TO SEE OUR WAY THROUGH.

 

IN THE UNDEFINABLE, INEXPLICABLE, WHEN NOTHING MAKES SENSE, WHEN NO ANSWERS OR EXPLANATIONS ARE FORTHCOMING, IT IS THE SPIRIT OF GOD, WHO IS ALL OF THESE THINGS AS WELL, WHO IS BEST ABLE TO COMFORT US.

 

THE STRENGTH, AND POWER, TO MOVE FORWARD; TO PUT ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER AND TAKE THAT FIRST STEP INTO THE UNKNOWN.

 

AND, PERHAPS, IT IS HERE, THAT WE BEGIN TO SEE THE GENIUS OF THE TRINITY; THE UBER GENIUS OF GOD – FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT;

 

AVAILABLE TO US IN WHATEVER TIME AND PLACE IN WHATEVER FORM OR FASHION WE NEED.

 

THE MYSTERY BEYOND, AND THE MYSTERY AMONG, AND THE MYSTERY WITHIN, ALL COMING TOGETHER IN SUCH A WAY THAT WE EXPERIENCE THE TRUE PRESENCE OF GOD.

 

AND SO, WE’VE COME FULL CIRCLE, AND BACK TO OUR ORIGINAL QUESTION ABOUT THE TRINITY: WHY SHOULD WE CARE?  WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

 

I HOPE I’VE HELPED ANSWER THE SECOND OF THOSE QUESTIONS, AT LEAST IN PART, BY DESCRIBING OUR EXPERIENCES OF THE TRINITY.

 

AS TO THE FIRST QUESTION, “WHY SHOULD WE CARE?” WELL, THERE ARE LOTS OF ANSWERS, BUT LET ME GIVE YOU TWO.

 

FIRST, IN THE TRINITY, WE FIND OUR MODEL FOR COMMUNITY; FOR GETTING ALONG; FOR LIVING, AND WORKING, AND PRAYING, AND WORSHIPPING, AND SERVING TOGETHER.

 

IT REALLY IS “ALL FOR ONE, AND ONE FOR ALL.”  THE THREE CHORDED ROPE.  THE WATER, ICE, AND STEAM.  THE HAND, THE LAMB, THE DOVE.

 

AS GOD THE FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT RELATE TO ONE ANOTHER, DEMONSTRATE LOVE FOR EACH OTHER, AND WORK IN CONCERT TO ACCOMPLISH THE PURPOSE OF GOD IN THE WORLD, WE GET THE IDEA OF COMMUNITY; OF WHAT IT IS WE SHOULD BE ABOUT.

 

THIS IDEA OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FATHER, SON, AND SPIRIT HAS BEEN DEPICTED BY MANY CHRISTIAN SCHOLARS USING THE TERM “PERICHORESIS.”

 

THAT’S A GREEK WORD WHICH MEANS, LITERALLY, “DANCING AROUND.”

 

I LIKE THE IMPLICATIONS OF GOD — FATHER, SON, AND SPIRIT — IN A DIVINE DANCE, INTERACTING WITH ONE ANOTHER, EXPRESSING LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER, AND COMPLEMENTING THE WORK EACH HAS TO DO.

 

AND, THIS IS US, AS BELIEVERS IN THE TRINITY, TOO.

 

LOVING ONE ANOTHER, WALKING HAND IN HAND, WORKING SIDE BY SIDE, LOVING ONE ANOTHER.

 

THE TRINITY GIVES US OUR MISSION AS BELIEVERS, AND AS THE CHURCH.

 

AS GOD THE FATHER SENT THE SON, AND THE SON BREATHED OUT THE SPIRIT, SO GOD, FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT SENDS US OUT INTO THE WORLD TO DO THE WORK OF GOD;

 

AND TO OFFER GOD’S SPIRIT, GOD’S PRESENCE, SO THAT OTHERS MAY EXPERIENCE GOD IN THEIR OWN WAYS; IN THEIR OWN TIMES OF NEED AND JOY.

 

WHILE YOU’LL NOT FIND THE WORD TRINITY IN THE BIBLE, AND THERE ARE ONLY A FEW PASSAGES, LIKE OUR PASSAGE FROM ROMANS THIS MORNING THAT EVEN ALLUDE TO THE IDEA OF GOD IN THREE PERSONS;

 

BOTH THE BIBLICAL WITNESS, AND OUR EXPERIENCES OF GOD, WOULD SEEM TO SUPPORT OUR TRINITARIAN UNDERSTANDING AND EXPLANATION OF GOD.

 

“WHEN WE CRY ‘ABBA, FATHER!’ IT IS THAT VERY SPIRIT BEARING WITNESS WITH OUR SPIRIT THAT WE ARE CHILDREN OF GOD, AND IF CHILDREN, THEN HEIRS, HEIRS OF GOD AND JOINT HEIRS WITH CHRIST –

 

IF, IN FACT, WE SUFFER WITH HIM SO THAT WE MAY ALSO BE GLORIFIED WITH HIM.”

 

IN THE END, THE MYSTERY BEYOND, THE MYSTERY AMONG, AND THE MYSTERY WITHIN, ALL BEING THE SAME MYSTERY, MAY BE AS CLOSE AS WE’LL EVER GET TO EXPERIENCING THE ONE IN THREE, AND THE THREE IN ONE, WHOM WE CALL GOD.

 

 

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