May 27, 2010 1 Comment
The Holy Trinity Sunday Yr C, 30/05/2010
Ps 8 & Jn 16:12-15
Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
“God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity”
After a major downpour filled all the potholes in the streets and alleys, a young mother watched her two little boys playing in a puddle through her kitchen window. The older of the two, a five-year old, grabbed his younger brother by the back of his head and shoved his face into the water hole. As the boy recovered and stood laughing and dripping, the mother runs to the yard in a panic.
‘Why on earth did you do that to your little brother?!’ she asks as she shook the older boy in anger.
‘We were just playing ‘church’ mommy,’ he said. ‘And I was baptizing him in the name of the Father, the Son, and in the hole he goes.’
Speaking of holes, and water in them, there is a story about one of Christianity’s most famous theologians and bishops, Augustine, who lived in North Africa in the fourth and fifth century. As the story has it, one day Augustine was walking along the beach by the ocean and pondering the deep mystery of God the Holy Trinity. He met a boy there on the beach who had dug a hole in the sand and kept busy running back and forth from the hole to the ocean; collecting water and pouring it into the hole. Augustine was curious about this, so he asked the boy: “What are you doing?” The boy replied: “I’m going to pour the entire ocean into this hole.” Augustine then said: “That is impossible, the whole ocean will not fit into your hole.” And the boy answered Augustine: “Neither can the infinite God the Holy Trinity fit into your finite mind.”
How true that is! Our minds are limited and finite; they cannot possibly know all there is to know about the infinite and unlimited “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.” Over the centuries much ink has been spilled out and many books have been written on the deepest mystery of the Christian faith—God the Holy Trinity. Yet, when all is said and done, God the Holy Trinity remains our deepest mystery.
Who is this God that we worship? Well, one way we speak of God is as the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier; or Father (and in recent times also Mother), Son and Holy Spirit. In today’s Psalm, we have a picture of God the Creator, who is “our Sovereign,” our King and Ruler. He is not the same as creation—rather, he is set above the heavens and rules the whole universe, which he created by speaking it into existence through his word. The Creator God we say is all-knowing (omniscient), all-powerful (omnipotent), and all-present (omnipresent).
Before this God the Creator of a vast universe, the psalmist is aware that we human beings are small and finite creatures. I think that we too can identify with the psalmist’s feeling of finitude and smallness in comparison with the vastness of the universe. We too feel small beside an ocean; or on a mountain-top; or on the flat prairie looking to the far horizon; or when we are lost inside a forest, standing beside the tall, stately Douglas fir trees in places like Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island; or on a hot summer night when the sky is clear and we stretch out on the grass and gaze up at the stars. All of these experiences of God’s creation give us a sense of smallness and finitude.
Yet, the psalmist doesn’t end there. Rather, the Psalm goes into a hymn of praise to God the Creator for creating human beings as “a little lower than God.” As beings created “a little lower than God,” in God’s image, we are given the privileged and very responsible role as stewards of God’s creation. The psalmist, speaking of our role, states that God has “given them—i.e. human beings—dominion over the works of your—i.e. God’s—hands.” Our connection with God the Creator then is in caring for his creation and all of the various life-forms within the creation. Sad to say, we have, in our sinfulness, interpreted the words “dominion over” as permission to exploit and even abuse God’s creation to such an extent that many species have either become extinct or are in danger of extinction. In short, we have not always been responsible, caring stewards of God’s creation. Our highly technological and urbanized world doesn’t help us in this respect either—since the more urban and technological our lifestyle becomes; the more we seem to lose our connection with God’s creation. That is why some folks today are endeavouring to try to “live more simply that others may simply live.” So there are folks who grow organic foods and try to limit their diet to food products that are native to their geographical region—rather then import mass produced foods from all over the world, which contain harmful additives and preservatives and are produced by workers who are paid very poorly. As responsible stewards of God’s creation, many folks are also trying to rely more on alternative, environmentally-friendly energy sources such as wind and solar. These and other environmentally conscious options seem more in harmony with God’s creation and our role as responsible, caring stewards of creation.
Looking at today’s gospel now, Jesus speaks of God the Holy Trinity in a rather interesting way. Jesus speaks of the unity, the oneness of God in three persons when he says: “All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he—i.e. the Holy Spirit—will take what is mine and declare it to you.” Over the centuries there have been different ways of explaining the unity, the oneness of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. However, the more I think about it, the more I think of a marriage relationship. A loving, healthy marriage relationship is a fulfillment of the promise in the book of Genesis that “the two shall become one flesh.” Yes, they are two separate, unique human beings. Yet, when they become husband and wife, they are one flesh. I know from my experiences over the years that to be true. The longer my wife and I live together as husband and wife; the more it seems that we think like each other. I’m amazed sometimes when we witness some sort of event and both of us think the same thing and make some comment about it that the other one agrees with one-hundred percent. In many things, we both think alike and behave in the same way—so yes, the two do become one flesh. So too with God the Holy Trinity—each person is unique, yet they are one God—sharing the same thoughts and qualities.
One of the interesting aspects of Jesus’ words concerning the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. In this role, the Holy Spirit functions as God’s accurate communications expert.
Many of you may have been involved in a popular communications exercise at some time. The exercise is as follows. There are several persons sitting in a room. One person whispers a specific message in the person’s ear sitting next to them. That person then whispers the message to the person next to them, and so on, until the last person receives the message. Do you know what happens? Is the message that the first person gave the same message that the last person receives? I have been amazed to learn how the message gets distorted, changed, and sometimes to such an extent that the final receiver has the exact opposite message of the original one.
In our gospel, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit is an accurate communications expert. The message the Holy Spirit receives from God the Father and Son is communicated accurately, exactly as the same message as the other two persons of the Trinity. So we can trust the reliability and accuracy of God the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth concerning God the Holy Trinity. In a world full of sin and sinners, the truth often gets distorted beyond recognition. We can trust in our Triune God who, thanks to the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to us through God’s word.
The central truth about “God in three persons, blessed Trinity,” is that the Holy Spirit gives us the faith to believe the words of Jesus who says that he is God come down from heaven to be a human being—that is our clearest picture of God. In human communication, we are most likely to trust and believe someone who is like us and can understand and accept us; someone with whom we have a lot in common; speaks our language and shares in our experiences. God loved you and me and the human race so much that God became like one of us in the human flesh and blood person whom we call Jesus of Nazareth. All that we need to know and believe about God the Holy Trinity has been revealed to us through Jesus who shared in our humanness in every way, except that he was without sin. For that, thanks be to God!