Scripture Readings: Genesis 1:1–2:4 | Psalm 8 | 2 Corinthians 13:11–13 | Matthew 28:16–20
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Have you ever had someone tell a story about you that wasn’t true?
It could be a bad story… a slanderous story… one that undermines your character and reputation, making it harder for people to trust and want to get to know you.
Or it could be a good story… a flattering story… one that makes you seem more exciting, more virtuous… or more attractive to others than you might otherwise appear.
Either way though, regardless of whether the story is good or bad in our eyes, whether we face slander or flattery the problem is the same if the story’s not true: false stories keep us from being known as we truly are.
They get in the way of us forming real relationships. Of knowing and being known. Of loving and being loved.
In short, distorted stories prevent us from truly sharing our life with others. They become barriers we have to overcome with our words and our actions, so that those we long to share our lives with can encounter and come to know, trust, and even love us for who we really are.
It's not just about accurate information, it’s about the basis of our relationships. Without sharing our true stories, we will always remain a mystery to one another.
If this is true for our relationships with one another, with our fellow humans… imagine the importance of knowing true stories about the Living God!
There are so many conflicting stories about who God is… about what God is like… about what God has, or has not done… about God’s intentions for the world, and for all who dwell in it. How are we to come to know, and trust, and love God, if we don’t know the truth about Him?
Of course, this is not just a question of choosing between the stories of God told by different religions. It’s a challenge that exists within every faith community as well! Every religious group has to deal with tensions and questions of this sort: How do we know who it is we are to worship? Who we’re called to orient our lives around? Who we are to love, and serve, and entrust our stories to?
The early Christians had to sort through these kinds of questions, but like us, they had been given a tremendous gift: the story of the Living God found in the Bible, the Holy Scriptures. They believed the stories of what we call the Old Testament, the sacred Hebrew texts faithfully passed down for countless generations, as well as the writings of the Apostles in the New Testament: the Gospel accounts and pastoral letters linking the stories of the Living God in the Old Testament to the story of Jesus Christ, and the new community of His followers.
The Holy Scriptures, Old and New together are an amazing gift. And yet, the early Christians still had many questions. They still struggled to wrap their heads around the Living God they were coming to know, and trust, and love… and this became an even bigger challenge when the Church began to spread… when the Good News was shared with people far from Jerusalem, and who had never heard the true stories about the Living God. With people who had stories of their own that didn’t match up with the stories of God found in the Holy Scriptures.
In many ways, their situation is not all that different from ours. In our day, there are so many, even here in New Brunswick, who have not heard the true story of the Living God. What does that reality ask of you and I today? How might we be called to help our neighbours come to know, and trust, and love the Living God?
As our early Christian sisters and brothers prayed and wrestled with these kinds of questions, searching for the truth about the Living God through the Holy Scriptures, they came to see the need for clear statements and guides to help them stay on track… to help them remember the true heart of the story of the Living God, and keep them from twisting the story of Scripture to try and make God fit their own agendas.
And so, the Creeds came into being: attempts to clarify what it was that the Church truly believed… what the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ was all about.
The word creed comes from the Latin word “creedo”, which simply means: “I believe”. And in the first few centuries after Jesus first sent His followers out into the world, to make disciples of all nations, and teach them to obey everything He had taught them, the Church was proclaiming the Apostle’s Creed, and a bit later on they added the Nicene Creed… telling the story of who Christians believed the Living God to really be.
And they found they could not tell the true story of the Living God encountered in the Bible without speaking of God the Father, and Jesus Christ, God’s Son, and the Holy Spirit of God.
All Three shared in what it means to be God… all Three were United, and yet in some way were distinct from one another. They knew there was only One God. And yet these Three all shared in God’s unique identity. Eventually, to speak of the Living God Christians began to use the word Trinity. Tri-Unity. Three-In-One, and One-In-Three.
And so today, many centuries later, we Christians celebrate Trinity Sunday: joyfully worshipping the Living God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Contemplating together this beautiful story of who the Living God has shown Himself to be: From before time began, and forever more, God is Three-In-One, and One-In-Three.
The strange thing is though: the word Trinity isn’t actually found in the Holy Scriptures, or in the Creeds. But even so, the story that the Scriptures and the Creeds tell… the story at the heart of the Gospel that we have been entrusted with… the story we Christians believe to be true points us directly to the Trinity. They may not say the word explicitly, but its truth shines through all the same.
For instance, on the very first page of the Bible, in Genesis Chapter 1, we find an account of the One true God bringing all creation into existence. And yet, this One God creates all that is in a surprisingly Trinitarian way:
God the Father speaks the cosmos into existence with only His Word… the same Word who became Flesh, Jesus Christ. This Word flows directly from the Father, and the Breath… the Wind, the Spirit of God carries that Word and makes the Word known, felt, and experienced.
The Speaker, the Word, and the Breath all act together, and together they bring everything into being. Thousands of years before the word “Trinity” would ever be used, Genesis Chapter 1 poetically describes God’s creative act in ways that hint at and fit incredibly well with this Three-in-One story of God.
But it is not until our Lord Jesus Christ enters the picture that the reality of God as Trinity really starts to come into view. In Jesus, we come face to face with the Living God in the flesh. Embodying everything God is, while taking on our humanity too… revealing the depths of God’s love for us all by dying for us on the cross, and rising again from the grave to share God’s forgiveness and resurrection life.
And as we saw last week at Pentecost, Christ Jesus the Risen Lord has now given us His Holy Spirit… God’s own personal presence and power, to dwell inside us, drawing us into God’s holy fellowship, and empowering us to truly be His people in our world.
And both Jesus, God’s Son, and the Holy Spirit He sent, share in and show us the heart of the Father in Heaven… revealing what He is truly like, and what He wants for His creation: that is, to rescue it. To redeem it. To reconcile us to Himself, and to each other. For us to share together in His saving love forever.
This is what Trinity Sunday is all about: the beautiful truth that the Living God longs for us to set aside all the distorted stories we have come to believe about Him… and instead, come to know Him, trust Him, and love Him as He truly is. It tells us that Jesus Christ is truly God. That the Spirit of Jesus at work in us is truly God. And that to look to Jesus, and experience the Spirit is to truly come to know the Father’s rescuing love.
Speaking of God as the Trinity does not answer all our questions about Him, or remove all the mystery that surrounds God’s glorious identity… but it does keeps us on the right track. It keeps us speaking truthfully about the God we’ve come to know in Jesus Christ, and who shares His life with us today in the power of His Holy Spirit.
If we are to know, and trust, and love the Living God of the Bible and the Creeds, the Trinity shows us the way.
The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us to tell the true story about the Living God… to be true to who God has shown Himself to be: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, united in holy love for all eternity, and at work in us drawing all of creation to share in His saving love.
I’ll close now with the words from St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” (2 Corinthians 13:13). Amen.
Rev. Rob serves as the Priest-in-Charge at St. Luke's Gondola Point, and as the School Chaplain at Rothesay Netherwood School