Summary: The origin of community is found in the triune nature of God.
Introducing The "1st Team"
Pastor Jim Luthy
Football season has broken out all over our television sets this weekend. For as long as I can remember, football games on T.V. always began with the introduction of the starting lineups.
It used to be that each player would get to introduce themselves through a previously taped introduction: "Bubba Joe Bixley, LB, #44, Tuscaloosa, Alabama." Now they just show pictures of each player on the first team, saving precious time to slip in that extra beer commercial.
So, in the spirit of the season, I would like to introduce the 1st team. The REAL 1st team – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Now before anyone blows a gasket, let me explain that I use the term 1st team as an analogy, not as a substitute title for the triune God. I have to, because in many ways, the term "team" does not reflect the relationship of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
To begin with, we think of a team as a collection of individuals who came together. For example, when the starting lineups were introduced in today’s Oregon Ducks football game, they showed young men from several different states. These guys came together to become a team. Unless, of course, you are talking about the Trail Blazers, who are a bunch of individuals who come together to be a bunch of overpaid, underachieving individuals.
We cannot say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit came together to be a team. God is self-existent. He is "I am," without beginning or end. And each member of the Trinity existed forever in the same relationship to one another as one God.
The second shortcoming with the analogy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a team relates to its purpose. When we think of team, we think of sports teams or maybe even work teams. To reduce the purposes of God to such a trivial level is indeed a frightening notion. Yet God has purposes which are perfectly fulfilled in the work of each member of the Trinity. Those purposes relate to creation and redemption, matters that are far too lofty to be equated with a sporting event.
However, the analogy of team can help us identify and understand the Trinity in a couple of critical ways:
"Team" helps us understand the concept of one God
How many of you know who I am talking about when I mention the names Julie Foudy, Brianna Scurry, and Tiffany Milbrett? You might not remember them, but you might remember their team—the 1998 U.S. Women’s Soccer Team that won the World Cup. During play, they were not known as Julie, Brianna, Tiffany, Mia, Michelle, Shannon, Brandi, and so on. They were the U.S. Women’s Soccer TEAM. Try as we did to make heroes out of the individuals, the trophy they won and the World Cup annals will ever credit the TEAM.
Likewise, as Deuteronomy 6:4 explains, our God is one God. "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one." Historically, this verse is very significant. It is the beginning of what the Jews refer to as the Shema. This was as basic to the children of Israel as John 3:16 might be to our children today.
The value of the Shema is best understood by looking at two words in the original Hebrew that clarify its meaning. The first is the word translated "God." The original word is Elohim, which is the plural of the word Elowahh, which is the word for deity. The word literally means "gods." Our "gods" are one God.
The second word that helps is the word translated "one," which is echad. Echad "means not one in isolation, but one in unity. In fact, the word is never used in the Hebrew Bible of a singular entity. It is the word used in speaking of one bunch of grapes, for example, or in saying that the people of Israel responded as one people." So we understand that God exists in a plural form in unity as one God, just as a plurality of women soccer players become one team.
"Team" helps us understand the three unique persons that are the one God
In Genesis 1:26, God said, "Let US make man in OUR likeness." In Genesis 3:22, after the man had eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God said, "The man has now become like one of US." When the people tried to build a tower to reach heaven, God responded with, "Come, let US go down and confuse their language…" And when Isaiah had his majestic vision of the Lord seated on his throne, with the train of his robe filling the temple, he heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for US?"