Summary: We can not know the Triune God from objective observation. Knowledge of God Comes through our relationship with him. Trinity Sunday, Series B
Trinity Sunday, June 11, 2006, “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Oh God, reveal yourself to us and give us the grace to love and to follow the revelation that we receive. Keep us open minded, always ready to be surprised by you, ever willing to grow in our ability to understand you on a deeper level, and above all, inspired to serve you and proclaim your name to those around us. Cultivate in us an eagerness to be in relationship with you in all of your demanding, glorious otherness. We pray this in your Holy name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
A man was seen in church only one Sunday a year. No, it was not Easter. Nor was it on Christmas Eve. But year after year, he came to worship on Trinity Sunday. Finally, one of the lay leaders of the congregation, who happened to notice this man selected this particular Sunday to attend worship, had to ask, “Why is it that you only come to worship on Trinity Sunday?”
“Oh, that’s easy to explain,” the man said. “I like to come on this day so I can hear the preacher get all tangled up trying to explain the Trinity!
The great theologian, St. Augustine, came to a similar conclusion in the Fourth Century, after he had written over 800 pages, trying to explain the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Finally, he had to admit, that he could not understand it.
This is his story: “As he walked along the seashore one day, he saw a small boy playing with a seashell. The boy scooped a hole in the sand, filled the shell with water, and poured it into the hole. “What are you doing?” St. Augustine asked the boy. The boy replied, “I’m going to pour the sea into that hole.”
Then St. Augustine said to himself, “That is what I have been trying to do. Standing at the ocean of infinity, I have attempted to grasp it with my finite mind.” [Charles R. Leary, Mission Ready, C.S.S. Publishing Co., 1990]
Well, If you are one of those persons who came to worship this morning looking for me to give you a rational and objective description of the one God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I will admit up front that I can’t accomplish that task. I must agree with St. Augustine, that I can not define the infinite, with my finite mind.
Nevertheless, there are a few things that we can learn about our quest to understand God from our Gospel lesson for this morning. John tells us that there was another theologian, a Pharisee and leader of Jewish people who came to Jesus, seeking understanding. Nicodemus says to Jesus, “We know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do what you have done, apart from God.” Jesus answered him, saying, “No one can see the kingdom of God, without being born from above.
”Here, I believe Jesus gives us our first clue in trying to understand the mystery of God and his kingdom. Nicodemus comes to Jesus trying to understand Jesus from a rational, objective, human perspective. He is seeking to know Jesus, and his relationship to God from the perspective of an observer, from outside of a relationship with Christ.
The truth is, God is infinite, beyond the grasp of our finite minds. Oh, we may be able to objectively study nature, and form theories about how the universe came into existence, but when it comes to understanding God, it is beyond the scope of human reason! After all, if our finite minds could understand the infinite, from an objective point of view, then we would equal to, if not superior to God.
But that does not mean that we cannot know God! I believe that what Jesus is saying in his conversation with Nicodemus, is that if we truly want to know God, and experience his kingdom, it can only happen as we enter into a relationship with God. True knowledge of God can not be obtained from an objective distance, as if we were studying science, but only through subjective, intimate knowledge, which comes to us as God embraces us and adopts us into his family.
Almost every one of you know Josie. My wife has done a lot to enhance our ministry and support me as your pastor. But I don’t think you know her quite as well as I do. You have observed her in many activities of the church, even entered into a relationship with her, but the intimacy that Josie and I share in the quiet of our home, enables us to know each other more personally. Of course, Josie told me that if I went much further with this illustration, she could and would tell a few stories of her own. But I think the point has been made.