Summary: How the Trinity works in unity for our redemption
For six months now, in the course of the Lectionary, our Church's calendar, we have been remembering and celebrating the Incarnation and the redeeming works and life of Christ our Savior.
We Started with his birth, and actually with preparing for his Incarnation and Birth, and our need for him, calling “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” These last two weeks we saw the culmination of the six months, with his glorious Ascension, seating at the Right Hand of the Father, and the sending of the Holy Spirit.
And the end of all this, the point of it all, is that we should behold and come to know and love the living God, The Incarnation, a fancy word for the Son’s taking our nature upon himself, is the revelation of the life of God: his being, his love, his majesty, and his glory. The lectionary lets us see his glory lived out in his life, like John says in the beginning of his Gospel.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Says John 1:14
Today then, our celebration of Christ's redeeming work is summed up on Trinity Sunday with the celebration of what is the whole point of it--the divine life of God himself, in which we are called to share: adopted children, by grace, "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ."
So today we try to use words to sum up great heavenly truths about God. And that’s not easy. Our words do not describe very well the glories of heaven. Even the Apostle John falls short in revelation, as he can only use words. We use the language of images and similies, and stretch imagination to the breaking point.
Today is Trinity Sunday, On Trinity Sunday, many pastors will focus on this doctrine of our Christian faith, one of the most inexpressible mysteries of our faith, and will try to do so in about twenty minutes, using words which will always fail.
There have been many attempts to try to bring this mystery into our level of understanding. Some have said that the Trinity is like water in its three phases: steam, liquid, and ice. My seminary theology professor kindly explained to me why this position was in error when I tried it out on him.
Others have said that the Trinity is like the same person with three different titles, such as a woman could be a mother, sister, and daughter all at the same time. Others have compared the Trinity to a cherry pie which is cut into three distinct pieces yet the filling in the middle all runs together as one.
With all things considered, none of these analogies or metaphors or symbols or whatever it is you want to call them is an accurate illustration.
The Trinity is three distinct Persons in One God. All three -- Father, Son, Holy Spirit -- have been around for all eternity; all three co-exist so that all can be apparent at the same place at the same time, as we saw in Epiphany season with Jesus Baptism. God the Father speaking, God the Son being Baptized in the Jordan, and the Holy Spirit descending upon Him. Each of the Three are able to talk to each other as distinct Persons (like when God the Son prayed to God the Father)...
Also, the presence of One can be emphasized over the other, which we saw in our Gospel lesson this morning. A symbol of this Trinity in Unity at work. Christ speaks to his disciples, telling them that he is going away, going to the Father, from where he will send the Spirit, the Helper, to be with them.
The doctrine of the Trinity is the central doctrine of the Christian faith. Our “faith is this," says the Athanasian Creed, "that we worship one God in Trinity, and the Trinity in unity."
If you recall something of the early history of the Church, perhaps you know with what difficulty the doctrine of the Trinity was clarified. St. Athanasius was exiled five times from his diocese of Alexandria in his struggles against the Arians, who denied that the Son was Fully God. That is why we say, in the Nicene Creed,
"being of one substance with the Father,"
"very God of very God."
These are phrases which pass can pass easily off our tongues, but they are phrases which were shouted by multitudes in processions through the streets of ancient Rome and Constantinople, to teach all that Christ was as fully God as God the Father.
The Arian solution--that Jesus is God-like, God LITE, but not very God, would have meant a very different Christianity. If he is not really God, he is not our Savior.