John 16: 12-15
12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Today is Trinity Sunday. The doctrine of the Trinity is very complicated. If you expect today’s reading and sermon to give you a clear and elaborate presentation of the doctrine of the Trinity, please don’t. No one can clearly explain this mystery. Even though it is very hard to preach about the doctrine of the Trinity, I think it is necessary to do it at least once a year and today is the right moment for it. I will start with a funny story about the Trinity. Please pay attention to Peter’s answer and Jesus’ response to it.
Jesus asked, “Whom do people say that I am?”
And his disciples answered and said, “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elias, or other of the old prophets.”
Jesus asked again, “But whom do you say that I am?”
Peter answered, “Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple.”
And Jesus responded, “What?”
When I had an interview to be a local pastor, there were several requirements for the interview and one of them was to write a statement of my calling and various theological understandings. I did my best to write the statement and showed it to my mentor before the interview. I thought the understanding and faith of the trinity was very important, so I stated my understanding of it. He looked at the statement and advised me to get rid of the whole idea of the trinity from the statement. He said, “There will be over 10 ministers interviewing you. They are highly educated and experienced in the church ministry and theology. They will attack you with various questions related to the doctrine of the trinity, if you bring it up. No one including the interviewers can clearly express the doctrine and neither can you. If you put the doctrine in your statement, you must understand it perfectly. But you can’t and then you will end up being confused and stuck in the process of the interview. Do not risk yourself by presenting the Trinity.” So, I got rid of it.
Trinity is a doctrine of three persons in one God, equal in divinity yet distinct in personality. However, this concept is not explicitly spelt out in the Bible. In fact, the very word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. Rather early Christians in fourth century arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity when they applied their faith to Jesus’ teaching and life.
Jesus taught to his disciples about God who sent the Son and about the Holy Spirit whom he was going to send. He said that God gave the Son all that he had and that he gave to the Holy Spirit all that he received from God.
Also, in the story of salvation, we usually attribute creation to God, redemption to the Son and sanctification to the Holy Spirit. The point is that though they are distinct as persons, neither God nor the Son nor the Holy Spirit ever exists in separation or acts in isolation from the other two persons of the Godhead. The inner relationship of God, Son and Holy Spirit is that each of them is fully and equally God. There are not three Gods but one. It is incomprehensible to the human mind. It is a mystery.
These days, the doctrine of the Trinity seems unimportant. Because it is difficult to understand, many Christians do not pay attention to it. However, if we look closely at the doctrine, we can find two very meaningful messages from it. I believe we all are well grown Christians who are intelligent enough to discern this complex theological issue. The key point to understand this doctrine is why God is trinity not how God is trinity. If we try to understand the how, we will end up confused. Our question is not on the how. Our question is “Why did God reveal to us this mystery regarding the very nature of the Supreme Being? I will present two ideas to you and hope that this will bring greater understanding to a core concept in our faith journey.
First of all, the doctrine of the Trinity reminds us of how almighty, majestic and great God is. There is a story about a person who tried to understand the mystery of the Trinity. It is a story from St Augustine, a great philosopher and theologian who wanted so much to understand the doctrine of the Trinity and to be able to explain it logically. One day as he was walking along the sea shore and reflecting on this, he suddenly saw a little child all alone on the shore. The child made a hole in the sand, ran to the sea with a little cup, filled her cup, came and poured it into the hole she had made in the sand. Back and forth she went to the sea, filled her cup and came and poured it into the hole. Augustine went up to her and said, “Little child, what are you doing?” and she replied, “I am trying to empty the sea into this hole.” Augustine asked “How do you think that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole and with this tiny cup?” She replied, ” And you, how do you suppose that with your small head you can comprehend the immensity of God?” With that question, the child disappeared. This is a story from St. Augustine.
This story reminds us of the immensity of God who created all things with words and has taken care of all of us. Also, it reveals God’s mysterious character. However, if we only learn about the immensity of God through the doctrine of the Trinity, then, the doctrine will lead us into creating a huge gap between God and us. We might think that God is too great to come to our lives.
However, I believe that God is always with us. Therefore, we need to discern the second point, which is more relational and close to us. God does not exist in isolated individuals but in a community of relationships. God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit work together and many scholars and Christians understand this collaboration as a divine dance.
Trinity is an exact model to show us how to work together with others in the church and our society. The church exists in the relationship with God, us, and neighbors. In this way, our lives in the church become Trinitarian like that of God. We are Christians insofar as we live in a relationship of love with God and other people. As three in the Trinity do not work alone, each of us supports each other and the support makes us the healthy church where God blesses all of the participants. As God divinely dances with each other, we in the church also should dance with God and neighbors, which is called divine dance. God rules, Jesus teaches and nurtures, and the Holy Spirit protects and guides our lives and ministries. Not dancing alone, but dancing together. This is the way the trinity of God works for the church.
The busiest season is coming. Our lives and church will be very busy with fundraising, outreach, and various ministries. In order for our church to work efficiently and fruitfully before God, we need to be ready to dance with God and our neighbors. We need to build our ministry on a Trinitarian foundation. Let’s pray to God for our ministry, serve our church and invite our neighbors to join the divine dance. God will bless us who start a divine dance this Summer.
Let us pray.
Come, Holy Spirit, come and fill us with your power. Come and fill us with truth. Come and fill us with Christ Himself that we may bear him faithfully in our lives. And bless all of us to engage in a divine dance with you and our neighbors. This we ask in His name and for His sake. Amen.