June 15, 2014
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor
East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
There are three, wonderful creation stories in the Bible;
each serving a vital purpose.
Our God is a god of creation
as revealed through our scriptures
from before time,
up to, and including, today.
God is just as creative now
as He was on the first day.
“In the beginning,”
as the book of Genesis so majestically begins,
“when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep,
while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”
known in the Hebrew as RUHAH,
was the Spirit of God
from the beginning of time.
In the second story of creation found in Genesis 2,
RUHAH makes yet another appearance:
“then the Lord god formed man from the dust of the ground,
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and the man became a living being.”
The Spirit of God
fills our lungs
and gives us life.
The Spirit was, is, and will forever be,
that which gives us life,
In John masterful Gospel we hear,
“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him,
and without him not one thing came into being.
What has come into being in him was life,
and the life was the light of all people.
… And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
(John 1:1-4, 14)
The Word and God are one;
one in creation,
and one in the Spirit.
And the Word became Jesus
and dwelt among us.
Today is Trinity Sunday.
A day so designated by pope John XXII who reigned from 1316-1334,
instituted as a universal feast in honor of the Most Holy Trinity.
Also known as Whitesunday,
it continues to be celebrated almost 800 years later,
being deeply rooted in scripture,
and our experience.
The Doctrine of the Trinity is a foundational,
essential statement of Christianity.
It is also unique to Christianity;
Islam and Judaism have no similar statements of faith or similar understandings of the Divine.
Unitarians and Jehovah Witnesses find it deplorable.
It was defined at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.
and Constantinople in 381 A.D.
It is imbedded in the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed.
The early church Fathers looked to the four Gospels,
Paul’s letters- known as epistles, written to the churches he helped establish,
and they looked to their own experience
to formulate this doctrine.
They focused on our Gospel passage for today,
the command of Jesus to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
This became a guiding principle in their work.
This effort corrected some communities of faith
that had practiced baptizing in the name of Jesus only.
Being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
indicates a new relationship,
involving all three faces of the Trinity.
[Richard Niell Donovan, copyright 2002, www.lectionary.org]
“Christians believe that God reveals himself in three persons:
God the Father,
God the Son (Jesus),
and God the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost),
but these three persons are one and indivisible.”
[Dictionary of Christian Lore and Legend, JCJ Metford]
God in three persons,
persona in the Greek,
as in one actor on the stage
using three different masks to describe
the inner, dynamic, communal life of the Trinity.
Our own Articles of Religion,
from The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, state
“There is but one living and true God,
without body or parts,
of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness;
the maker and preserver of all things,
both visible and invisible.
And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons,
of one substance, power, and eternity-
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
[The Book of Discipline, Year 2000, P.103]
To talk in terms of Trinitarian language
means that we believe in the God of history;
as revealed to us in the history of Israel,
the works and acts of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospels,
and through the works of the Holy Spirit
empowering and sustaining the work of the faithful in the Church.
God, as the loving Father,
created in the first day,
and continues to create with us in every subsequent day.
God, as the human Son Jesus Christ,
experienced the fullness of humanity,
established an example for Christian living,
forgave us our sins,
saves us into eternal life,
and commissioned us to make disciples.
God, given to us as Spirit,
is God with us,
in every breath we take and in every deed we accomplish.
The Holy Spirit is with us and in us.
To speak in Trinitarian language
we recognize the value of balance in the world
between God, humankind, and creation.
We speak in terms that value relationships;
an intimacy with God
and a commitment to one another.
In our politically correct world,
there has been renewed efforts
to change the way we think and believe in terms of God as Father.
Often, Father is seen in terms of male dominate,
or one who is violent.
Often the Trinitarian language will be substituted
with Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer
- which speak to the works of the Godhead, but not the identity of God.
But I would interject a word of caution.
Before we abandon the words and commands of Jesus;
before we walk away from 2,000 years of our tradition and history;
perhaps we should focus our efforts
on changing the way we think about fathers in society today.
Perhaps we should seek to restore fatherhood
into an institution of goodness, love, and forgiveness
- the way that God meant it to be.
There used to be a wonderful commercial on television
sponsored by the makers of York Peppermint Patty.
The experience of biting into one is refreshing, exciting and new.
The operative line is
“It feels like I just bit into a York Peppermint Patty!”
Whenever I come to recite the traditional Trinitarian formula,
“in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,”
either in worship or in my own private prayers or devotion,
I like to think of it as like biting into a York Peppermint Patty!
It is a fresh recollection of God,
how God has acted throughout salvation history,
how God has been experienced in my own life and faith,
how God continues to work in the world today.
It is a renewal of the promise
that God will continue to be with us
“always, to the end of the age”
(Matthew 28: 20b),
just as God has been with us since the beginning of creation.
It is a reaffirmation of our covenant with God,
who formulated His covenant with Abraham
- the Lord our God shall be our God, and we shall be His people.
It is an acceptance of the redeeming and saving acts of Jesus
done for our benefit.
It is an acknowledgment that the Holy Spirit is alive and well,
empowering disciples and churches today,
giving life to you and me and this great Church.
Reflection and prayer focused upon the Trinity
is a great place for the new Christian to begin a life of faith.
The Trinity is a rich doctrine of faith
where the matured Christian can return to rethink and deepen faith.
today I invite you to join me in my belief,
solely by faith,
that in the “unity of this Godhead there are three persons,
of one substance,
- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.