Trinity Sunday – 5/26/2024

John 3:1-17  Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be orn after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Ephesians 3:8-21 8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Three in One and One in Three

Today is Trinity Sunday, a day set aside to focus on the mystery, power and beauty of the triune God. There are a number of Sundays when we focus on an event; Christmas is for Jesus’ birth.  Easter celebrates His Resurrection.  Last week, Pentecost remembered the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Trinity Sunday alone focuses on a doctrine of the church, the Trinity.  We don’t find the word used in the Bible.  The Trinity is a doctrine of the church that was formed in the first three hundred years of the church to explain the God now seen through Jesus.  Three persons in one God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, equal in divinity but distinct in personality, all united in purpose.

Now when I say we’re going to focus on a doctrine, some of you may start to yawn.  After all, doctrines aren’t usually considered exciting.  Most think they are bland, tasteless, dry statements of the shoulds and the musts of religion.  Not so the Trinity!  The Trinity is the very essence of God, we are granted insight into the very being of God, a glimpse of divine mystery.

Here is an explanation of the Trinity – Abbott and Costello Style” – LORI graciously agreed to do this skit with me.

LORI: I think God must be a baseball fan – after all the first words of the bible say “In the Big Inning”.

CHRISTINE: No, LORI, it’s “In the beginning” not “In the big inning”.

LORI: Any way, Christine, you know how I like baseball . So let’s say that God’s team was playing a baseball game and God’s team was up to bat. The Father hits a single – Who’s on first?


LORI: The Father

CHRISTINE: That’s right, LORI.

LORI: Then the Son comes up and hits a single. The Father goes to second base and the Son goes to first base. Who’s on first?


LORI: I thought God was on second base.

CHRISTINE: That’s right.

LORI: O.K. – then the Holy Spirit comes up and lays down a perfect bunt. The Father goes to third base, the Son goes to second base and the Holy Spirit beats out the throw – Safe at first. Who’s on first?


LORI: I thought God was on second and third.

CHRISTINE: That’s right LORI. God’s on second and third. God is on first too. God is on all the bases.

LORI: I don’t get it, Christine.

Well, I can’t explain it and LORI can’t get it. And even famous theologians can’t explain the mystery of the Trinity and we can’t get it. It is beyond our human comprehension to grasp the concept of the Trinity – three persons in one God, each fully God.

In our first passage from John it seems Nicodemus was as confused as we can be.  Nicodemus acknowledged that Jesus came from God.  It doesn’t appear that he thought Jesus was divine but he was getting close.  Then Jesus told him he had to be born again from above, he must be born of the Spirit.  Nicodemus found this quite puzzling.  He asks, “How can these things be?”  A good question for us as we seek to understand the trinity.   

Rather than trying to understand, to explain the Trinity, I think it would be better to ponder the significance of the Trinity, to ask ourselves what life is like within the Trinity.  How do the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit relate to one another?

In the Trinity we see mutual, loving submission between the members.  Each points to the other.  Consider the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said, “the Advocate,1 the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)  The Spirit will remind us of Jesus.  Jesus also said, “When 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.  14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-14)  In other words, the Spirit will not seek attention but will instead get people to focus on Jesus.  The Spirit will say, “look at Jesus, listen to Him, love Him, follow Him.

The Holy Spirit constantly points to Jesus, gives glory to Jesus.  When we look at Jesus we don’t see Jesus saying, “I’m the greatest, look at me.”  No, Jesus said He came to serve, not to be served.  After His baptism, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.  Jesus doesn’t put His own will first but instead says to the Father, “not my will by yours be done.”  Let’s also consider where we hear the voice of the Father in gospel accounts.  It happens twice; at Jesus’ baptism and at the transfiguration.  At the baptism the Father says, “This is My Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  At the transfiguration the Father says, “This is My Son, the Beloved, listen to Him.”  The Father doesn’t point to Himself but to Jesus.  Each member of the Trinity points faithfully and selflessly to the others in a gracious, eternal circle of love.  The Son submits to the Father, the Father loves the Son and the Spirit reminds all of us of the Son.  Round and round goes the gracious dance of love, the glorious three in one and one in three of holy relationship in the Trinity.  We aren’t meant to understand, we are meant to worship and join in this community of love.  God exists as Father, Son and Spirit in a community of greater humility, servanthood, mutual submission and delight than we can possibly imagine.  Within the relationship of the Trinity, God is never lonely, God never has a need.  The Trinity is a community of unimaginably magnificent personal beings of boundless love, knowledge and power.  The love and joy of the unity within the Trinity are meant for us.  Jesus calls us to join the dance, to be adopted into the fellowship so the love and joy can overflow onto us.  

This sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Let’s consider what cost does God pay for us to be part of this fellowship?  I once read a book by Dallas Willard and John Ortberg, “ Living in Christ’s Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God.”   Listen to what they say the cost was.  “Now, in Jesus, we see God’s love. He disadvantages himself so that human beings can enter into the trinitarian fellowship. In some way that we will never fully understand, Jesus said, “I will leave the perfect oneness I have known for all eternity and become like human beings and take their brokenness upon myself, take their aloneness on myself, take their death upon myself, take their godforsakenness on myself.” The Father says, “I will offer my Son whom I love beyond words. I will see him broken. I will see him rejected. I will see him killed. His pain will be my pain.” I have one son. I can’t imagine that. The Spirit says, “I will be poured out on earth in mostly silent and invisible ways. I will offer to lead and guide, never exalting myself, always pointing to the Son.” To a large extent, the Spirit’s promptings will be ignored or denied. The Spirit will be quenched. The Spirit will be grieved. The Spirit says, “This price I will pay so that anyone who might can enter into our fellowship.” We have been invited into the fellowship of love through the gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit at enormous cost to every member of the Trinity.”

When I ponder the love of God that conceived such a costly plan to redeem us from our sin I am both humbled and awed.  To be loved by God, to know His love is to want to reach out and embrace the world and share this wondrous gift of love with all. We are called to be Jesus’ witnesses to the world, we are to let our lives show forth His love to others.  We are to live in the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. 

As I said earlier, the word Trinity doesn’t occur in the Bible but what we will see is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit all being referenced and all considered God.  Let’s consider Paul’s third sentence in our New Testament reading today.  “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he (the Father) may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit,  17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.”  Look at how Paul talks about the Father, Jesus and the Spirit all in one sentence.  He may not use the word Trinity but we see the three named separately yet all considered God.  

Paul tells us that it is according to the riches of the Father’s glory that we may be strengthened.  And that strengthening comes through the power of the Holy Spirit.  And the purpose of the strengthening is so Jesus Christ can dwell in our hearts through faith which is a gift of the Holy Spirit in the first place.  

Paul prays that we are rooted and grounded in love.  That the love that exists within the eternal Godhead may also be in us.  This love is stronger than any force on earth, stronger than anything Satan can bring against it.  This is the love of our triune God, this is the glue that holds the universe together.  The Trinity has been called the dance of love, the Father eternally loving the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Son loving the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit loving the Father and the Son.

This sounds wonderful but it is difficult for us to understand. We are each one solitary being.  We cannot fully understand intellectually or emotionally the oneness and threeness of God.  How can God be one and three at the same time? One theologian said, “The Trinity is a mystery, not a puzzle.  You try to solve the puzzle, you stand in awe before a mystery.”   We stand in awe before our glorious almighty God.  We do not fully understand and that is okay.  

Why does it matter that God is three in one?  One reason is to understand the importance of community and fellowship within the life of a Christian.  Our American culture values the rugged individual who achieves success on his or her own. In truth though, there is no such thing as a ‘Lone Ranger’ Christian.  We are not meant to live in isolation.  The Trinity is relationship, community, interaction, unity.  God does not exist alone but is in eternal relationship within the trinity.  God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit unified in one by the bonds of love.  So since this is true, then the image of God in us longs for community. We are not made to be rugged individuals. We are not made to do it all ourselves. We are not made to be self-sufficient.  It is not good for humans to be alone. We need one another. We are made to belong.  Think of the words in the hymn, Blest Be the Tie That Binds, “The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above”.  When we join in unity we are, in a sense, attempting to imitate the persons of the trinity.

One way to conceive of the trinity is as a dance of relationship.  The Father loves the Son and the Spirit.  Jesus loves the Father and the Spirit.  The Spirit loves the Father and the Son.  Around and around the dance goes full of mutual love, honor, happiness, and respect.  An eternal dance of joy.  Now this type of love is far beyond what we can imagine.  It is a love in which there is no striving for power, but only self-giving, no selfishness but unity, a perfect love.  

We were created in the image of God to be part of this dance of love.  When we sin we are in a sense, stepping out of the dance, we disturb the rhythm of the dance.  

Think of it this way. There are certain line dances that are popular at weddings. I remember the Chicken Dance and the Macarena. I managed the Chicken Dance but when it came to the Macarena I was a disaster. I was always turning the wrong way, crashing into other people, stepping on other’s feet. As I said, a disaster.

This is our life without Jesus.  Brokenness, sin, confusion, and violence.  We were unable to even see the dance much less take part in it. Then through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God restored the rhythm and beauty again. We are able to join the dance through the Holy Spirit.  This is why Jesus told Nicodemus he had to be born of the Spirit.  Only when we are filled with the Spirit are we able to join the dance of the Trinity.  

The trinity is an intellectual concept.  God does not seek our intellectual comprehension but a heart relationship; He calls us to enter the dance.  Some of us joined the dance as children and have spent our lives filled with the Spirit.  Some of us joined later in life like I did and the dance is all the sweeter now.  Some of us understand with our minds but not our hearts so we can’t join in yet.  Seek God with your heart and you will soon find yourself dancing.  Some of us think we aren’t good enough to dance but it is not our ability but God’s enabling that allows us to dance.  We are all invited to join the dance; to be in relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  

So, on this Trinity Sunday does it matter that we cannot fully explain the theology of the trinity?  Not really.  God isn’t interested in our intellectual answers.  God wants us to know His love and God wants us to love God and God’s people.  God wants us to join in the community, in the dance of the Holy Trinity.