Weekly Sermon: June 7, 1998
"Three For One"
John 16: 12-15
A sermon synopsis by:
Dr. Bob Allred, Pastor
Atlanta First United Methodist
6/7/98, Trinity Sun., Yr. C
"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth... He will glorify me (Jesus). All that the Father has is mine... He will take what is mine and declare it to you."(NRSV)
Bill Blizzard met God on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Not in a church, not at an Altar, but under enemy fire in the middle of the Pacific---alone, but suddenly in communion with the Triune Godhead. The Divine Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of the universe, the Father who thundered across the chaos and flung the stars into place, the Son of God who died bleeding on a cruel cross, entered into his broken heart in that unlikely place and became the Holy Spirit, his guide and counselor, and constant friend who has never left him or disappointed him, even though he has sometimes disappointed him. God is as ancient as the dawn of his creation, he is an current as our next breath. His purpose is fulfilled in us as we draw nigh unto him, and as he is allowed to come to us.
The Christian faith is not so much about explanations as it is about experience. The purpose of God is not so much to teach us to comprehend the doctrine of the Trinity, but to lead us to know the fullness of the Triune God.
The highest in life cannot be explained but it can be experienced. Falling in love is a great mystery, friendship is a vital part of life, but who can crack the intricacies of it? One hint, when the church calls a thing a mystery donít spend a lot of time trying to understand it. They called it a mystery because none of them could explain it either. But the doctrines can be experienced in our hearts and souls, and fleshed out in our lives and calling. Yet we are hounded for explanations. I suspicion that the reason Trinity Sunday was put on the liturgical calendar immediately after Pentecost Sunday was to force us to give understanding to all of the excitement of fire and the confusion of language. But maybe the confusion of human language, and the bafflement of our supposed understanding was the whole point that God was trying to make with the confusion of Pentecost. But still we are called to "...dance round in a ring and suppose while the Spirit (of God) sits in the middle and knows." (with apologies to Robert Frost).
As we learned from the experience of John Wesley at Aldersgate, understanding follows experience. After he came to know God in his soul, he was able to discern doctrines that had held him at bay, because of the perspective of a new insight. He had become an intimate of God and could therefore say he knew him as a friend. Formerly he had only known about God, now he knew God.
One characteristic of human and divine friendship is transparency. We are not true friends with folks with whom we have to pretend, to keep at a distance, to always be an actor on a stage. Friends must let each other in on their lives. As long as we remain "in character" our inner selves can not be known. God Almighty has made every effort to be transparent with us. He has done all that he could possibly do to let us know him, and he has invited us to enter into a personal relationship with him. Yet, we can hold him at arms length. We can refuse to allow him entry.
In the Old Testament God was first known by Adam and Eve as a God to be feared. They could only hide from him. In the New Testament the Father became a human being through the incarnation of his Son. Jesus came as an example of the highest humanity could attain, but also was born to die that we might be won as friends of the Father. Through his sacrifice we have come to know the depth of his love for us. But toward the end of his life Jesus began to speak of an even more personal friendship between the divine and the creature.
The Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost, not to fulfill a theological doctrine of the Trinity, but to bring the fruition Godís effort to win his fallen children back into a fellowship, a family. The Spirit of the Father, and Son wants to make his dwelling place in our hearts. What a dramatic fleshing out of his love! How can we miss seeing the picture plainly painted for us? What more could he have done?
Godís point and purpose is to grab us one by one and to remold our lives. He wants to help us along as any friend would do. He is the three in one seeking to be a friend to us, one by one. As Frederick Buechner puts it, "The doctrine of the Trinity is an assertion that, despite appearances to the contrary, there is only one God." And that one God is seeking one friend. You are that person that God is seeking now. You who have run away. You who have become cynical and cold, and have lost hope. You who have been caught in the grip of some life controlling and destructive power. You who are lonely and need a friend in who you can always trust.
But, all of us at times tend to keep the Spirit at arms length and out of our souls. We want him as an invited guest occasionally by our invitation only, but we donít want him to move in. Sometimes we use forms and liturgies and build cathedrals in which to hide from him. We hope that the outward can somehow substitute for the inward and that as long as we can put him off we can continue in our own ways. We have "itching ears" and find false guides that tell us what we want to hear. We "turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths." (II Timothy 4: 4, NRSV).
But, he must have our souls as his habitation, for the Spirit has no other dwelling place. He does not stay here at the church building when we go back out into the world. He goes with us and becomes God working through us. What and exciting adventure to go out and become an ambassador through which the Father can continue his creation, and the Son can redeem lost humans, and the Spirit can convict and draw and guide. The Triune God wants to give himself to others through us.