May 27, 2016  

People of God,
Math has never been my strong-suit. And, as I disclose this to you, I do not want you to hear that I am anti-math. Or, to think that it is shameful to struggle with math. There is no math-shaming here. However, when I was in college at UW-L, I had to take remedial math. During the week I would spend maybe two hours a night with the math tutors. They were very astute and helpful people. Thankfully, after some hard work, I succeeded and made it through the class. Today we will explore a realm where math will not make sense. And, that is okay. It is the Church’s feast day and celebration of the Holy Trinity. This is the day we confess there is one God in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If I asked my diligent math tutors to help me add they would certainly assure me that 1+1+1=3. But, when it comes to the Trinity, God confounds my math skills. For here, that does not equal three. Here, 1+1+1=1. (Then, try counting with fingers and the words, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” three persons, one God). The reason we confess this is because Christianity has
always been a monotheistic religion—we believe there is one God. This is a gift that we inherited from our Jewish brothers and sisters. That’s why we do not say that we have three gods. Therefore, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
Boiled down, we say the Trinity is “one God in three persons.” Scripture gives names to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Giving them names implies that there is something distinct and personal about each of them. Each person of the Trinity shares the same essence that makes them God. A helpful way I can describe what I mean by “essence” is that it is something about God that is substantial to who God is. Think of it like this, we all have our own essence as human beings—our humanity—all that it means to be human—is that essence. Even though we share our humanity with each other, we each have particular characteristics that make us unique. I’m Levi, there is something about me that is me. If you took that away then I wouldn’t be the Levi you know. This is how it is with God. This is
good news because the God who is unique and creator of heaven and earth, also created us to be uniquely us. God’s creation has not stopped but is continually being made new in our lives.
Certainly, this means that we as individuals matter to God. We matter to God because the Trinity itself is relational. We see that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have relationship with each other. The Son is begotten of the Father before eternity. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. It’s the relational reality inherent within God that matters to us. For this Triune God seeks to be intimately in our life
Today’s readings bring out the relational nature of God. The scripture tells us that we are made right with God through faith, and thus we have peace with God. God has established a relationship with us. God seeks to bring peace about in our lives. Romans informs us that through Jesus Christ we have access to the grace of God—out of sheer grace, nothing makes us any better than anyone else. Romans points us to hope, so we can be glad in our suffering—knowing that our suffering is reframed for
us in the hope given by Christ and this hope is poured out as God’s love for us in the person of the Holy Spirit.
I want to talk about each of the persons and their relationship to us. God the Father is typically who we talk about first. This does not mean that God the Father is somehow above the Son or the Spirit—rather, they are all three equal in glory and majesty. Also, by saying God is Father, we are not saying that God is some man in the sky with a grey beard. God in fact, is beyond gender. Rather, saying God the Father is the way that we talk about his relationship to the Son and the Holy Spirit (it says something that the model of Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier does not quite capture). A better term to designate for Father has not yet been found or agreed upon within the Church. The important thing to know about God the Father is that this person of the Trinity is “creator of heaven and earth.” (pause) The confession that God the Father is creator of heaven and earth means that it is God who creates us and gives us all we have.
Our food, our clothing, a roof to protect us, a job to sustain us, spouse, friends, societal peace, even our very life.
For all this we give thanks and praise to God. And, yet in our society we take these things for granted. We get so worried about ourselves we forget about our hungry neighbor—whether in La Crosse—or throughout the world. It reminds me of the liturgy of confession when we confess that we have sinned by what have done, and by what we have left undone. Confession is like a mirror, it shows our alienation from one another and from God. God is calling us to be a means by which God feeds all the world. If we all recognized that we are created brothers, sisters, siblings of one another, I think our world would be in a better place than it is now. The kingdom of heaven would be that much closer. The person of God the Father has a gracious heart and desires all to be protected, loved, cherished, and at peace.
This brings me to how God the Father accomplishes this peace in our lives. God brings about peace in our lives through the Son. Jesus is the mirror of the Father’s heart—which,
remember, is a gracious and kind heart. We know in this world that often there is not peace, not enough food, not enough jobs. This is so often perpetrated by racism or transphobia, or Western elitism. We do not recognize each other as brothers and sisters. Yet, God continues to reconcile people to each other and to Godself. Through Jesus, we have access to this grace. And, because we believe we have a gracious God on account of Jesus, we can be glad even in our suffering. Now, when I first read this passage in Romans and realized it was talking about being glad in suffering, I was put off a bit. Too often suffering has been glorified in the Church to the detriment of many. It is important that when we talk about suffering in the Church that we be clear that we do not mean that we want to suffer, want others to suffer, or go out looking for ways to suffer. Rather, suffering, or another translation would be “troubles”–are a part of our life in an imperfect world. God seeks to reframe our troubles from despair to hope. And, this hope is a “sure promise” in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, regardless of how
contrary and gloomy life is or seems, or if we have felt like we have been dealt cards unfairly—we have hope. For God in Christ reframes our troubles so we need not despair or be afraid. God, in Christ, reframes our troubles so that we may have endurance and character all wrapped up in hope—even if it is just feeble. God’s promise of peace is something that we can trust—this hope will not disappoint us.
So, then, if God the Father has given us all creation, and God the Son has reframed our story from despair to hope, what then, does the God the Spirit do? It is the Holy Spirit who reveals God’s promises and teaches us every good thing. Through the Spirit, God gives all that Christ has accomplished for us. So, that we have hope, healing, and wholeness. Without the Spirit this would not be possible. The Spirit pours into our hearts God’s love through the Word and Sacraments. The Word can be found in the words Holy Scriptures, in the words I preach, even in the words of a friend. (pause) It is the Holy Spirit who uses words as a way to communicate God’s unconditional love for us in Jesus Christ. In
Holy Baptism, the Spirit pours out her love for us through the words and the water. In Holy Communion, the Spirit pours out his love for us in the words, bread, and wine. In God’s holy community on earth, the Spirit pours out God’s love into our hearts through peace, reconciliation, kindness, feeding one other, loving our neighbor and our enemy. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, God is reframing our lives and our world to one where all people have hope, dignity and peace.
The relationality of the Trinity matters. We do not always have to have all the answers, like, for why 1+1+1=1 instead of 3. What matters is that this God we confess as, “one God in three persons,” is a God who deeply cares about our life, and seeks to bring about a true, lasting peace, and gives us hope that this will indeed be the case. (pause) God the Father gives us all creation, Christ all his redemptive works, the Spirit all his gifts. Thanks be to God.