Sermon – Sunday, May 26, 2013
Zion Lutheran Church, Hoople, ND
John 16:12-15 – Trinity Sunday
Who likes a good mystery? Do you like to read a good mystery novel? Maybe watch a movie mystery? Everyone seems to love a good mystery, even kids. The game Clue has been around since I was little and kids and adults are still playing it. And there are murder mystery dinner parties for adults. They’re all a lot of fun. What makes a mystery really good is when you can’t figure it out until the end. We like trying to solve it. We like being surprised. Best of all we like the end when everything is revealed.
I think that’s why it is so difficult to talk about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, we can’t figure it out. There’s no answer for us, at least not yet. We profess in our creeds that we believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, yet they are all one God. It doesn’t make sense.
It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around it. We come up with lots of comparisons, but none of them really come close to understanding how there are three distinct persons, yet at the same time one God. Theologians for centuries have been trying to figure this out, and it just isn’t possible. The Trinity is a mystery. Writer, Madeline L’Engle says in her book Circle of Quiet, “To say anything beyond this about the creative process is like pulling all the petals off a flower in order to analyze it and ending up having destroyed the flower.” We can’t destroy God, but we sure can destroy peace and unity in the process of trying to understand what can’t be understood by human minds.
But we humans always want answers. It’s hard to sit with the questions. It’s hard to not be in control. That was the problem with the first people in the garden of Eden. God created humans and they wanted all the answers. They were experiencing God in the garden, but they wanted more. They wanted to be just like God, having all the answers and being in control and humans haven’t changed.
We look for answers to our questions and we want the answers immediately. Yet sometimes we have to wait because our minds can’t comprehend it at the time. Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” John 16:12 There’s such a thing as information overload. Whether it’s good news or bad news, there’s only so much our human minds can absorb. God is so much bigger than we could ever comprehend and we think from our own limited viewpoints, but it doesn’t come close to really understanding who God is. St. Augustine compared it to the ocean. Understanding all about God would be like taking a bucket of water from the ocean and saying it is the whole ocean. It’s only a part. We cannot contain the whole ocean in a bucket any more than we can contain God. We do have glimpses of who God is. St. Paul says, “we see dimly” yet we are so eager to see in full so we spend so much time talking about who God is.
Studying and learning about God – theology- is good, but we can spend all our time talking about God instead of getting to know God. Knowing God is why the Word became flesh. It’s why Jesus became one of us – not so that we would be filled with all the knowledge of God, but so that we would be filled with the Spirit and experience God.
We experience God most tangibly through the sacraments of baptism and communion. Through the water and the Word of baptism we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are marked with the cross of Christ forever. We do not understand this mystery, yet through faith we believe in the promises of God. Through the sacrament of communion we experience the living Christ as we eat the body and blood of Jesus who somehow mysteriously is present in the bread and the wine. This sacred mystery that we hold in our hands, and are fed with nourishes us to become not only one with each other in the body of Christ, but one with the Trinity. Through these sacraments we are united with the Triune God – three in One and One in three. All for One and One for all.
Jesus said if we see Him, we see the Father. Jesus shows us a glimpse of who God the Father, the Creator of the universe is. One day we will understand, but that day is not now. We have to wait. So what do we do in the meantime?
We hope, and praise, and dance. Hope – that probably seems like a mystery as well. How can we hope in the midst of all the sorrows in life? How do we hope when the waters turn into floods, when winds stir up into violent tornados destroying lives, when bridges collapse, when illnesses strike, when evil seems to be increasing? St. Paul says in Romans that “we boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” It does not disappoint us because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” We hope because we know that we have the Holy Spirit to guide us and lead us to the truth who is Jesus. We hope knowing that God has all the answers and in this faith we have peace. Hope is a confidence in God even when we do not know the answers.
And in the midst of mystery we praise God. We rejoice, St. Paul says, “in our sufferings.” This doesn’t mean we are grateful to have suffering, but we know that the future is in God’s hands. We believe that God may not cause our sufferings, but will bring good out of them. We praise God in the midst of our sufferings because we are not alone. God has promised to be with us always. God will not abandon us. The Holy Spirit will draw us closer to Jesus who like us suffered, and like Him we will be raised to new life.
During this in-between time of not understanding all of the mystery of God we also dance. What is dance but a form of communication as old as the prehistoric era. Words are not needed for a dance. Total knowledge is not needed for a dance. Dance is prayer from the depth of our soul. It is praise without words. We dance in the assurance that we are not alone. Through the sacraments, through the Word of God, through the guiding of the Holy Spirit we are drawn into the dance of the Trinity. Yes, we dance with the Trinity. We may not be able to understand or explain the Trinity, but we can experience the Trinity. The Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit show us what true relationship is all about. Each one of them though separate are one in a mystical dance of holy relationship. Distinct yet One. It’s like watching great dancers who though they are separate are united through the dance. And we are invited by the power of the Holy Spirit to participate in this holy dance.
As the Spirit of God hovered above the waters of creation bringing unity out of chaos, we are called to hover among people who seek to find peace in the midst of chaos. We are called to dance the dance of peace into lives torn apart by destruction and violence, grief and despair.
As Jesus travelled the way of the cross and freely sacrificed His life for each one of us, we are called to travel the way of the cross and sacrifice our lives for the sake of the gospel. We are called to dance the dance of service and love everywhere we go. Our dance steps need not be perfect; they only need to move in the direction of the cross.
As the Spirit descended upon the disciples at Pentecost and transformed them into vibrant witnesses of the gospel, so we are called to dance the dance of transformation into lives seeking direction and rebirth.
We are called to dance with hope and praise and thanksgiving in the midst of our sufferings to give glory to God despite the questions and the mystery that surrounds us. We are called to move in a dance of unity with all people telling the story of God’s love.
The Trinity, the sacraments, the grace of God are mysteries that we cannot understand. Valuable time is wasted trying to come up with answers. We are on a mission from God. We are invited to a dance. It is the dance of the Trinity – moving, sending, praising, transforming love from Father to Son to Spirit to us again, and again, and again.
We do not need to understand these holy mysteries, What makes a mystery really good is when you can’t figure it out until the end. Join the dance of the Trinity – hope and praise, service and love, and invite everyone to join in. Amen.