Trinity Sunday – May 22, 2016
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
Last week we celebrated the feast day of Pentecost. Other than Christmas and Easter this is the biggest days in the church because on Pentecost the disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit. That means that on Pentecost we celebrate the birthday of the church, and if you were here you know we had balloons going all over the church! And because the church is the people of God, those first disciples became the first church. After receiving the Holy Spirit, they were no longer afraid. They had a confidence and a boldness they never had before to go out and tell everyone about Jesus and the resurrection. They were empowered by the Holy Spirit to tell their story. We don’t know why or how the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples like tongues of fire, but faith is not about asking us to try and figure it out. Faith is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to believe.
This Sunday is Trinity Sunday. On this day we celebrate and worship the fullness of God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or we could say Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Again, we don’t understand how God can be three in One, but we accept this by faith. It is a holy mystery that cannot be understood, at least not until we are with God face to face. Until that time, we believe it because Jesus’ words are true. Jesus’ said, “blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.” There are many things that we cannot see, yet we know they exist. Take for example, the stars. If you look up on a starry night, you may see hundreds of stars, but the reality is that there are billions that we can’t see due to light pollution or other factors. Scientists have not been able to determine exactly how many starts exists. There’s a star that they believe is out beyond the Oort Cloud that only comes close enough to be observed every 32 million years. That length of time between observational periods would explain why a human has never proven its existence. But just because we can’t explain it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. We don’t have all the answers right now to our questions about science or theology, but one thing we can understand is that somehow we are all related.
While spending time on a Native American reservation in North Dakota, I learned that the Lakota people have a saying for this relationship. Mitakuye Oyasin means all are related. God who gave us life, humans, animals, plants, the ocean, the sky, the earth……all of creation is related to each other. We are all created and connected to the Triune God who is the Great Mystery. God is all about relationships. The very core of God is relational. The Father/Creator, Son, and Holy Spirit, are all in relationship with each other and because of Jesus, in relationship with us through the power of the Holy Spirit. In a time when people long for deep relationships this is more than just a little Good News!
And it’s especially Good News for the young people in our congregation making their confirmation today because when they were baptized as babies they had no idea just how remarkable a gift they were being given. And that goes for all of us here today as well. We had no idea the significance of that day and how we entered into a relationship not only with Jesus, but with the Triune God – the Father/Creator, Son, and Holy Spirit – the Great Mystery. We had no idea that we became part of not only a congregation of people that have supported them over the years, but part of a larger church – our synod, the ELCA, and the entire Christian Church. When we were baptized we entered into a relationship that was far bigger than we ever could have dreamed. We are part of a global church that began with the first twelve disciples and continue to grow through the power of the Holy Spirit working through each and every one of us. Through our baptism we have been given the task to make disciples of all people. This may seem like a daunting task, but we have the promise of the Holy Spirit with us, but we must do our part.
When we were baptized our parents, sponsors, and our congregation promised to support us in our faith formation. They promised to teach us to pray regularly, to study the bible, and to grow in our faith through bringing us to Sunday School classes and worship services. This congregation made these promises to these young people making their confirmation today – a confirmation or affirmation of their baptism. Now that they are old enough to know why they were baptized, they are making those same commitments to grow in their faith as disciples. That is why confirmation like graduation – is not an end of something, it is a new beginning. It’s a life passage in their life of faith that they will now pass from students to more mature Christians. Confirmation means the beginning of taking our life as a Christian to the next level.
What does this next level mean? It means being all in, like those first disciples after receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. We cannot silently wait for others to come to our congregation; we must actively invite them to know Jesus. We must make knowing Christ and making Christ known the focus of everything we do. We have to make faith our priority and not the second, or third, or last thing on our list. The first disciples were committed to going out and telling their story of how Jesus changed their lives and what he meant to them. Our confirmands each selected a scripture verse that means a lot to them. It’s one that will help guide them in their life. Their lives will not always be filled with ease. All three of them have already experienced deep losses in their lives. They have had struggles and will have many more struggles, but there is something that they and all of us who follow Jesus have that others do not yet know about. We have the assurance that no matter what challenges we face, God is right there with us. And us is an important word because we are all in this together. We are all related. What happens to one of us happens to all of us.
This is why St. Paul in his letter to the Roman church said, “we boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, an character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hears through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Paul is addressing an entire church of believers in this letter. He is saying that we are in this together. Paul is not saying that suffering is good, but what he is saying is that when we share our suffering together we are able to endure. Those give up their time and care for us when we’re sick, who study with us, who stay up late and talk with us to ease our anxieties, who provide transportation for us, who pray for us – these and countless other acts of love are ways we endure together and it produces a character of us collectively as a church. We are then known as a church – a group of believers – that no matter what happens to us we are faithful to God. Afflictions are not a sign of God’s displeasure; they are not punishments from God. Instead how we respond to them are signs of the faithfulness of God’s people holding onto the promises from God. That is a bold witness to those who are not yet believers, and it is that character that is shaped by the presence of the Holy Spirit that leads people to know Jesus too.
On this Trinity Sunday we all have the opportunity to re-affirm our baptismal promises. To proclaim that we worship a God who is too big to be described with only a few words. To witness to a Triune God who is in constant relationship with us and will never abandon us no matter what the circumstance. To tell our story of how much God has done for us by creating us, redeeming us, and sustaining us with boundless love and grace. Today is the day with the power of the Holy Spirit that we pray Come, Holy Spirit, and live in me, speak through me, work through me so that people will come to know Jesus through us. Come, Holy Spirit, Come. Amen!