June 12, 2022 – Worship

Triune God – (Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15) 

   One day, St. Augustine was walking along the seashore while pondering the doctrine of the Trinity. He seemed to hear a voice saying, “Pick up one of the large sea shells there by the shore.” So he picked it up. Then the voice said, “Now pour the ocean into the shell.” And he said, “Lord, I cannot do that.” The voice answered, “Of course not. In the same way, how can your small, finite mind ever hold and understand the mystery of the eternal, infinite, triune God?”

Do you get the dilemma that we have? The doctrine of the Trinity is so mysterious that we cannot grasp it fully with our finite mind. Think about it—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit—“one in three” and “three in one”—one substance and three persons. Well, it sounds like a commercial of 3-in-1 shampoo, conditioner, & body wash, doesn’t it?

Although this Trinity is so hard to explain it, everywhere we turn in our faith, we are confronted with it. We are surrounded by it. You see, whenever we have a baptism, anyone who is baptized is baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”—in the names of God’s three persons. We also use the word Trinity in a wedding ceremony, funeral service, and of course in the benediction. Then in what ways can we understand Trinity?

The word, “Trinity,” does not appear in the Bible. But in both Old and New Testaments, the concept of the Trinity permeates.

In the story of creation, before God made humanity, He said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). It is noticeable that God, here, calls Himself “us” or “our”—which is plural, not singular though it’s not clear about who was mentioned.

In creation, we believe that God the Father – the first person of the Trinity – is Creator, “maker of heaven and earth.” This is an obvious point. But creation is not the work of the Father alone.

Apostle John, in his gospel, describes the work of the Son, the Word – the second person of the Trinity – in creation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (John 1:1-3).

The early Christians, who had experienced Jesus in the events of his life, death and the resurrection, found something special in him, which could only be expressed as God. They came to see Jesus as a man whose identity was God, and yet who was not identical to God. Finally, as described in the gospel of John, they confessed that Jesus, the Son was with God, and that he was God and worked with God the Father, even in creation from the beginning.

What about the Holy Spirit – the third person of the Trinity? The Holy Spirit was also in creation with the Father and the Son from the beginning. It also had a part in creation. Genesis 1 clearly affirms this: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the SPIRIT of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2).

Then why is this Trinity so important that we talk about it in our faith? Paul Tillich says, “Whenever one speaks meaningfully of the living God, the trinitarian principles appear.” I think probably we experience the living God, who is working for us in this trinitarian way. That’s right! The mystery of the Trinity should be experienced in whatever ways. If not, it is going to be just a useless, difficult theory. Then in what ways can we experience the mystery of Trinity in our reality?

There is a story of a grieving family who had just lost their loved one.

   In one corner an old white-haired woman sitting in a low chair, her face half hidden by her hand… Her other hand was on the shoulder of a younger woman, little more than a girl, who was sitting at her feet. There was a fire in the grate… The younger had only been married three months, and then death stalked her husband through pneumonia, and brought him down at last.

   It was the day after the funeral. Suddenly the younger woman turned almost ferociously to the sky… “Where is God?” she demanded. “I’ve prayed to Him… Where is He?… I learned once that there are ‘Everlasting Arms,’ but where are they?”

“Where is God?”  The case of the woman in the story who cried for God is not unique; it could happen to anyone in life. In this kind of painful situation, we long to feel God’s comforting presence; yet in the time of great need, sometimes we may feel that God is distant and remote.

“Where is God?”  Don’t we believe that God is the Almighty who has power to do everything He wants? The power to save and destroy in His will? Isn’t He the sovereign King – the Creator of the universe – the ultimate source of life –whose existence is decorated with many modifiers, such as “infinite,” “omnipotent,” “omniscient,” and so on?

But where is God when I suffer? If He is so great, almighty – Creator of the universe, supervising everything in it – isn’t He too busy to care for me who is like a grain of sand on the seashore? If God is so big, so powerful and strong, working for everything out there, how can I trust that He knows and feels my suffering? How can I think that my life is really relevant to Him?

But, at the heart of our Christian faith, there is a more unique, radical trust that God in God’s self also suffers with us. It is only possible through God the Son, Jesus Christ, who became one of us, lived as we lived and experienced as we experienced. It declares that God Himself descends with us to the depth of life.

This is a very comforting and encouraging truth. We are moved by the fact that God himself experienced real life because it means God knows us—our agony, our suffering…

In the midst of our suffering, we can hear the comforing words of our Lord Jesus, “There is no pain that you can bear that I have not embraced; there is no darkness that can overtake you that I have not seen; there is no fear that might grip you that I have not known. Because I have passed through it. I know what you feel. Just lean on meI am always with you. And do not fear. I have overcome the world.”

Indeed, through God the Son, Jesus Christ, God becomes a God who is inviting us to become part of His own most intimate life.

Now, let’s go back to the story of the woman who grieved for the loss of her husband. What can we do to comfort her who cried for God, saying, “Where are the Everlasting Arms?”

I wonder if she realized that the older woman’s arms that were on her shoulder were the arms of God. I wonder if she knew that the arms of all those who loved her and hugged her as a sign of comfort to her were the arms of God. Perhaps someday in the future, recalling the past, she might not say, “God’s been there?”

God the Holy Spirit continues to work in our midst. Especially when we suffer, God the Spirit becomes present to us in the arms of others resting upon our shoulders. This is one of the works that the Spirit does in and through us. It fills us with God’s love as Apostle Paul promised in today’s Romans, “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5).

Indeed, in our midst of suffering, God the Spirit encourages us, gives us strength and energy, and helps us to overcome, making it possible that “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope…” (Romans 5:3-4). 

   My Friends, the Trinity is not a mere centuries old doctrine that has nothing to do with us. But simply speaking, it is three different ways that show us “GOD’S LOVE” which is always with us. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, who are present, active, and working in our lives, restores our broken humanity as well as our broken creation. Today, in Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the continued presence of God’s love in three persons.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.