Three in one
June 4, 2012
by Rev. Tim Wheatley, Cokato Evangelical Lutheran Church

Last Sunday was celebrated by many in the church as Holy Trinity Sunday. This is a Sunday when many pastors struggle with the three-in-oneness and one-in-threeness of our God.

It is a time when we break out some pretty important words in the Church’s understanding of God – words like Hypostases or Ousia, co-eternal and consubstantial, and as a church, we talk about the three persons being co-equal. Sometimes, all of these unfamiliar terms and expensive words might lead us to just ignore the Trinity entirely.

In fact, the skeptics among us might ask why we worry so much about the Trinity – the word trinity does not even appear in the Bible. Well, you know, the skeptics would, in this case, be correct – much to the disappointment of many of us who cherish the concept.

The word trinity is not in the Bible. Nowhere in Mark does Jesus suddenly say, “And the structure of the trinity is . . . ,” nor does Paul stop to say, “how you need to talk about God is in a Trinitarian manner . . .” Instead, the concept of the trinity comes from the church trying to understand God’s working in their lives.

The church witnesses the Father sending Jesus to live his life among the people. They experience both the promise and the person of Christ.

Jesus walks alongside the people of Israel. He preaches and teaches, performs miracles, and casts out demons. Many believe he will save Israel.

Then, Christ is crucified and he is buried, but he does not stay dead – rather he rises from the grave. He appears in his new heavenly body, still teaching and loving his disciples. He even forgives them for the hurt that they have caused and their betrayal of him.

He promises that those who believe in him will be given life, and life eternal. Jesus then rises into heaven, promising he will return one day just as he departed.

Jesus shows great love and compassion. Even the centurion at the cross proclaims, “This must be God.” So, in the person of Jesus, we learn who God is.

And, from the people of Israel we also hear about experiences with the Father. God the Father led the people of Israel from slavery to freedom. He gave them the laws and demanded that they be a holy people. He is holy and just.

The Father created the heavens and the earth. We hear about his mighty wrath, and his heavenly hosts. We hear about the prophets who fear and worship the Lord. We hear how his hand shapes all of reality. Yet, he still cares about people though he is the Lord. Isaiah tells us that one day, all nations will bow down before the Lord. In the Father, we learn who God is.

Then, we hear about the Holy Spirit. We hear about the spirit entering the disciples, and that everyone who heard them, heard them preach the good news in their own language. We hear the promise of a Paraclete, a comforter who will never leave us and will be with us, guiding us to all truth.

We have seen the Lord’s guiding through the spirit throughout the last 2,000 years. Even though sometimes we falter, the church has been doing God’s work and good for God’s sake. We still experience people’s changing of hearts when hope seems lost. We hear about people who are convicted by the spirit and go from lives of sin and debauchery to lives of holiness by the power of the Spirit. In the Spirit, we learn who God is.

Yet, we clearly hear that there is one God – there are not many gods. There are not even three gods. There is only one, the Lord God Almighty. All of these experiences come from the same God. So, we experience God as three, and yet we know God is one.

The church struggled with this, because it did not seem to make much sense, and they came up with the concept of Trinity. It was not because they were trying to make it complicated, but rather because the experience of God overwhelmed everything they had experienced before.

We still experience the Trinity, knowing that God is greater than our understanding, so this week, I pray:

“May you be blessed by God,

Protected by the Father from every evil,

Forgiven by the Son when you stray,

And led by the Spirit in all your ways.”