"When Words Aren't Enough" Trinity Sunday Sermon by Vicar Sarah Kretschmann
Read John 3:1-17
Let us pray.
Triune God of every land and nation, You breathed us into being and your Spirit is with us at every breath. As you shone in the life of Jesus, so shine in us and through us, that we may be beacons of your love. Teach us to wonder, that we may draw closer to you and be filled with the light of your love for all the world.
Have you ever tried to explain an experience or a thing or a person but just couldn’t find the words to describe it fully?
Words just don’t feel expansive enough to describe some things.
Like what it is like after a summer rain. Sure there is a word to describe the smell, petrichor. But what about the sound, what about the sight of sunshine breaking through clouds, what about that feeling of possibility?
Words just don’t feel enough sometimes to describe the love we may have for a dear friend or for a child or for a pet. That wholeness we feel with them. That joy that comes in their presence.
Sometimes we are just at a loss for words.
Early Christians knew what it was to be at a loss for words too. As they attempted to explain their understanding of God to their communities in the context of their scriptural documents and prior traditions, some questions began to arise. "Do we not have one God, and one Christ, and one gracious Spirit that has been poured out upon us?" Clement of Rome asked his community in the first century. How do we fit all these divine experiences and understandings of God together? How do we find the words?
Well the word that was eventually decided on was the Trinity.
Though the word “trinity” is not found in the Bible, today is the day that we celebrate Trinity Sunday. Every Sunday when we gather for worship, we reflect on this word, this doctrine when we pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But what does this word really mean?
Trinity is doctrine that describes God as one God, but three coeternal and consubstantial persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. Three distinct persons, yet of one "nature."
I don’t know about you, but when I learned more about this part of our theology in seminary I went, “I’m sorry, what?”
Three in one. One in three. Co-eternal. Co-substantial. It made my head spin.
I think this is why I find Nicodemus to be one of the most relatable characters in the Bible. He doesn’t leave me alone in my confusion. He is right there with me.
When Jesus tries to explain to Nicodemus how things work in the Kingdom of God and God’s vision for the believers of the world, Nicodemus’s version of “I’m sorry, what?” sounded like “How can these things be?”
Many scholars and theologians have attempted to answer the “How can these things be?” question about God, about the Trinity.
Augustine sought to explain the Trinity by equating God the Father to the Lover, Jesus the son to the Beloved, and the Holy Spirit to Love itself.
Tertullian likened God the Father to the sun, Christ to the ray of sunlight streaming to Earth, and the Holy Spirit as the spot of warmth where sun arrives.
More than a doctrine, the Trinity expresses the heart of our faith: we have experienced the God of creation made known in Jesus Christ and with us always through the Holy Spirit. Experience is the important word of that sentence. Our relationship with the Triune God is experienced and sometimes words can only go so far. The Trinity is just one way of wondering about the mysteries of God.
What amazes and inspires me most about the Trinity is the relationality of God it shows. We were created from an overflowing of God's selfless and eternal love (agape) with the vision of perfect relationship. Just as our God is relational (three persons, one nature) so we are called to be as well. God's love in the trinity is an entirely equal love that shows how diversity and difference are just as important as unity. Human beings and our relationships in community with one another are beautiful (if flawed) reflections of the relational nature of a triune God.
God of creation shaped us for relationship: relationship with God, relationship with one another and relationship with all of creation. It is an amazing thing for God to become so incredibly vulnerable as to take on the flesh and blood manifestation of Jesus Christ. But out of unfathomable love for us, God makes this sacrifice. And God sure goes all in. By dwelling among us through Jesus, God walks with us through what it is to be human, guiding us to right and holy relationship with the world we live in and with one another.
So what does this holy relationship look like?
Throughout the Bible, there are numerous attempts at describing God and our relationship to the Divine. What are some of the images and verbs that come to mind for your relationship with God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit?
Maybe it’s God the Protector, the Teacher and the Advocate.
Maybe it’s God the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer.
Whatever comes to mind, my prayer for us this week is that we may be emboldened to wonder and to embrace that we do not have all the answers about God. May we be curious like Nicodemus seeking out new opportunities to abide in relationship with God even when we do not fully understand. May we make time to nurture our relationships with God, in the many ways they show up in the world as we celebrate the mystery of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.