A sermon preached by Pastor Robert Schaefer
First and Spring Creek Lutheran Churches
The Holy Trinity – May 22, 2005
Text: Matthew 28:17
Friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize something about myself – I’m a person who is fascinated with the “hows” of life. I’m naturally curious, and want to know and understand as much about the world around me as I can. It’s that instinct for “how” that made me a good student once upon a time; it’s that same instinct that makes me a good customer to the publishers of computer magazines today.
A small example: This week I made a pilgrimage of sorts, traveling in to Jamestown in order to watch the final episode of the Star Wars franchise. I grew up on Star Wars, so in my book there was a lot riding on this movie. I was so enthused after viewing it that I spent more time than I want to admit reading up on the characters, places, and events in this fictional universe. What especially stands out is the article I read describing how a lightsaber works. You know lightsabers – they’re the glowing swords the good and bad guys duke it out with. They’re completely made up…no such thing as a lightsaber in the real world. But such was my curiosity about “how” that I read that whole article anyhow.
I caught myself doing the same thing while preparing for my camping trip to the badlands this last week. Most people, when they read a book on photography, will look at the pictures and read the advice the author gives. I went a little further – without even thinking about it, I found that I was reading the tiny little notes next to each picture telling all the equipment and settings the photographer had used to capture that particular image. Those five or six lines contained all the technical “hows” of each picture, and I devoured them like a starved man.
That’s just how I am – I love to know how things work, how they’re done. And it’s the reason that we need days like Trinity Sunday.
On this day we celebrate one of the great beliefs of the Christian church: that God is one, and yet three. There is only one God, and there has only ever been one God…yet that God has always existed as three persons. To talk about the Trinity without contradicting yourself is very nearly impossible; to try to understand the “hows” of God the Three-In-One is to risk a meltdown somewhere in your brain. The God that you and I worship here in this church – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is a God whose nature can’t fit into my little question of “how.” No feature on The Learning Channel could explain the Trinity to me; no entry in the Christian Encyclopedia could begin to say how this works, never mind to clue me in on what it’s like to God being three and one all at the same time. Coming to church on Holy Trinity Sunday stops me in my tracks the moment I begin getting all wrapped up in “hows” and reminds me that for all the great advancements we have made by asking “how,” there are many mysteries in life that simply must be received and experienced, whether or not we can wrap our heads around them.
It’s a lesson that touches many of the most important parts of our lives. I remember spending weeks trying to understand just exactly how my first serious girlfriend had managed to fall for me before realizing that maybe, just maybe, the fact of her love was the really important thing. Whether or not I understood how it happened – and I freely admit that I didn’t – there that love was, just the same. It was real, even when I couldn’t figure out any of the “hows” that made it happen. Sometimes I think that the mystery of two people falling in love is just that much more powerful because we can’t explain it away. There’s nothing to do but to live in such a great mystery, and with all the more gratitude because of its mysteriousness to us.
I think we’re all a bit like me when it comes to “hows.” We like to understand the way the world works; we want to make sense of life, and knowing “how” is usually the first important step in that direction. But the greatest truths are often the ones that defy our attempts at explanation and simply demand to be believed. When I finally learned to accept and return that young lady’s love no matter how much or how little I understood it, I received one of my life’s great blessings. In much the same way, when we’re confronted with the mysteries of the Trinity – when we not only read the names Father, Son, and Spirit in our Bibles but have felt each Person’s unique power in our lives and recognize that they’re somehow all the same God – we learn that perhaps God desires us to simply live knowing him, even if we can’t always know all about him. We know that our Triune God is real, whether or not we understand “how,” and that makes all the difference.
Within our faith there are many great mysteries: The mystery of God adopting us through plain old water and the words of his promise. The mystery of Jesus coming to us with love and forgiveness in bread from Enterprises and wine from Schiffner’s. The mystery of God speaking pardon through the lips of a pastor just as sinful as the rest. The mystery of Jesus our brother, just like us and yet inside that human body – God. And the great mystery of death dying in Jesus’ death, so that life might be lived through his resurrection.
I confess that most days I don’t understand any of these things. I don’t know how they work, or why, and to be honest, I’m a little suspicious of the times when I do think I’ve got communion or baptism or anything else all figured out. What I do know, and what Holy Trinity Sunday teaches us, is that sometimes it is enough to know that something is true, without knowing all the “hows” of it.
And friends, whether or not you or I can explain him, our God, Three-In-One, One-In-Three, is true, and so is his undying love for us. May you live today and each day of your life in the mystery of that great truth. Amen.