Three in One
The concept of God as Trinity is about as challenging to grasp as the idea of eternity. People are born and they die. Animals are born and they die. Plants sprout from seeds and die. Every product ever known to man has required a plan to be created (a beginning). In everything we know as human beings, there is a beginning and an end. To try to understand a God who has always been, never born and never ends, is too much for our limited brains. Faith is required to believe something that we cannot see or explain.
Each week we proclaim God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the Apostle’s Creed. Three individual entities with their specific roles, yet one God. Each is individual and yet part of the other. The Father does not exist without the Son and Holy Spirit. The Son does not exist without the Father and the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit does not exist without the Father and Son.
One person described this idea (that is impossible to fully reason) in the following way. Set three different colored smoke bombs side by side and light them. Watch the different colored smoke rise and combine together. It will be one smoke cloud with three identifiable colors permeating one another, yet the colors cannot be separated from the cloud. This is a simplistic idea, but one that probably comes as close to human understanding of Trinitarian relationship as possible.
While we believe that God consists of three parts, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, different denominations put unequal emphasis on these individual realities. The Jewish and Orthadox religions, for example, focus on God the Father. Lutherans, United Methodists and others are overwhelmingly Christ-centered. And still other denominations (such as Pentacostals) put higher emphasis on the Holy Spirit.
But it is Christ, the Son, who is the basis for Christian faith. The title ‘Christian’ was the Roman category for Christ followers. And yet as Christians, we tend to lean closer to Jewish teachings of the Father’s laws than we do Christ’s mercy. Consider the teachings of Jewish tradition. The Law was given by God through Moses to the people. In order to be forgiven by God, one followed the law and made sacrifices for sins by offering the best and purest animal in the flock or grain in storage.
Today we continue to use law to judge those whom we believe to be ‘good Christians’ vs. those who are bad. The concept of law is one that determines acceptable vs. unacceptable. Whenever the word ‘should’ is used, it is understood as law (written or unwritten). The Pharisees, Jewish church leaders who best understood God’s law, were the ultimate examples of determining who was living in such a way as to be acceptable to God.
Christ’s message on the other hand, is very different from that of Jewish law. The Christian message radically proclaims love and forgiveness instead of ‘shoulds and should nots’. Christ came to fulfill the law through love and mercy. That meant that ‘law’ was not seen as something that we ‘need to do’ to be acceptable, but rather that we do as a result of love.
The entire reason for Jesus Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection was the fact that humanity is broken and imperfect due to sin. No matter how good we want to be, our sinful natures make it impossible to be good enough. God loves you because you are his and for no other reason. Our acceptablility to God has nothing to do with our accomplishments, because no matter how good we are, we are still sinners. The ONLY reason that you and I are acceptable to God is Jesus Christ. His olive branch of love and grace held out to us is the ONLY way to the Father.
Today we honor Fathers. And today we worship the Father who is unlike any human father. Earthly fathers fall short of perfect love, support, and forgiveness yet we love them. But our heavenly Father is not human. He allowed Himself through Christ to be the perfect sacrifice (the unblemished Lamb) for the sins of all humanity.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8. Jesus calls us out to make disciples, to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to teach the message of Christ’s love and forgiveness.
The Spirit guides us in our journeys as Jesus disciples. We are not called to teach people to be like us, to be acceptable by our ‘shoulds and shouldn’ts’, nor to expect people to be perfect. Jesus message states that we are loved and forgiven by the Father in our imperfections; and that we can experience the freedom of Christ by letting go of trying to do everything right, and focus on loving one another. Let’s trust in the love of our perfect Father, while loving, forgiving, and honoring our imperfect earthly fathers. Amen.