Romans 8:12-17 – Trinity Sunday – June 3, 2012 – 8 am Service
A few good engineers would help today. I know several of you have that knowledge and experience in your background, and I also know there are lots of kinds of engineers – mechanical, electrical, civil…This morning I’m thinking of the kind of engineer that could have written the kids’ book “How Things Work.”
There’s a kids’ encyclopedia published in 2009 for ages 7 and up (and there are several predecessors to it in the last several decades which you may have come across in shopping for young readers) that takes the inquisitive reader inside all kinds of machines to explain how they work – car engines, TVs, toilets, escalators. These books have diagrams and flaps and cutaways to help the reader understand things like pulleys and levers and wedges and counterweights and chain reactions. Some of the books seem to stick with machines; others, like the TIME for Kids Big Book of How answer questions like: “How does a chameleon change colors?; How can a person survive in the jungle?; How do you build a teepee?; How do diamonds form?; How do light sticks work?; How are 3-D movies made?; How do astronauts train for a space mission?; How do we get cavities?; How does solar energy work?” (courtesy of Amazon.com)
This morning (and, really, every morning) we need a book for ages 7 and up, or maybe we all could handle ages 14 and up, entitled “How God Works”, with a specific chapter on “How the Trinity Works”. Now, as anyone the least bit interested in theology knows, there are already entire libraries all over the world filled to their ceilings with books about God, but what I think would be helpful would be a book with brightly colored diagrams illustrating the Trinity – God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I would like a kids’ book with cardboard flaps that you could lift up (just like a hood of a car) and peer inside and see how Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit interact with each other and how they – rather the One – interacts with us and works in the world. Would it be like connected gears where if you turn one, they all rotate together? Or some kind of Rube Goldberg arrangement where one action sets off a chain of reactions?
The most pondered question by our Confirmands this year, besides why does a loving God allow suffering, was how God works. Where does God leave off and human will take over? Are there are random events or is God behind all of them? And as we tackled the divinity of Jesus, how could he have been truly fully human and fully divine? I love the question my theology professor posed to us in seminary: While Jesus walked the earth, who was minding the universe?
Of course, the doctrine of the Trinity helps to answer just that, as do the gospels and Paul’s letters, a portion of one we read this morning. The Bible and the writings of theologians since the early church are not only our “how things work” books, but our how-to books as well – human being owner’s manuals, if you will – despite inconsistencies and enigmatic language and multiple possible interpretations. And we know our human brains and hearts have limited understanding anyway: God is way too big and mysterious to be reduced to a child’s board book.
Today, on Trinity Sunday, the Sunday that always immediately follows Pentecost, we are called to celebrate the mystery and the gift of our triune God, one God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. With God the Father having created us and Jesus having liberated us through his death and resurrection, it is through the Holy Spirit that we continue to participate in the life and love and activity of God. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ is more than a mere memory expected to return in the future; through the Spirit, Christ lives and is present to us here and now. The Holy Spirit is the power of God’s promised future, awakening us and calling us to continue to work to heal this broken creation.
The three persons of the Trinity are not different names for the same thing: the Father is not the Son; the Son who proceeds from the Father is not the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. Yet each person is God: the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Spirit is God. The divine nature is relational with each of the three persons mutually indwelling in the other and all in perfect communion with each other. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – or an appealing way to express the Trinity is as Lover, Beloved and Love. My same theology professor said, “They are so close to each other, they can finish each other’s sentences.”
And although at first glance we remember only Jesus at this Communion table, if we remember that the bread and wine came from God’s incredible creation of earth and sun and sky, and that it is the Holy Spirit who remains here with us and within us connecting us to Jesus and to each other, the mystery of one God in three persons becomes more of an open book on how God works: through forgiveness and eternal presence and perfect love – flawless engineering. Amen.