We know God because God has come to us, invited us into the life of the Trinity, to be changed into the radiant love that we find there.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Holy Trinity, year C
Text: Romans 5:1-5
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Look closely at the picture. There’s a place for you.
Nearly 600 years ago the Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev wrote an icon depicting the visit of three heavenly strangers to Abraham and Sarah. The Bible claims this was a visit of God, that they actually spoke to God in these beings.
In time, the Church wondered if this was somehow a vision of the Trinity. So this icon, printed on our service folder, is often called “The Holy Trinity,” as well as “The Hospitality of Abraham.”
But look closely. The figure on the right, representing the Holy Spirit, holds her hand out toward the open space, inviting a guest to the meal. You. The one looking at the picture. Some believe a mirror was originally attached where that square is on the front of the table.
Isn’t that lovely? Looking at this visitation of God, you see yourself invited to join God’s presence.
This is the only way you can know God.
We now have 1,600 years of theological reflection since the Nicene Creed on how God is One God, yet Three Persons. None of that reflection actually lets you know God.
It’s God’s invitation to come, enter God’s life, that lets you know God’s truth, God’s reality, God’s essence. You can only really know another person by having a relationship with them, talking with them, loving them, and you can only know God that way.
In fact, our whole idea of the Trinity began with the invitation of the Incarnate One, Jesus, not with theological constructs. Jesus showed us in person the face of God, the heart of God. In Jesus, God came to you, to the world, and said, “Come, let’s know each other better.”
This is where the Church first met God’s deepest truth. It’s where you will.
Today Paul says we have access to God through Christ Jesus. Jesus welcomes you into the life of God.
Look first to Jesus, then. Hear his teachings, listen to his voice proclaiming God’s unlimited forgiveness and love for you and for all creatures, for the whole creation. Eat his meal of grace and life for you and for all. Wonder at the signs of utter welcome, the crossing of human boundaries of law and exclusion, the breaking of taboos of culture and religion, that you see in God’s Son.
And stand in awe at the inexpressible mystery of God’s love on the cross, dying to bring you and the cosmos back into God’s life. Rejoice, as we have this past Easter season, in God’s destruction of death and hatred and evil.
Jesus is the face of the Triune God for you, so you know God is good, God is loving, God is for you. Paul says today you have been declared righteous by God in Christ. God looks at you in person in Jesus and sees good, and holy, and blessed. And always says, “Welcome, beloved one. Come, know me.”
Meeting the Trinity first in Jesus then leads to a deeper joy.
You’ve heard for weeks Jesus’ promise that the Spirit of God would come to you, fill you. So, you are not alone, Jesus says, God is in you. You need not be confused or lost, God’s Spirit will guide you. And Paul says today, God’s love is poured out into you through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, the Incarnate One, sends you God’s Spirit to make you filled with God, too. To make you an Incarnate One. To intertwine your life into the life of God forever.
How many times has Jesus said in these weeks that he and the One he called Father were one, united, and that in the Spirit of God you would be united with God yourself? Coming to this world in human flesh was the first step in God’s plan to bring you, and me, and all creation into the heart of God’s life.
So listen for the voice of the Spirit in you. As Jesus promises today, the Spirit will teach you what you need to know when you’re ready to know it, just as the Spirit teaches the Church in the same way.
This is the grace of the Holy Trinity: you are welcomed to join the Triune God’s life forever, to take your place in the circle, and the Spirit makes that happen.
That means a couple wonders, Paul says today.
First, you now have peace with God.
When humans try to imagine God it’s usually a distant, powerful, often judging god. At least in the patriarchal cultures in which we’ve spent the past 3,000 years. So when suffering and pain and evil happen, it’s easy to blame this imaginary god we’ve created, or fear this god is our enemy.
But you know God intimately now, you are filled with God’s Spirit. So you can be at peace with God. When you face suffering, you know God has suffered, too, and knows your pain. Because God’s Spirit is in you, you know that God is with you always, no matter what. And as Paul says, that’s where your hope comes from. Not that all suffering ends, but that when you grow closer and closer to God, filled with God’s Spirit, you have God’s love and strength to face it and thrive.
And as the Spirit fills us all, we together can even face the great suffering and pain of others, bringing God’s hope and love ourselves, trusting that God is working in us to bring life, even if we can only seemingly take tiny steps at a time. We are one body in Christ, across this planet. So we trust that God, working in all the body of Christ, is moving this world toward justice and mercy and peace.
And, Paul says, you also share in the glory of God.
Freed from following a god made in your own image, now that you see you have a place in the Triune God’s life, Paul says you also will share in God’s glory. In the radiance, the brightness of the life of God. In the beginning, God said, “Let us make humanity in our own image.” And now, in Christ, as you take your place in God’s life and heart, that promise begins to be fulfilled in you.
You start to look like God in your love and grace. Your heart begins to beat as God’s, in compassion and love for all who struggle. Your hands become creative like God’s, embracing like God’s. And together, as Christ’s body, we bring God’s life to this whole world.
“Come in,” the Trinity says to you, “come join us in our life. There is room for you in our dance.” So come. Enter into the life of God and be changed, be healed, be made new.
In the name of Jesus. Amen