The Triune God, who lives in a relationship of love within God’s life, invites you and the whole creation into that relationship, promising to keep teaching and guiding and opening up new paths for a life of love and healing of all things.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Holy Trinity, year C
Text: John 16:12-15
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus told his followers that he “still had many things to say” to them, but they weren’t ready.
He promised that the Holy Spirit would continue to be with them and guide them into whatever truth they would need whenever they would need it. Or be ready for it.
Instead of expecting these new things, starting nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus’ followers began a pattern of trying to lock down for all time things they knew about the Christian faith. They developed the canon of the New Testament, choosing books and letters that were achieving nearly universal use among the congregations of Christians. That was and is a blessing. But it also created a line between “official” Scripture and writings that didn’t make the cut. If Christ was still trying to say new things to the Church, those new things weren’t going to make it into the Bible.
And in the first few centuries, they developed creeds, statements of faith.
These definitively stated Church teaching, mostly about the nature of the Triune God and the death and resurrection of Christ. These creeds are still a blessing to us, truths the Church has cherished and passed on for millennia.
But they also can inhibit believers from hearing new things Christ might want to teach the Church through the guidance of the Spirit. In the first place, they say nothing concerning the teachings of Jesus, the heart of his ministry. Never mind future new things, they don’t affirm what Christ says in Scripture. Jesus didn’t seem to care much that we understand his divine and human natures, but he definitely wanted us to be filled with the Spirit and love our neighbors, our enemies, and to offer our lives to God. Our creeds ignore that completely.
And worse, if you were among those who didn’t get your views in the creeds, suddenly you were a heretic, when before you simply had a disagreement with others about God’s nature. The Church could now say anyone who doesn’t agree with everything here is outside, not inside.
Where, in such statements of faith, is there room for Christ to teach us new things, things that perhaps the Church wasn’t ready for in the 4th century but might be ready now? Are there even openings for the Spirit to guide and lead us, if we proclaim we know everything we need to know?
On this feast day celebrating the Holy Trinity, let’s seriously ask those questions.
This day, on the calendar since the 15th century, began much earlier as an attempt to reinforce the insider/outsider boundary once again. Believe these things about the Triune God, this day said, or you’re not a true Christian. Now, not a single Christian in history ever has understood a fraction of the truth about the Triune God’s nature. Even those at Nicaea couldn’t know for certain they were right, they just won the votes. Using this day as a way to weed out the false Christians is a pretty bad idea.
Thank God for Scripture. Just when you think you’ve got the truth about God in a box and you can see who’s in and who’s out by whether they like your box, the Scriptures happily take a hammer to the box and say, “Well, it’s more complicated than you think.”
Whatever you and I say about the Triune God’s nature, whatever our beloved, ancient creeds say, we all stand down at the words of our risen Lord and Savior: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
Christ Jesus says the box is open, the book is never closed, and the understanding of faith will continue to grow and expand. That’s the joy to celebrate on this feast of the Holy Trinity.
We understand that God is Triune from the teachings of Jesus.
How God is Trinity, how it all works, Jesus couldn’t care less if we understand that. But that you and I can connect with the Triune God in all three Persons, Jesus deeply wants you to trust that and rejoice in that.
Jesus taught us that we have complete access to God in all three Persons of the Trinity. We can pray to the One Jesus called Father with complete confidence and joy, trusting we are heard and loved. And we have access to the Trinity through our brother Christ Jesus who leads and guides us on our path of life and promises to always be with us. And Jesus taught us that the Holy Spirit is our deepest access to the Trinity, living in you and me, giving birth to faith, filling us with fire and love, guiding, teaching, comforting, reminding.
Jesus also invites us to live, abide in the mystery of a Triune God, not to understand it.
Jesus said repeatedly that he and the Father were one, abided in and with each other, and that the Spirit also abided with both of them. God exists as loving, abiding relationship, a dance of love within God’s own life.
And the Son of God proclaims this dance of God’s life is an open dance, a relationship of love and grace the Triune God wants to welcome you and all creation into, to live in God’s life, live in God’s love, abide in God’s loving, changing, alive, active, growing relationship.
That’s why we can’t put God in a box. The Triune God still has many things to say to you and me and the Church and the world. And that teaching will happen as we live within God’s life together, in relationship with God and each other, blessed by the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, she will guide you into all truth.”
This is one of Christ’s greatest gifts to the Church, to be able to expect new communication from the Triune God through the Spirit’s guidance, to be able to hope for new clarity, new direction, new love we need to bear, new paths as we continue to live in a challenging and suffering world.
What if you and I and the Church lived our lives expecting this? To have the joy that when we’re confused, or lost, or threatened, or afraid, or mistaken, or sinful, we can expect the Triune God to give us clarity, direction, hope, answers?
The box is open, the book is never closed, and our understanding of faith will continue to grow and expand. That’s a promise from the God who lives in a Triune relationship of love within God’s life and who today invites you and me and all creation to live in that same relationship within God and with each other, for the healing of this creation and the life of all God’s children.
In the name of Jesus. Amen