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Sermon for Sunday 26 May 2013

FIRST READING Proverbs 8:1–4, 22–31

1 Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? 2 On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; 3 beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: 4 “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. 22 The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth —
26 when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. 27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

PSALM Psalm 8

1 O LORD our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! — 2 you whose glory is chanted above the heavens out of the mouths of infants and children; you have set up a fortress against your enemies, to silence the foe and avenger. 3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you have set in their courses, 4 what are mere mortals that you should be mindful of them, human beings that you should care for them? 5 Yet you have made them little less than divine; with glory and honor you crown them. 6 You have made them rule over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet: 7 all flocks and cattle, even the wild beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and whatever passes along the paths of the sea. 9 O LORD our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!


1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

GOSPEL John 16:12–15

12 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.


It’s hard to believe but the festival is finally here and tomorrow you can start taking down all the decorations that you put up for this special day in the church year. You did decorate, didn’t you? I would think that the kids have been counting down the days in joyful anticipation of this day. I can remember it like it was yesterday, “Mom, how many more days until Trinity Sunday?” It’s an exciting time. I hope each of you got what you wanted for Trinity Sunday. I guess you could say that we’re a bit saddened since this is the last day we’ll sing all the Trinity carols that we’ve been enjoying for the past month. Some of you might even be thinking, “Why we can’t we keep the Trinity spirit around all year long.”
By the blank stares I’m seeing, I’m guessing you didn’t give Trinity presents this year nor did you decorate your houses. I’m also guessing that you forgot that today is holy Trinity Sunday until you looked at the bulletin this morning? I guess I’ll have to accept the fact that holy Trinity Sunday isn’t a very big event in the average Christian’s life. You know what? Holy Trinity Sunday isn’t much fun for preachers, either? Each year, on the Sunday after Pentecost, we’re given the task of explaining the unexplainable God, in three persons, the blessed Trinity.
Roughly 100 years ago there lived an American choreographer named Isadora Duncan. Ms. Duncan is considered by many to be the creator of modern dance. Once, when asked about the meaning of a performance she had given, she made a profound statement. She said, “If I could say it, I wouldn’t have to dance it.” I guess you could say the same about the Trinity. If there were a Trinity dance, I might be better at dancing the Trinity than explaining it. I bet you’d pay to see that huh! One thing we have to come to terms with is the fact that the holy Trinity, the Triune God is a mystery. God chooses to manifests Himself in three forms Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Creator, the crucified One and the Comforter who lives in our hearts. Why and what does it all mean? It’s a mystery. And in our attempts to understand this mystery, it seems that the best we can do is use metaphors to try to explain it.
I like a metaphor that Dr. John Pavelko uses. He compares the Trinity to our current obsession with multi-tasking. He points to some of the multi-tasking products we use, like the 3-in-1 Laser Pointer, Stylus, and Ball point pen he saw advertised. This 3-in-1 pen allows you to work faster and easier, according to the ads. You can enter your data into your PDA with the stylus, then rotate the top and sign a contact with the Ball point pen. When your work is all done you can use the laser to torment your cat.
Then there’s the 3-in-1 Cooler, Fan and Ionic Air Purifier by Fujitronic. It cools the air through a water sprinkling system, while at the same time freshening the air by releasing negative ions. It also uses a washable strainer to purify the air of all those microscopic particles that plague your allergies. If that isn’t enough multitasking for you, you can put all your work into a hard copy with a Dell Photo All-In-ONE Printer. It’ll make copies of your photos, print, fax, scan and photocopy your documents with up to a 50-page auto feeder. Dr. Pavelko asks, “With all of these multi-tasking devices, why do we have such difficulty accepting the notion that one God can exist as three persons?” It’s a good question.
Why do we as human beings, whose finest minds still can’t cure the common cold, think we’ll ever have the ability to understand the workings of God, who is so far greater than we are that we could never fathom His nature? If you really want an explanation of the Trinity, the best one possible comes from the great mind of C. S. Lewis who undertook that task in his book Mere Christianity seventy years ago.
He writes, “An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He’s trying to get into touch with God. But if he’s a Christian, he knows that what’s prompting him to pray is also God: God so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God, that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what’s happening. God is the thing to which he is praying the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he’s being pushed to that goal. The whole threefold life of the three person Being is actually going on in that ordinary act of prayer.” A bit wordy but it’s as good an explanation of the Trinity as you and I are apt to get and it’s still far too complicated for most of us. Now here’s something that might surprise you.
Interestingly enough, the word Trinity doesn’t even appear in the Bible. But the formula of Father, Son and Holy Spirit appears several times, including in today’s epistle from St. Paul to the Romans. Paul, however, doesn’t try to explain this great mystery. What he does, is to show its relevance to our lives, which is good, because that’s what we need anyway. We don’t really need to understand the Trinity. What we need is to see how God-in-three-persons helps us live as disciples of Christ.
Paul begins like this: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . .” Let’s pause here for a moment. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . .” Now you might be thinking, “Peace with God? I didn’t know I had a conflict with God.” And you might not, but a lot of people do struggle with God without even knowing it.
I read something interesting about animals, at least male animals. If you place a mirror next to most male animals, they will immediately react aggressively, even attacking the mirror. The image causes the male animal to defend its territory. Scientists tell us that’s because these animals lack awareness of who they are. They don’t realize they’re seeing themselves in the mirror. If you go higher on the evolutionary chain to monkeys, elephants, dolphins, and some birds they quickly realize that the image in the mirror represents themselves and they cease to attack it.
But why do these male animals go into a fighting mode in the first place? It’s in their DNA. It’s a survival tool. And some of that same drive is within every human being, especially males. The most natural thing in the world is our drive for survival. This causes us to lash out against anything or anyone that threatens us. What an amazing transition it is for us to grow spiritually and emotionally to the point that we are able to regard every person as a brother or sister in Christ and not as a threat. That kind of growth rarely comes without struggle. It’s part of what Paul would regard as our war with God. And when we’re able, with God’s help, to enlarge our ability to love, there comes with it great peace. Jesus, the bridge-builder between God and humanity and between people and their neighbors, brings us that peace.
I read about an old saint who was dying. He was visited by a friend who asked him, “Have you made your peace with God?” The man replied, “No, I haven’t.” To that his friend said, “What! Oh you must make peace with God.” “I’m sorry, I cannot do that.” replied the dying man. His friend said, “But you must! Don’t you know that it’s dangerous to die without making peace with God?” To this, the dying man said, “But how can I make peace with God? My Lord made peace with me 2,000 years ago when He died on the cross, and I accepted it. I’ve had peace ever since!”
Peace is the work of Christ. He laid down His life to reconcile us to one another and to God. He’s the bridge, in C. S Lewis’ words, that crosses the chasm between who we are and who God wants us to be. Winston Churchill was honoring members of the Royal Air Force who had guarded England during the Second World War.
He recounted their brave service and he declared, “Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few.” A similar sentiment appears on a memorial plaque in Bastogne, Belgium. That’s the location of the famous Battle of the Bulge, one of the bloodiest conflicts of World War II. The inscription, in honor of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, reads: “Seldom has so much American blood been shed in the course of a single action. Oh, Lord, help us to remember!” We need to remember the sacrifice of those soldiers, especially on this Memorial Day weekend, but it’s even more important that we remember the sacrifice that Christ made to earn us permanent peace with ourselves with our neighbors and with God.
Paul writes, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Then he adds, “and we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” Sometimes Paul is a bit hard to understand. We have to stop and consider that Paul was debating and writing to people who were studying the great philosophers of the time, Plato, Aristotle and Socrates. What does Paul mean when he says—“boast in the hope of the glory of God?” Maybe the best way to answer a question is with a question. Where is your hope?
Is your hope in the stock market? Is it in the value of your home? How about your good health? Where is your hope? Your youth? Is it your personal ingenuity? Is it in our political system, in free markets, in our health care system? We must carefully consider where we place our hope. This, of course, is the joy of youth.
When we’re young we have such a long horizon. We can dream dreams, make plans, come up with ideas, and with a reasonable amount of luck we’ll be able to see them through. But as we get older, we become a little wiser, and we begin to realize that if we put our hope in any man-made construct, we’re apt to be disappointed. A feeble old millionaire, confined to his bed with the infirmities of age, pointed out the window at a husky teenager who was having an obviously enjoyable conversation with a pretty girl. “I wish I was as rich as he,” remarked the old man.
“But he has no job,” the rich man’s nurse commented, “his family has ten mouths to feed, and he doesn’t even know whether he’ll be able to go to college.” “Yes,” said the rich man, “but he has health and youth and hope he’s rich in all the things that money can’t buy.” Most young people have no idea how rich they really are. Even when we’re young, however, we soon learn there are limitations. Everyone who has ever lived has had limitations.
Some of us regard Albert Einstein as perhaps the smartest man who ever lived. How many of you knew that when Einstein died, he left an unfinished manuscript? This manuscript was to be his crowning achievement, his attempt to create a “theory of everything,” an equation that would unlock the secrets of the universe and perhaps allow him to “read the mind of God.” But, if he had truly discovered those secrets at the heart of the universe, he died with them still locked within him.
The night of his death, the newspapers printed a picture of his office, with that unfinished manuscript on his desk. The caption read that the greatest scientist of our era could not finish his greatest masterpiece. All of us have limitations. So where do you place your hope?
The director of a medical clinic told of a terminally ill young man who came in for his usual treatment. A new doctor who was on duty said to him casually and cruelly, “You know, don’t you, that you won’t live out the year?” As the young man left, he stopped by the director’s desk and wept. “That man took away my hope,” he blurted out.
“I guess he did,” replied the director. “Maybe it’s time to find a new one.” The new hope he was talking about is the only hope worth having hope in God. All of us have to put our hope somewhere. Why not invest our hope in that which is eternal?
So Paul speaks of the peace that Christ brings, and the hope God gives. Then he moves on to that third part of the Trinity. He writes, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Christ brings us peace. God gives us hope. And the Holy Spirit fills us with love.
Every once in a while someone comes to prominence for a while, a celebrity, if you will. But they’re different from most celebrities and they remind us of what life is all about. Before he fades from public consciousness, I want to remind you of a young man named Kurtis. Kurtis, a deeply religious young man, worked in a supermarket where he fell in love with a woman named Brenda. Kurtis was the stock boy and Brenda was the checkout lady. He was twenty-two and she was twenty-six. Kurtis was attracted to Brenda and asked her out. She refused, saying she was divorced and had two children. She had “baggage.” Kurtis persisted anyway.
A date was arranged and Kurtis arrived at the door. Brenda met him and again cancelled the date; the baby sitter had gotten sick. Finally, Brenda let Kurtis into her apartment to meet her two children. The little girl was as cute as a bug. The little boy was in a wheel chair, was a paraplegic, and had Down syndrome. Kurtis said, “There’s no reason all four of us can’t go out tonight.”
Time went by and Kurtis became fast friends of the family, learning to lift the little boy out of the wheelchair to go to the bathroom. Eventually, Kurtis and Brenda fell in love, married and had two more children. Today, they are just as committed to one another as they were as young people, even though Kurtis left the super market and eventually became one of the biggest football stars in our land. Some of you have already guessed that Kurtis is better known as Kurt, Kurt Warner, the star quarterback for many years for the St. Louis Rams. Kurt Warner won two Most Valuable Player awards in the NFL as well as the MVP award in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Kurt is retired from football today, but he’s not retired from being a follower of Jesus Christ. If you ask Kurt Warner where he learned to love his family like he does, he would unashamedly tell you that it’s the Holy Spirit working within his life. Paul says to us, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
So, what is the Trinity about? I can’t explain it as well as C. S. Lewis did, but I can tell you what it means in our life. Christ provides us with peace through His sacrifice on the cross; God gives us hope even in the darkest hour; and the Holy Spirit fills us with God’s love. I can’t explain what the Trinity is, but that’s what the Trinity does.

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