St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Trinity Sunday, 2015

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 I speak in the name of Jesus the Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
 
4.6 billion years ago, a good ten billion years after the beginning of our universe according to the Big Bang Theorists, a very special star was born. Our Sun. Many scientists think that the Sun, formally categorised as a yellow dwarf star, and the rest of the solar system formed from a giant, rotating cloud of gas and dust known as a solar nebula. As the nebula collapsed because of its gravity, it spun faster and flattened into a disk. Most of the material was pulled towards the centre to form what we know as our Sun. Eventually, when the core reached a temperature of 10 billion degrees Celsius, nuclear fusion began and the Sun was born. The Sun has enough nuclear fuel to burn for another 5 billion years... after that it will swell into a Red Giant, shed its outer layers and collapse to become a white dwarf.
 
Today is a special day here at St Michael. Not only are we celebrating my farewell after many years of serving and ministry, but it is also Trinity Sunday. Many clergy grimace politely when it comes to preaching on the Trinity, for it is no easy concept to master or to preach on. Whilst I hold a degree in Divinity, I do not claim for a moment to be an acclaimed theologian, rather a very junior one who still struggles with complicated concepts of theology.
 
We have already come a long way this liturgical year, from the Easter celebrations where we acknowledged the death and resurrection of Christ, to the Ascension which we also celebrated recently. We now have the privilege of celebrating the Trinity. On a very simple level, many people have a simple understanding of One in Three and Three in One. There is nothing wrong with having a basic understanding of our Christian teaching. It is a start. Some people have the incorrect notion about the Trinity in that they mistakenly think that God is simply playing different roles, as in Father, Son and Holy Ghost. This is a dangerous misconception to have and the Church Fathers have already labelled this understanding as Modalism, which is a heresy. Here some people think that God takes on various roles as and when needed. Think for example of your role in your life. Many of you will be a parent to a child; you will also be a partner to a significant other, as well as a child to your parent, a sibling to your brother or sister. Thus you are essentially the same person but taking on different roles... if you took this metaphor and applied it directly to the concept of the Trinity, you would be falling into the trap of Modalism.
 
It is interesting to note that the actual Bible does not inform us directly about the Trinity, what is does do is inform us about the character and personalities of God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It is from this that theologians are able to build up theological concepts. I have often thought that perhaps Jesus never meant for us to develop such intricate and complicated theology. As Christians, we should be focussing on getting the basics right, like worshipping God in our lives, loving our neighbours, praying, tithing and reading the Bible. However, society has proven over the eons to be a complex social construct that needs to have rules, guidance and structure. It is out of this context that the need for various disciplines in the church arose, systematic theology being one of them. Systematic theology is the attempt by Christian academics to build a working theology in the real world from the Bible and associated writings.
 
The history behind the development of the theology of the Trinity is complex and drawn out. There is no need for us to cover all of the history in this sermon this morning. I do, however, encourage you to research the topic if you are interested for it does make for good reading and will help you understand the development of the early church around issues such as this. 
 
What is interesting to note is that the underlying basis for the Trinity lay in the heads of some of the early Christian writers in the 4th Century. This was the practical start of the Trinity Doctrine. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the Holy Ghost was not well understood in the early church and was thus a stumbling point for many in their formation and understanding of the Trinity.
So what exactly is the Trinity?
 
Well, many Christian dominations describe the Trinity slightly differently, some using different words or terms. 
A general outline of the Trinity would be:
1) The three persons- Father, Son and Holy Spirit- together make up the Godhead, or simply, God.
2) Each of the three persons is, individually and simultaneously, fully God.
3) The Trinity does not claim that God is a collective divine Being, with each of the three persons being a subset thereof; rather, each is wholly God, in addition to being a component of God along with the other two persons.
 
Perhaps you are wondering why I introduced this sermon with a brief explanation of how our Sun was formed? Well, our Sun could be used as a very good metaphor to explain the Trinity.
Our Sun is 93 million miles away from us. We cannot ever go to the Sun for two main reasons. One, we just cannot travel that far. Two, if we approach the Sun, we will burn up. In the same way, God is so far away that we cannot approach Him. I remind you of Exodus 33:20 which says: God said to Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” But the Sun can come to us in some limited form. How does the Sun come to us?
By its light!
 
This is how God came down to us, through His Light, Jesus. John 9:5 reminds us, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
You see the light that we have in the world around us every day from the Sun, comes from the same ball of fire that we are unable to visit. In essence, therefore, the Sun and the light are one. Perhaps we could even say that the nuclear fusion of the Sun is the father of the light?
 
So in the same way that the fire and the light are inseparable over all those millions of miles, so too is the Father, Jesus and the Holy Ghost inseparable, they are also One- a Trinity. They possess the same nature. This is the only way we could experience God, by God becoming human through His Son, Jesus.
 
This is a simple metaphor to try and explain a complex theology. 
Professor John Suggit, in his book titled, The Simplicity of God, goes one step further by suggesting that the Christian understanding of God as Trinity describes both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of human beings. On the one hand God is sovereign and in control of His creation, while on the other hand he enters into a close relation with human beings, thereby putting himself at risk, by submitting Himself to the indignity of possible rejection. The understanding of God as Trinity is a way of resolving the ambiguity by which God’s immanence, his concern for, and involvement in, the world is maintained without in any way surrendering or diminishing His transcendent sovereignty.
Confused?
Don’t be.
Know this.
God, in all His ways loves you with all His heart.
Jesus, sent by His Father to die on the Cross for our sins, brought us salvation and light, eternal life and hope. The Holy Spirit maintains and strengthens us daily whilst we await the second coming of Christ.  
 
Perhaps it would be a good idea to conclude with a summary of the baptismal creed which provides a good brief summary of the meaning of the doctrine of the Trinity:
I believe and trust in God the Father who made the world
I believe and trust in his Son Jesus Christ who redeemed humankind
I believe and trust in His Holy Spirit who gives life to the people of God
I believe and trust in one God
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
May God bless you this week and in the years ahead as you deepen your faith through growing in your understanding of the Trinity.
Amen.
 
 

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