MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three in one. How do we know that God is Trinity? How does the Trinity impact our lives? Listen to this podcast of his reflection for Trinity Sunday. Please read John 16:12-15.#GreatPreaching #Revelation22 #Urgent #Apocalypse #Sermons #Homilies
Not Three for One: A Reflection on John 16:12-15
For MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 5/26/2013Choose an item. Pentecost Sunday.
Please pause this audio and read John 16:12-15.
Not Three for One
I remember when my Systematic Theology professor at Duke University, Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright, asked my class full of eager and aging seminarians, “What is God’s name?” It, frankly, was a thought we had never contemplated. We knew Jesus was and is God’s Son. We also knew that we addressed the “Father in Heaven”. we had hoped that we would “get the Spirit.” I wonder if we just assumed that meant the “Holy Spirit.”
Different answers were sent out, “Yahweh”. Dr. Wainwright said, “Yes, we do say that he is the Great I AM, which means that He is existence Himself, but that is not his name.” Then Dr. Wainwright went on to point out to us that the Book of Genesis says, “Let us make man in our image and likeness…” He continued that Jesus revealed God’s name.
Dr. Wainwright continued to point out that Jesus himself told us to do something in God’s name so that we would appropriate the power of God through the use of his name. Wainwright said, “ Jesus said, in the Gospel of Matthew that we ought to “Baptize them in the name” of God. He said, “Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Why would the Lord our Christ tell us to appropriate the name of any other being in Baptism but the name of God? So, that being said, we know that God’s name is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We call him by a nickname, lovingly, we call him the Trinity.”
When one protestant seminarian objected that the name Father, Son and Holy Spirit was a patriarchal name imposed upon the church by some dead white males, the professorial Englishman was un-phased. He turned with one hand on his cheek and another on his hip and said, “Well, Jesus, being the Son of God, ought to know, I would think.”
We were off and didn’t look back.
The Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is hard to understand. We struggle to explain the Holy Mystery which is the Trinity. We often think the Trinity is simply a three for one deal. We get three gods for the price of one. But as I have tried to point out before, God is not a product and he is not for sale. God is a living being who is with us, watching us, hearing us and being ministered to by us during the liturgies. All we have, all we are, and all we do is accomplished by the Holy Trinity.
The Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jesus says, works together. The Father created the Heavens and the earth and he did so through the Son. The Holy Spirit sustains that life. The Father gives all that is his to the Son who tells us that he will send to us the Holy Spirit to guide us in the Way. Although the Father is the Creator, the Son and the Holy Spirit are also involved in creating. The Son is the Redeemer. But also, the Holy Spirit raised him to life, the Father sent him to earth, so, the Father redeems and the Holy Spirit redeems. The Holy Spirit is the Sustainer of all life, but he does so through the redemption offered through the Son and he proceeds from the Father who is in Heaven. This means that the Father and the Son also sustain us. So, there is not one thing that one person of the Trinity does in which the other two persons of the Trinity is not involved.
St. Gregory of Nyssa, who was a bishop who lived between A.D. 330 and A.D. 395, was exiled from his episcopacy because he believed this truth. He took pains to teach the new converts of the faith about the Trinity. He told them that understanding how it is that God can be one thing, God, and three persons of it, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is like understanding the Law of the Old Testament.
The Old Testament is often referred to, in its entirety, by the writers of the New Testament as “the Law.” Though there are different parts of the Old Testament, as a whole, it has a binding force upon our lives as the Word of God. Therefore it exists in whole as Law.
This is the same with God. There are characteristics which are just plain God: He is infinite. He is incomprehensible. He is uncreated, he just was and is. He is not confined by time, nor space. He is active in the history of all things.
Now, even though we call the entire Old Testament, “The Law”, it has different parts. It has the Law of Moses which we think of as the Ten Commandments and the Book of Leviticus and the other of the first five books of the Bible. It has the Historical Books such as 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings and so on. It has the Wisdom/Poetry Books, such as the Psalms, Ecclesiates, Songs of Solomon, etc. It has the Books of the Prophets, everything from Jeremiah to Malachi.
Are any of these parts less than any of the others? No. Are any parts with which the church thinks we can do without? No. Are any of these not binding on our lives? No. They are all Law, although they are the Law of Moses, Historical Books, Poetry/Wisdom Books and the Books of the Prophets. Yet, we don’t say that they are a contradiction to each other.
Now, we know that God is God. But we also know that God is three persons as God. God is not three different modes of one thing which changes itself to our specific need. But he is three distinct persons of the same substance who works in our common and individual lives.
The Father is the cause of all existence and is over all things. The Son through whom all things were created, is one with the Father, redeems humanity through his offering of himself, and makes known the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the source and supply of good things which flows forth upon creation and is the Counselor who delivers the message from the Father through the Son.
Are any of these persons less than any other? No. Are they separate persons? Yes. Are any of these persons a different thing other than God? No. The Trinity is one substance, God, and three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is no division of nature or will. Finally, the Trinity is inconceivable, unfathomable, all powerful and mysterious.
Some say, why have a god who is so mysterious and unlike us? Well, look around everyone, who wants to have God be like the people sitting around you? I want a God who is beyond my capabilities. I want a God who is all powerful and can change things. I want a God who is active in my life and the life of the world. If you think about it, that is what Jesus is saying to us today, this Trinity Sunday 2013 years from his birth. He is saying that the Trinity is all powerful enough to handle our Twenty-First Century lives. But doubts still remain.
There is something about going downstairs into the lower level of my house alone that used to give my kids the willies. There is an unknown feeling, as if something bad is going to happen. They used to ask, “would someone go downstairs with me?” The mere presence of another person makes the thing safer in their mind.
One time, in the middle of the night, one of our children called out in fear to us. When I got up, I tripped over something and couldn’t get to them in the time I normally would. This child of ours started to panic. Our child needed to know that we were near.
Sometimes there is a lonely feeling when we reach the age in life when our parents die. Now, we are the parent. Now we no longer have the support of the one who raised us.
All three of these examples point out that we, as human beings, want and need to have someone near. In fact, for those of the faith, we long to have the palpable presence of God near. In the passage from St. John’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that God is near. As he lays out how the Holy Trinity works, it should bring us great comfort.
Jesus is telling us that while he is sitting at the right hand of the Father, there is another person of the Trinity who can make us transcend time and space and be with him and the Father at all times. That one is the Holy Spirit. That is because the Holy Spirit is the same substance and existence as the Father and the Son.
It is the Spirit who makes Jesus, the Son, present in the bread and the cup. It is the Holy Spirit who applies the benefits of Christ’s death on the cross to us in Baptism. It is the Holy Spirit who brings the will of the Father to us and fills us with all goodness. So, we know that the Trinity is actively changing us and bringing us near to Himself. Notice I use the singular to refer to the Trinity.
It is important for us to know that God is not just the transcendent Father in Heaven far away from us. We need to know that God the Son is willing to suffer and die for us. We need to know that God is always near to us in the Holy Spirit. by being Three in One and not Three for One, God is active in our lives.
It is frankly, very clever of God to think of a way of existence that allows a God so far away in the heavens to reach us in our everyday lives. The Father in the heavens, the Son bridging the gap between being God and being human, and the Holy Spirit drawing us to trust that God has bridged the gap and is near.
Being the Trinity means that God cares. Being the Trinity means that God wants to be active in your life and be near. He will never leave you orphaned. He will never leave you alone. How we access God is through prayer, which is talking and listening to God in the Holy Spirit. We access the active God through the sacraments. We access the Holy Trinity by reading the Holy Word of God and by worshiping, and doing things in his name for his Glory.
I invite you to reflect on how the Trinity works in your life. I invite you to glory in how it is that you have not been left alone, but are being loved by the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. I invite you to reflect and rejoice that the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is active in your life. Amen? Amen.
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