Don't Tell Me Who I AM
#DontTellMeWhoIAM is the podcast for May 27, 2018. People under 30 tell you who they are, AND what they feel they are. We should let God do that, too. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #WhoIAM #SelfRevelation #Matthew28 #Matthew #Trinity
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 5/27/2018 Trinity Sunday.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 28:16-20.
Last fall, I attended the diocesan conference of my church. We meet every fall and every spring with our bishop. A young man who was exploring ordained ministry and I were talking at the “after dinner”. He said that it is very hard to explain God to the young people he meets because they each have their own definition of God. As the Holy Spirit would have it, this thought came to me in that moment: “the key is the insistence of the young that they be accepted on their own terms that can lead to understanding of God.”
What I mean is this: everyone considers themselves unique. If you talk to a person today who is, say 30 and younger, you will notice that they feel the need, societally, to tell you who, even more “what”, they are, especially their sexual preferences which I would rather not know, thank you. They see themselves as a collection of choices and compelling attributes. What this means is that young people today chafe when you tell them who they are. Have you noticed that they do not want to be told who they are or what they are like? I could ramble on about where this comes from philosophically, but that it not the point.
The point is that we can tell younger people about God by learning from them. We can tell them about God in this way: If we do not get to say who you are, but you get to define yourself, then so does God. God gets to define Himself, not you, not us, and He has. He has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ who tells us about God.
Jesus Christ tells us that we are to take this message to the nations. Trinity Sunday, which is the Sunday after Pentecost yearly, is the day we are supposed to explain the mystery that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
My systematic theology professor at Duke University, Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright, would keep us captivated with his matter of fact Yorkshire English Accent. On January 25, 1995, he quoted Gregory of Nazianzen when he said, “When I say God, I mean ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.’” This is significant, Wainwright said, because the claim we make is that there is one God and He has a name. This is significant because what we are saying is that there is one God and there are not many gods. So, although we are called to love people who have many gods, we cannot pray with them, for example.
God has told us who He is. When Jesus says, “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” he is saying that God’s name is “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The logic is this: Baptism, according to Jesus, is for the forgiveness of sins. Only God can forgive sins. If we are to Baptize in anyone’s name, it has to be God’s name for sins to be forgiven. So, Jesus, “who ought to know,” says Wainwright, tells us that God’s name is ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ in this passage from Matthew.
We celebrate ‘Trinity Sunday’ after Pentecost because the self revealing of God’s name, who He is, is through the actions of salvation. The Father, sent the Son to join together with Mary’s flesh to become Jesus and deliver us in the flesh, and then Jesus sends the Holy Spirit on the Apostles at Pentecost to be the Church. All along, the mission is the forgiveness of sins.
Some will say that we are saying that there are three gods. This is not true because logic only comes with facts. One fact, which I point out repeatedly, is that we are one species, on one planet, in one huge galaxy, in one immense universe. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is and will forever be outside of that universe with the ability to be within us at the same time. Yet, it still stands that the rules of the universe as to physics and physicality do not apply outside the universe. Thus, they do not apply to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Jesus says in the Gospel of John, Chapter 17, repeatedly he says, “I and the Father are one.” Their ‘essence’ or grounded being is one: he is God and there is no other, says Isaiah 45. So, when we speak of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we speak in the singular, never plural. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is God.
We experience God in his “persons”, that is the three ways we experience God through His “economy” or “rules of the house”. “Economy” comes from two Greek words, “oikos” meaning “house”, and “nomos” meaning “rules”. “oikonomia” means ‘rules of the house.’ The universe is part of God’s house.
Salvation, for example, is one act with one purpose. We see that the the Father sends the Son to die for us. Then the Father sends the Holy Spirit through the Son to enliven us to faith, evangelize, etc. We receive the Holy Spirit, turn to God, through the saving act of Jesus, returning praise to the Father. He is three and lives and acts as one.
Humanity is humanity. It is one thing. Within humanity there are individual persons. Where this example breaks down is that we all have our own independent competing wills. We are of different minds on issues with different perspectives. We compete against each other in a competitive community that is contentious and often mean.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, on the otherhand, is of one mind and one will while at the same time being independent of persons. God is God. He is perfect in will and perfect in community. His perspective is one. The community is three and perfect: love is its basis without competition and rancor. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a being of three as one. This would not be possible in the physical world. It would not be logical in this universe with its rules of physics.
Yet, beyond the universe, it is totally possible and is a reality. We know it is true because Jesus was sent to reveal the fullness of God’s self-revelation to us. All along, we have said that we do not define God, we allow God to define Himself. We receive the Lord by His own self definition.
I read the scriptures very differently than I did as a young man. It is when I went to Seminary that I realized that we often do reverse engineering of who God is from our own earthly, flawed perspective. This is why we need a community to understand faith. As I re-read my notes from 1995 as part of my preparation for this
Indeed. The key to this is faith. We know it is true, so we give it time. We all need to give time to accepting the Trinity, shorthand for Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Let this be an invitation for us to accept Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on His terms, not ours. Let us know Him more than just know about Him. As our young people are challenging us to accept them on their terms, let us challenge them, and us, to accept him on his terms.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian