May 22nd, 2016: "Gradual Triune Mystery"

Text: Proverbs 8:1-4,2231; Psalm 8;                                Trinity Sunday                                        Sandra Nuernberg

Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15                                             Presbyterian Heritage                                     Pastor

Title: “Gradual Triune Mystery”                                      Intercultural Church Sunday

First Presbyterian Church                                                  Sunday, May 22nd, 2016                             Pardeeville, WI


Please pray with me, Lord, bring your Holy Spirit over us and guide us as we ponder your Word, seeking its meaning for/in us. Blow your windy Spirit hard into our ears and hearts, touching us in praise and glory to you, the Most High. AMEN.


                I have a thing about comics! I love most of them; they’re playful, cheerful, sometimes mysterious. There’s a cartoon from Peanuts in the Sunday comic strips I remember from some time ago; it went something like this: Lucy was walking the street with a sign that read, “Jesus is the answer.” Then along comes Snoopy and, as usual, he has his own sign, and passing by Lucy, it antagonistically reads, “What’s the question?” Almost sounds Presbyterian, huh?


            Did we ever think of Trinity Sunday being a time to think about the question of how we can talk about and explain ‘one being three and three being one?’ It sounds too theological to me! And, you know what, who cares, really? Not conscious of each other’s actions, maybe Lucy and Snoopy were like children unto their own individual delight, asking, and yet rejoicing in the human race! Maybe we need only be glad ‘we are justified in our faith,’ and can give glory to God for who we are and who guides us for who we can become!


Did we ever think of Trinity Sunday being a time of understanding ‘tri-unity’, or threes? I’ve been doing it all week, mind you; three is my favorite number! I’ve told you many times of my three loves; gardening, golf, and God, but not necessarily in that order. You’ve also heard me tell of getting the number three in golf as mostly good news: a par on a short par-3 hole, OR a birdie on a par-4 hole, and an eagle on a par-5 hole (Golfers will know what I mean!). We also know that three putts is probably not a golfer’s dream! What about this: ‘You can fool me once, you can fool me twice, but three times, watch out!’ Or this too: When things happen, good or bad, aren’t they in threes?


Just last Friday Rick and I went to a fish place we knew near-by. Lo and behold there was an article about the ‘Hilltop’ supper club in a magazine this week talking about three things making their success possible: place, people, and product. It was under new management and ownership; we still went for fish! In worship each Sunday we include the three parts of worship: song, prayers, Scripture readings and sermons; think of it, we use the words of the Trinity in our Gloria patri, our doxology, and in our benediction. Are Presbyterians ‘decently and in order?’


In my sermons I’ve included the number three often, in our discussion of symbolic biblical terms for times and places; it is that number exemplifying completeness, or wholeness; like in Jewish daily prayers (3), the days Jonah was in the belly of the whale (3), the number of days Jesus was in the tomb (3), there are many examples. I’ve also told you that in my understanding of God I try to think of three actions of God: the will of God for us, the word of Jesus Christ to us, and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Yet, we can’t just give separate actions to each of the persons of the Trinity. They are simultaneous; all of the actions of the triune God we believe are indivisible!


As you and I listen today, and read God’s Word, the Scriptures bear witness to the love of God that’s made known to us in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit; yes, we hear about the Trinity in the traditional language of ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (ie. Baptism);’ translations of the Bible do not use the word trinity. Again, we might ask, who really cares?


Well, Presbyterians care quite a bit; one core belief is that we believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (many congregations looking for more expansive language will use the terms Creator, or Mother, Holy One, and Savior, drawing on biblical imagery). For us, the Trinity is not an optional “extra” to God, it is the very nature of God as revealed to us in Scripture (taken from Presbyterians Today: The Presbyterian Resource Guide for Ministry, “Why we belong; What it means to be Presbyterian”, 2015, p. 14). Further, we believe in the nature of God, “The good news of the Gospel is that the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit---creates, redeems, sustains, rules, and transforms all things and all people” ( from our Book of Order).  


Our texts today reveal some insights and real encouragement as to this triune God in whom we believe; yes, through God’s glory and majesty creation is evident, well-ordered, and all falls in place through God’s will. And yes, God’s relationship with us is necessary in order to be responsible for the works of God’s hands; God’s architecture needs to be cared for. Paul relates this to the Romans just as he does to us in saying it is not easy; in our sufferings we are justified by our faith in gaining endurance, character, hope, all in the love God grants us in our hearts through the Holy Spirit blowing into us.


 John’s message of Jesus as the ‘Spirit of truth’ (vs.16: 13) will be a truth that is an ongoing pondering, questioning, exploring, and interpretive expression of our faith. We do that together in worship every Sunday, you and I. The Trinity is the God we know, and in knowing the God who knows and loves us, we confess that thinking our faith is critical, gradual, and mysterious, at best. What a gracious way to spend this day! We praise God’s glory, confess our sins publicly, listen to God’s Word to us, and are sent into the world pumped with the Holy Spirit in us to be God’s people!


I often look at our PC(USA) website, for updated theology and worship news. I wasn’t disappointed this week; in  a report entitled, “The Trinity: God’s Love Overflowing” our PC(USA) took more than five years (2000-2005) to study, consult, discuss, and pray as a group of pastors, elders, and theologians in preparing a doctrine of the Trinity in Presbyterian theology. It is impressive; includes 1670 lines (34pages), deeply rooted in scripture, has three parts that are confessional, liturgical, and missional; the report claims to renew our faith in the Trinity and in our worship and life. Lines 245-249 say:


“The mystery of the Trinity is an open and radiant mystery. It is the mystery of the truth

that God is holy, abundant, overflowing love both in relationship to us and in all eternity.

We meet God’s threefold love in the astonishing faithfulness of the Holy One of Israel,

in the costly grace given to us in Jesus Christ our Savior, and in the new life in communion

with God and others that has come to us in the gift of the Holy Spirit.”


Yes, the Trinity is a gift to us! The good news of the gospel for us is that in our worship and life, in our confessing and keeping witness to God’s Word in scripture, we receive God’s abundant love for us in Christ Jesus and in us by the Holy Spirit. God’s actions upon us are gradual, mysterious, always the work of the whole Trinity, we know it, as God ‘so loved the world.’



Thanks be to God.             AMEN.

  August 2018  
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