Trinity Sunday is one of the principal feast days in The Episcopal Church: Easter Day, Ascension Day, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany. Most feast days are about events connected to God’s redemptive plan (birth of Christ, Magi worship Jesus, crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus Ascension, outpouring of the Holy Spirit). But today is about God specifically.
Rusty Old Switch
Let me tell you a story as an angle in to what we will focus on this morning. Just bought a house and moved in the past few days. Under the break box is a rusty smaller box that looks like a timer or switch or something. I fiddled with it a few days ago, flipping it on and off to find out what it did. It seemed to be a useless old fixture.
The next day as we were moving some things in I noticed that a few things weren’t working. First, I couldn’t get the sprinklers to come on and then the garage door wouldn’t work and then the pool started turning green because the pool filter hadn’t bee running.
I called the couple we bought the house from. They explained that I must have turned off the switch for all these things I needed. That rusty old switch gave power to all these very important functions I needed, especially the pool filter. I had my two little girls coming over the next day and they were excited about the pool. I couldn’t have them swimming in algae.
I now know the significance of that rusty old switch and now I check it all the time. If something goes wrong, I run over to see if it’s related to the switch.
That’s kind of like the doctrine of the Trinity for us. It can be something we take for granted or even dismiss as “rusty” or “old” or “not useful,” but the reality is that the Trinity is the heart of what that we celebrate every Sunday and all the benefits of being adopted into God’s family. That’s why it is the topic of Article 1 of the 39 Articles.
Importance of the Doctrine of the Trinity
What is the Trinity and why is the doctrine important? God is one. God has one mind, one plan, one will, one nature, one essence, one Being. God is one and eternally exists as three persons: Father, Son, and HS. That is the Xn teaching on the nature of God. That is what “trinity” means. It is “tri” “unity”. This is what Tertullian was communicating when he created the word “Trinity”, which isn’t in the Bible but the teaching sure is. He was saying there is tri-unity: which is that God is one but three persons and three persons working together with one will, one nature, one mind. These three persons are completely equal in attributes, each with the same divine nature. While each person is fully and completely God, the persons are not identical.
Within God there is both unity and diversity: unity without uniformity, and diversity without division. The Athanasian Creed (circa. ad 500) says it like this: “We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity; we distinguish among the persons, but we do not divide the substance. … The entire three persons are co-eternal and co-equal with one another, so that … we worship complete unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.”
Our focus on Trinity is not just talking about the metaphysical, eternal understanding of the nature of God. But the Bible also talks about what the Trinity means for us and how we encounter God. Let’s look at two of these.
We are objects of grace and agents of grace. The order matters too. We are first object and then agents. Being an agent doesn’t make you an object.
Objects of Grace
First, we are OBJECTS of the Trinity’s grace The doctrine of the Trinity is most fully realized in the NT where the Father, Son, and Spirit are seen accomplishing redemption. We see this clearly in 1 Peter 1:2: “To those who are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, and for obedience to Jesus Christ for sprinkling his blood.” Our salvation is triune in the sense that the Father plans redemption of the world, the Son accomplishes redemption by his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, and the Holy Spirit applies redemption to us in our hearts and lives.
We worship not only the complete unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, but we worship because the Triune God was fully active in our rescue and redemption. Redemption of sinful humans is accomplished through the distinct and unified activity of each person of the Godhead. Listen to Heb 9:14: “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Or 2 Cor 13: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”
This is “grace upon grace.” This is the unconditional overwhelming love of God.
My father taught me the word “unconditional.” I remember him saying, “I love you unconditionally.” I thought he was taking about Air Conditioning. Since we lived in FL, I knew AC was important and figured it as a good thing. But I finally asked what “unconditional” meant. He explained that there was nothing I could do for him to love me any more and nothing I could do for him to love me less…ever.
That’s when I learned that love begets love. You go where you are loved. I was compelled to be around him lots and to obey him. His love for me motivated my loyalty and love for him.
And this applies to us as we relate to God. We are objects of grace and we get to be and are called to be agents of the Trinity’s grace
Agents of Grace
This is what our Gospel reading is about: “Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’.”
This is the Great Commission to Jesus’ disciples and also a picture of our participation. We get to be agents of the very thing we desperately needed. That’s a high calling. It’s a renewal of the original calling in the Garden of Eden to “multiply and have dominion” except now it is both physical and spiritual.
But notice that the commands to do those three things are in between two promises: Jesus has authority and Jesus is with you. You need to know both of these. These promises give us hope and expectation: “I have authority over everywhere, so go everywhere because it’s mine.” We should expect God to act and that our endeavors to be fruitful.
In addition to having authority, he is with you for solace and strength, for pardon and renewal. He is with you always and forever, no matter what. This is covenantal faithfulness and presence.
On this Trinity Sunday, we celebrate that we who were once enemies of God are now reconciled and objects of his grace…but on top of that we even are commissioned to also be agents of that grace to the world.
Let us pray: “Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth: set up your kingdom in our midst. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God: Have mercy on us, sinners. Holy Spirit, breath of the living God: Renew us and all the world. Amen.”