Steve Lindsley
(Psalm 8; Colossians 1:15-20; John 16: 12-15)

6965195Today is Trinity Sunday. Perhaps it’s a bit juvenile, but I just think it’s kind of cool when a Trinity church gets to celebrate Trinity Sunday! Like it’s our moment to shine! After sixteen combined years of pastoring in First churches, I’m finally able to experience what it’s like to be at a Trinity on Trinity Sunday.

Which begs the question: how does a church of any name properly celebrate and acknowledge Trinity Sunday? It’s a legitimate question, if for no other reason that the word “Trinity” – a concept so central to our reformed faith – is never once mentioned in the Bible. Did you know that? Which makes it hard to wrap our heads around it. I know this because when I served for four months as a missionary in Hiroshima, Japan right out of college, I tried explaining the Trinity to a group of adult Japanese Bible study students, who had not grown up in the Westernized Christianity that I had. They understood God, they understood Jesus, they understood the Holy Spirit – but when I started talking about the Trinity, their faces went blank. Where’s it in the Bible? they would ask. And I would say, Well, it’s not in there…exactly. But you see, Three in One, three united yet distinct persons…. And their eyes just glazed over.

It’s hard to explain the unexplainable – our minds can only grasp mere glimpses of the divine mystery. And so often, words seem to get in the way. You ever hear the one about when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am? And they said, “Some say you are John the Baptist; others say Elijah or one of the prophets.” And Jesus said, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter replied, “Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple.” And Jesus answered Peter, saying, “What?” (1)

Nearly 1700 years ago, the church Fathers penned The Apostle’s Creed – probably the best we’ll ever do at capturing in words something as abstract and elusive as the Trinity. I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son our Lord. I believe in the Holy Ghost. Such beautiful words, poetry, practically; daring us to dance. And that’s a hard thing to do, my friends. Because in taking on the Trinity, we’re essentially dancing with a partner we’ll never fully understand; and so we embrace the mystery. And as a general rule, we shy away from the mysterious; our empirical-laden society ever defaulting for what can be seen and touched, compartmentalized, studied, processed.
But faith – faith is mystery. So let us get comfortable in the mystery of the Trinity, shall we? Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.


O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

The first four words of Genesis, of the entire Biblical story:
In. The. Beginning. God.
And that is enough. It is all we need to know,
A more-than sufficient foundation
Upon which to craft a cosmos and foster a faith:
In the beginning – God.

Before days of creation-building, night and day separating,
Land and sea and life teeming from every corner,
In the beginning – God.
Before a people chosen, wilderness journeys, mountain-top experiences,
Nations formed, kings rising and falling, prophets screaming for justice,
Before exile and conquest and a people longing for a Messiah,
Before all of that – In the beginning, God.

Four foundational words. Strong enough to support an entire faith.
Nothing due to chance or happenstance.
Chaos subjugated by symmetry; disorder tamed by order
All with a plan and a purpose from its very first dawn:
God was there, in the beginning.
All with the hands of a master craftsman
Setting creation into motion.

A methodical flow with a plan and a purpose:
Land before animals, so they had something to walk on,
Oceans before sea creatures, so they had something to swim in
Light and dark before them all,
Coming into being
By a mere thought of the divine mind.

God created, and so the Psalmist sings God’s praise.
O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name!
A cry of joy so great that, as the Redeemer would later exclaim,
“Even the rocks themselves cannot help but sing!”
The Created Order, mirroring the majesty of the Creator,
Leading the Psalmist to wonder out loud:
What is our place? Why would God even bother?
We are but one creation of many, thousands, millions,
Living and dying, inhaling, exhaling,
Walking this earth for but a blink of the divine eye:

And yet, God creates us to “have dominion” over the earth:
“Dominion” – the ancient Hebrew, so much more than
“Do with it as you wish.”
No, the word meaning “to care for that which has been entrusted.”
We have a calling. A responsibility.
We, along with all around us
Are living testimonies to God’s vibrant, breathing grace.
O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name!

God created – and yet, God is still creating
The world spins, the seasons change, the green grows, the young are born,
Behold, I am doing a new thing in your midst –
Do you not see it? Do you not see it?
Our Creator is never done with Creation
Our Creator is never done with us.
In the beginning – God!

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

The image of the invisible God.
The seeing part of that which cannot be seen.
In Christ, it all comes together.
Revealing to us the order of things
In a world wrecked with disorder, brokenness,
Wracked with chaos and disease
The frailty of both environment and the human heart,
In Christ, it all comes together.

How does one describe the Incarnation,
The glorious intersection of human and divine?
How can one ever think to understand the mind of God?
And yet, through Christ, we catch a glimpse of the Almighty,
Like peering through a looking glass, seeing from a distance
What surrounds and engulfs us.
The image of God, manifest in the person of Jesus,
So much more than just an image.
A living, breathing being –
Born in the humblest of manners
So Creator and Creature
Can go from a glimpse to companionship.

And so in him we find our redemption,
So spacious is he, so expansive and generous
That everything of God finds its proper place without crowding.
Room for all in God’s eternal embrace.
Room for the least, the lost and the otherwise left out.
Room for those who have plenty, and those who barely have enough.
Room for those enslaved to addictions
Overburdened with guilt,
Wallowing in grief.
Room for those who have withheld forgiveness from others
And even withheld it from themselves.
Room for all.

And in this great space, filled with amazing grace,
All the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe are put back together.
Like shards of glass, refashioned and made new
Reflecting the image of Creator from the Creature.
So that this space becomes a place of healing and wholeness,
Transformed from our dead selves to our new life,
Redeemed, restored, renewed,

All coming to us, wrapped in human flesh, with a beating heart,
Feet to walk a dusty road, hands to break bread and set the cup.
Words of prophetic power and healing, spoken and preached,
Jesus the Person, the Redeemer.
The Created order held together in him!
The image of the invisible yet ever-present God,
In you and in me!

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

In Christ’s absence, they would need someone.
Humanity, limited by its inability to see without looking,
Know without knowledge, believe in the unbelievable.
His very presence had been a comfort to them.
And with him ascended, gone from their sight,
They would need to be sustained,
Going deeper into truth.

And so the Spirit came, on a day they all gathered together,
Like a mighty wind and tongues of fire:
The inability of language to fully unpack the mystery of that moment
When the Divine made landing!
And words suddenly spoken, strange to some and familiar to others,
The ability of language to tell the story
Where the story had yet to be heard.

The Holy Spirit, the Sustainer –
Forever reminding them of God’s real and lasting presence
In the greatest joys and in the deepest struggles,
Christ incarnate, even when he’s not there.
Taking them by the hand, guiding their way,
Glorifying God through the lives called together as one.

It sustains us still!
In the quiet, small voice within that whispers grace,
In the holy presence that defies explanation,
Wherever two or three are gathered in his name,
When thousands converge, or even just a few,
It sustains us!

It sustains us when we’re at our most vulnerable,
Gently reminding that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness;
It sustains us when we feel our strongest,
Rooting us in Him instead of us.
The Holy Spirit, the Great Presence, like a mighty wind and tongues of fire,
Indeed, it sustains us!
All these three: Father, Son, Holy Spirit –
Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.
Three manifestations of our one God.
Bringing to light the beautiful mystery of faith:
That God reveals God’s self in they very ways we need God to:
That we worship not a stagnant or unchanging deity,
But a God who bends without breaking.
Giving us life when we need it,
Setting us right when we hope for it,
Carrying us forward when we cannot go alone.

The Trinity, as unpacked by Frederick Buechner:
Just look in the mirror – he says:
There’s the interior life, the Father,
known to yourself and those you share it with;
There’s the visible face, the Son,
Reflecting that inner life;
And there’s the invisible, the Spirit,
Communicating the interior in such a way
that others do not just know it
but let it become part of who they are.
The Interior, the Visible, the Invisible – and yet,
What you see in the mirror
is clearly and invisibly the one and only you. (2)

The Trinity, Three in One
A holy mystery, a faith-filled certainty.
In the name of the Father
And of the Son,
And of the Holy Spirit –
Thanks be to God.

1 – Trinity, visited on 6.11.2014.
2 – Based on Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), 93.