Pentecost 2 Blog
Pastor Clay Schmit
Are You Confused?
If so, you are in good company. The second Sunday in the Pentecost season is called Holy Trinity Sunday. The lessons and prayers reflect on the three persons of God. But, the concept is a hard one to wrap our minds around. How can we worship One God when we always refer to God in three separate categories, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our Jewish and Muslim neighbors sometimes assume that we are worshiping three Gods. It may seem that way to us, as well. It probably doesn’t help to say that we are members of a congregation named for the Trinity. I’ll do my best here to briefly describe the Holy Trinity.
The faith that we adhere to originates with the Hebrew people and their God. They were unique among the nations because they only worshiped a single deity. Other peoples had numerous little gods that they collected like Beenie Babies. Naturally, those gods were nothing more than distractions. A first century person in the Roman Empire would “worship” the emperor, along with any number of small deities. Worship often involved going to various temples for dinner. Sort of like going to the Elks club, then the Lions Club, then the Moose Lodge. Romans thought the Jews were strange to have only one God.
But, the Hebrew people knew that there is only one entity in the universe that created all and held all in his power. They began their prayers with “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe.” Yet, though their God (and ours) is singular, they knew that God had different expressions. One of them was known as the “ruach,” the breath of God. It is the same word as spirit or wind. “In the beginning the earth was without form and was void, and the spirit of God blew over the face of the deep.” God breathed into Adam the ruach, the breath of life.
So, even the Jews had a God who both created the universe, and then moved through it as a spirit or wind. You find mention of the Spirit of God throughout the Old Testament. One God in two expressions.
Then, along came the Messiah that God had promised. We believe he came in the form of the man, Jesus, who also became an expression of God, the one that lived and walked among us. Jesus speaks of God as his Father and refers regularly to the Spirit of God. That is how we arrive at three persons of the Trinity. Perhaps the hardest part to understand is the second one. How could God become a man? Maybe Jesus was really just an angel, or the ghostly impression of a man. He could not really be human, could he? Well, the Bible makes it clear that somehow he was both God and God-with-us in the form of Jesus.
I like to think of the Trinity this way: God created all things and exists in and throughout the universe. In order to be in communication and to guide the people of earth, God chose two means of interaction. God sent his Son, Jesus, to teach, lead, and ultimately to save us from sin. While God resides in and throughout the universe, Jesus was limited in his physical body to be present only in one place, at one time. Jesus’ presence was limited to a little place on the earth known as Palestine.
But, Jesus told the disciples that it was to their advantage that Jesus leave earth to return to heaven. There, he became one with the Father again. But, the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit to guide and counsel us. Here again is the portion of God that is restricted to earth: the Spirit blows like a wind and affects the people of earth, which means that the Spirit is also God-with-us, blowing, calling, leading, and inspiring us to believe and to follow.
Maybe I haven’t succeeded in making things clearer. It is pretty complicated and theologians have been trying to put the idea into words for centuries. There is one thing that we don’t have to be confused about. It is the height, the breadth, the depth of God’s love for us. He wants us to be with him forever and has come up with ways to convince us of that fact. One of them was the person Jesus. Another of them is the breath of God that blows among us.
Now, if you think understanding the Holy Trinity is hard, just wait until next week when I talk about a real mind-bender: what it means to say that God is present with us.