Fairhaven Sermon 6-4-2023

Fairhaven Sermon 6-4-2023


In Pastor Peg Bowman’s sermon on Trinity Sunday, she explores the divine mystery of the Trinity and its significance in Christian belief. She suggests that understanding the Trinity is as unique and individual as we are, drawing from sources such as the Bible and nature, and using her personal lens as a musician to comprehend the concept of a creator. She highlights the challenging theological question of how God can be both one and three, but emphasizes that our finite human minds can’t fully grasp the infinite nature of God. Pastor Bowman believes that the more we understand about God, the more humbled we are by our lack of complete understanding. She suggests that God must reveal Himself to us, through creation, nature, the Bible, and Jesus.

In the second part of her sermon, Pastor Bowman delves into the importance of understanding the Trinity. She proposes three key reasons: it helps to understand the Bible, informs how we approach and understand God, especially in prayer, and reveals God’s relational existence. She presents the Trinity as God the Creator, Jesus (God with us), and God the Holy Spirit, each playing a unique role in the divine manifestation. She utilizes a diagram to try and explain the distinct yet interconnected nature of the Trinity. Furthermore, Pastor Bowman emphasizes our creation in God’s image, pointing to our abilities to think, feel, create, and be in relationships as reflections of God. Finally, she acknowledges the challenge of understanding the Trinity but simplifies it as: God up there (Father), God down here (Son), and God everywhere (Holy Spirit). As a response to God’s care for us, she concludes by exhorting everyone to take good care of God’s creation.


Well, as you know, today is Trinity Sunday, or as one writer put it, The week the mystery of the Trinity takes center stage. Today is also the last of the holy days that follow the Easter season, so next week all the church linens and decor go back to green, and we will enter into what is called ordinary time which lasts up until the beginning of Advent. It gives us time to let that large ordinary time gives us time to learn more about what Jesus taught and what he did while he was here on earth. Trinity is also the only holy day in the church year that does not have a person or an event connected to it.
It is simply a day set aside to appreciate God in all of God’s Godness. Now if someone were to ask, Who is God? Where do we begin? I mean, these days you might be more likely to be asked, How do you even know there is a God? Which is a different question altogether, but it’s good to have an answer ready just in case. How do we know that God is really out there? What is it that convinces us of that? And I think the answer to that question in a way is as individual as each one of us is individual. Many of us look to the Bible as a source of knowledge about God, and I think that’s a good place to start.
Many of us look to nature to see what God has done, to see God’s handiwork, and I think that’s a good place to start. For me personally, I begin to understand God from a musical point of view, as a musician. I know that a symphony can’t exist without a composer, that a song cannot exist without a songwriter, and in the same way a creation can’t exist without a creator. With that foundation, I then turn to the Bible to hear what the creator has to say.
The Bible tells us about a God who is both one and three, three persons, the book says, yet the word Trinity is not in the Bible. So how can someone be both one and three at the same time? And the best scholarly minds in human history have wrestled with this question for hundreds of years, and they still have a hard time explaining it. As one Bible scholar said, Trying to describe the Trinity is not rocket science, it’s worse. And then there’s the question of how finite human minds can comprehend the infinite.
How can we, who are bound to this earth, begin to describe the creator of all the universe? It really is impossible, because God is too big and too wise. And the more we think about God, the more we become overwhelmed by what little we know. And the more we understand about God, the more it humbles us, because there is so much we still don’t understand. God’s mysterious nature requires brains much bigger than mine, for sure.
And if we’re going to know God, therefore God must reveal God’s self to us. God must make God’s self known. And that’s what creation and nature and the Bible and Jesus are all about. So when we talk about God as a Trinity, what are we saying? And a person might also ask, Why do the powers that be in our churches think it’s important for people in the pew to tackle this concept that has mystified the best theologians for centuries.
Why do they bring it to us? Well, I’ll answer that question first with three possible answers. First off, understanding the Trinity helps us to understand the Bible as we read it. Secondly, understanding the Trinity helps us to understand God and how we can approach God in prayer and how God listens to prayer and how God answers prayer. And third, Trinity shows us that God exists in relationship.
And so when God created human beings in God’s image, included in that image was and is the fact that we are created to be in relationship with each other, with God, and with the rest of creation. So the Bible describes God with many different words. God the Creator, God the Father, God the Sustainer, God who is Spirit moving in and through all things. The Bible says that in Him we live and move and have our being.
God created all that is. And I am not arguing against evolution when I say all this. God has many tools to work with in his woodshed out there. And some of us, some of these we know and some we don’t know about yet.
We’re still learning how God did the job. We also have Jesus, who is God with us, God in the flesh, who came to show us and teach us what God is like, and who came to live the perfect life that we are not able to live, and to give himself in love on the cross to heal and restore and redeem God’s broken people. We also have God the Holy Spirit, who we talked about last week at Pentecost, that part of God that lives in us when and if we invite the Spirit to come in. The Holy Spirit is that part of God who guides us and gives us gifts and keeps us and maintains us in God’s kingdom.
So with all that as sort of foundational, are we any closer to understanding the Trinity? Just in case not, which ’cause I’ve known this stuff in my head for years, but it still doesn’t quite become clear, if you would put that illustration up, please, there we go. I first saw this, I was walking around in a large church, and I walked into a Christian ed classroom, and I saw this on the blackboard, and I thought, actually I stared at it for about 20 minutes, right? If this helps, take a look at this, okay, God is in the center. God is the Father, God is the Holy Spirit, God is the Son, but the Father is not the Son, the Father is not the Holy Spirit, the Son is not the Holy Spirit. Does that help? I haven’t got 20 minutes to let you stare at all this, I will put this up on the web if you’re interested.
This helped me actually a little bit, it just kind of give it some organization, you know, some place to start. If it helps, great, if not, don’t worry about it. The thing is, is that God is just too much for us to get our minds around, God is way beyond us. At the same time, the Bible does tell us that we were made in God’s image.
And how can this be if God is a spirit? The good book must be talking about who we are in here. Our ability to think, our ability to feel, our ability to share, our ability to be in relationship, our ability to create, all of these things and more. Reflect who God is. It’s God’s reflection in us.
Having said all this, let me just try approaching this a different direction altogether. When I was a kid, I always felt closest to God when I was lying on my back at the top of our tree house on a summer night. When the stars were clear and it felt like you could see forever. And there is something about the awesomeness of God, I think, that can only be grasped when you’re staring into the stars on a summer night.
And of course, the first thought that comes to mind is, wow. And this overwhelming feeling of how tiny I am in all of creation. I felt like I’d get lost amongst all those stars, and I felt like it would take a thousand lifetimes just to find out if there’s any life out there on those planets that were circling the stars, all those suns, and yes, even at the age of seven or eight, I knew that those stars were other suns, I watched Star Trek. And of course, the other question that comes to mind at a time like this is, God, are you really out there? How can I reach you? I’m so small, and I’m down here, and you’re out there.
It’s a holy question. And I think it’s a question which I think that has best been answered in Psalm 8, which we read just a few moments ago. Listen to this again, the words of David, Oh Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth. Describes perfectly the feeling of being out under the stars.
And reading this verse again in Hebrew, the original language, the translation is actually more like, Oh, Yahweh, our Adonai, how majestic is your name. Yahweh is the name that means I am, or I will be who I will be. And then Adonai, which means our Lord. God’s name is I am.
That’s the name that he gave to Moses when Moses said, Who shall I tell them sent me? Tell them I am sent you. My first reaction to that was, You are what? You are holy, you are gracious, you are kind, you are good, what? And then the understanding came, not any of this, just I am. Not I was, not I will be, just I am forever. God is the foundation of reality.
Without God, nothing is. Nothing is. Which is why I love that verse in Genesis which we heard a moment ago where God says, Let there be light, and there was light. The original English translation, which was published back in like the 1500s, translates the verse this way.
God said, Light be made, and light was made. Just like that. The God who is speaks and things are. God is, I am, blight be made.
Historical side note on that. The translator of that first English Bible back in the 1500s was William Tyndale. He paid for that translation with his life. In those days, it was illegal in any Catholic country, and there were no Protestant countries yet, to have a Bible in any language other than Latin.
Tyndale was convinced that people should hear God’s Word in their own language, and he was martyred so that we could have God’s Word in our language. Something to think about the Sunday after Memorial Day. One other thing to point out from the story of creation in Genesis, in verse 26 of Genesis The text says, Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image.’ And the translation, that translation is correct.
Let us make humankind in our image. The words are plural. The Bible says that God is one, and this is true. But God also has within God’s self, as we have mentioned today, three persons, for lack of a better term.
When God talks to God’s self, God can answer God’s self and not be going crazy. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can discuss things amongst oneself. And we see this happening in the first book of Genesis. As for us mortals, relationships make up our lives because they make up God’s life.
We are created in God’s image. We are relational because God is relational. And this is an important word to hear, I think, in a world where loneliness and racism and xenophobia and other forms of division are epidemic. And this is also why COVID was so hard to bear, because it isolated us.
Restoring our world begins with restoring relationships. One other side note, in some religious circles, people like to emphasize the divisions between male and female roles in the church. When we’re looking at the Old Testament, which we are today, it’s wise to listen to what the Jewish scholars say because they’ve been wrestling with these texts for thousands of years more than we have. Jewish scholars have always personified wisdom as female.
So in this passage in Genesis, Jewish scholars read the Holy Spirit as being somewhat feminine, And they are not alone in that interpretation. Christian Bible scholars also believe that the Holy Trinity includes what we would call both feminine and masculine attributes. End of side note. So getting back to the Trinity, if this helps any, one theologian I read described the Trinity this way, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he said, God up there, God down here, and God everywhere.
Right? God up there, Son, God down here, Spirit, God everywhere. That, I think, clears it up a little bit. The triune God, this Trinity, is our King, our Protector, our Provider, our Lord, and our Friend. God does all this for God’s people everywhere all around the world.
And in response, God calls all of us to take good care of God’s creation, what God has given us, everything that God gives us here on this earth. Popping back for a moment to David’s words in the psalm, I think back to that starry summer night. In my opinion, the very best words to describe that moment are these. 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, and mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.
Glory and honor, that’s what you and I share. It’s a reflection of God’s character and goodness. Knowing that God has given us all this in God’s self. Today on Trinity Sunday, we give glory and honor to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.