Genesis 1:1-2:4

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

God For Everyone

June 11 2017  Trinity Sunday

            Glory be to the Father          

And to the Son

And to the Holy Ghost

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be

World without end, Amen. Amen.

            We sing these words of The Gloria Patri every Sunday and celebrate the Trinity – the mystery that God is one in three and three in one.  God is one – but makes God’s self known to us as God the Father, God the Son,  and  God the Holy Spirit. 

            We been through the Seasons of Advent, Lent and Easter when we have considered God among us through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – God the Son among us and working for our salvation.  Last Sunday we celebrated the Day of Pentecost and considered how God is with us in through the Holy Spirit. Before we rush into the remainder of the Church year, we need a day to pull all these together and consider what it means that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.       

Today is Trinity Sunday – the day when the Church celebrates God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We actually celebrate this  every Sunday as we sing The Gloria Patri   — but today is a time to actually think about what it is we profess as we sing these words — what it really means that we worship one God — who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

            What does the doctrine of the Trinity mean?

            The doctrine of the Trinity is vital –  – not because it is something to merely know and accept –  – even if we do not understand –  – but the doctrine of the Trinity is vital for us because of what it can tell us about God.  When we look at the doctrine of the Trinity, we begin to learn some things about God.

            The Trinity is based on the belief that the one God is revealed in three distinct persons. While that concept and belief is not an easy one to grasp, the fact is that God meets us and teaches us and helps us in many ways. God appears in different ways at different times to draw us to salvation and to godly living. The Trinity is a way to explain that God is for everyone.

            There’s a story of a teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put his boots on. He asked for help, and she could see why. With her pulling and his pushing, the boots still didn’t want to go on. When the second boot was finally on, she had worked up a sweat. She almost whimpered when the little boy said, “Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.” She looked, and sure enough, they were. It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on — this time on the right feet. He then announced, “These aren’t my boots.” She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, “Why didn’t you say so?” like she wanted to.       Once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off. He then said, “They’re my brother’s boots. My mom made me wear them.” She didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. She mustered up the grace to wrestle the boots on his feet again. She said, “Now, where are your mittens?” He said, “I stuffed them in the toes of my boots.”

            Sometimes we all need some help.

            In 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, our second scripture reading for today,  we are reminded that help is available to us — from the people around us and from God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

            Paul dealt with many hard issues in this second letter to the Corinthian church. At various places, he raises the issues of handling dissention within the church, false teaching, church leadership and some of the unique challenges of Christians in the world. Clearly, this second letter to the Corinthians was poured out to the church from the heart of a man who loved this church and these people dearly.

            It must have been a relief to Paul to write “Finally …” As he brings this letter to a close he reminds the Christians in Corinth of some very important truths. Despite everything else he has written he wants them to remember these things.

            “Finally, brothers and sisters …” In so saying, Paul reminds the church members that they are a family. As close as brothers and sisters, they remain a family even when things don’t go as planned. Remember your family — don’t give up on them. “Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace …” It’s worth the effort!

            “And the God of love … will be with you.” The phrase “the God of love” does not occur anywhere else in the New Testament. Paul is reminding his readers that it is “the God of love” that will help this church to be family, to live as a family and to do so with love for God and for each other.

            “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.” Paul reminds the church he loves that they are not alone. Even as its members care for one another — greet one another with a holy kiss — they are part of a larger family: “All the saints greet you.”

            Eugene Peterson’s translation of these verses in The Message is worth hearing: “And that’s about it, friends. Be cheerful. Keep things in good repair. Keep your spirits up. Think in harmony. Be agreeable. Do all that, and the God of love and peace will be with you for sure. Greet one another with a holy embrace. All the brothers and sisters here say hello.”

            Paul then closes his letter with a remarkable Trinitarian blessing. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” Many ministers, including myself, use this as a benediction as we end a service.  While Paul closes most of his letters with a blessing, there are three things that make this one unique.

First of all, it includes all three persons of the Trinity without explaining the relationship between them. For example, it does not refer to “God the Father …”; rather Paul describes a role each of the three play in the Godhead’s relationship to the church and to Christians. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” and “the love of God” and “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” are all attributes that strengthen the church and strengthen each Christian. The order in which each is mentioned is also unusual Jesus, God, Holy Spirit and does not refer to Jesus as Son.

            Second, the attributes of grace, love and fellowship mentioned for the Trinity are not found together in any other New Testament passage. Given the scope of this letter, it is indeed a blessing that Paul can pray God’s tri-fold blessing of these three attributes upon the church in Corinth.

            Third, “the fellowship Holy Spirit” is used only once in all of scripture. A similar phrase, “sharing in the Spirit,” occurs in Philippians 2:1 and probably means “fellowship with the Spirit.” But the phrase in our scripture today likely means “fellowship that the Holy Spirit empowers.”

           

            Paul’s letters to the Corinthian church are among the longest of all the letters he wrote. This was a church full of life and love for God. It was also a church full of egos and strengths and problems and joy and fighting and gifts of the Holy Spirit — and misuse of some of those same gifts. It was a church filled with people — which, of course, means it was a church like churches today. We all acknowledge that every church — from the smallest to the largest and all the ones in between — has issues and strengths and weaknesses. So we all can take comfort and draw strength from these letters to an imperfect church.

            Remember how Paul ends this letter: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”

            “All of you” — God is for us. God is for everyone!

            So, what does that mean? What does God being “for us” look like?

            It certainly does not mean that God will overlook our faults and our sins as if they do not matter. They matter so much God sent his Son to die on the cross so our sins can be forgiven. They matter so much God meets us where we are so that we can be lifted up and changed into the people God wants us to be.

            God is for everyone. That also means God will help us as we seek to do his will. God blesses us with grace, God blesses us with love, and God blesses us with gifts of the Spirit.

            God’s great desire is for us all to be in communion and fellowship with Him.

            In the story of the teacher helping the young boy with his boots we are reminded that people are unpredictable and try our patience and fortitude every day. Whether we’re talking about children or family members or co-workers or bad drivers or people who just don’t seem to care about anyone other than themselves, we should remember that God is for them too. When people disappoint us, when people are mean, when people are unlikeable, remember that God is for them too.

            All of which means, of course, that God is for me … and you. When we disappoint others or ourselves, God does not turn away from us. Indeed, God does just the opposite, turning to us in our hour of greatest need.

            The Trinity is a mystery we accept by faith. But equally important is the fact that God meets us in whatever way is most needed. Sometimes, when we are our own harshest critic, we can remember the grace of our Lord Jesus. Sometimes, when it seems no one is in our corner and we feel particularly unloved, God’s love overwhelms us in amazing ways. Sometimes, when we feel like we’re the only one who is doing the right thing, we are comforted by the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

            All of which is to say, God is for us. Thanks be to God!

Indeed–  Glory be to the Father. And to the Son, And to the Holy Ghost

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be World without end, Amen. Amen.