I don’t really like math. I did ok with it, but it was never my strength, and when I was told I only had to take it for two years in high school, well, let’s just say I was delighted not to take “Integrated math 3”… whatever that was… And, even though my math isn’t great, even I know that some of the ways that we explain the Trinity, like three persons one God, don’t make a whole lot of sense, at least not to most people; it must be some kind of “God math”. But some people can do the abstract kind of math that this requires. A case in point; a facebook friend posted the other day that she had five dogs. Her husband wanted 2 dogs and now they were adopting dog number 6. Dog math sounds a lot like God math to me.
I am going to try not to mess this up. And, the best way I think I can keep from preaching a heretical sermon, is to not talk about the Trinity per se, but to talk more about how I see the Trinity working in human life and history.
If I had to use only a couple of words to describe the Trinity, I would say, first – relationship and the second – love , love that exists within relationship; and it’s not just any kind of love, but it is love that gives everything and gives it freely because there is nothing that can be given in return.
Even though the gift of God’s love is freely given, there are things that we are compelled to do in return. We cannot earn God’s favor but the gift of God’s love helps us to do what we cannot do ourselves. We are created by God, saved from sin by God, and guided by God, and while we sometimes like to separate those functions out and give different members of the Trinity credit for each one, all members act for us and for all of creation; what we say about one member of the Trinity we say about all members of the Trinity.
Because all members of the Trinity act together, when we bring someone into the church in Baptism, we baptize in the holy name of the Trinity, invoking each member, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus asks his disciples through the ages to do this because anything less does not even begin to deal with the reality of who God is. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are so entwined together that they cannot be separated; God is complete in the three persons in a way that only God can be. Baptism is not just a ritual with water, but it is a ritual steeped in prayer and in relationship. That is what I think Jesus is trying to get across here by telling the disciples to teach all that he has commanded… and what has Jesus commanded? That we love God and that we love our neighbor. That’s the community that baptism brings us into. In baptism we enter into relationship with God that is so strong, so life giving, that our sins are forgiven; and because of that gift, we are then to love God and love others. Jesus showed us how to do that over and over again. Unlike God math or dog math it’s pretty simple, but we know that there are many times in all of our lives that we have fallen short of those goals. We have put other people and things in place of God or we have forgotten that the love we are supposed to have for each other transcends all of the earthly reasons why we continue to believe we are different from each other; and the more different we believe ourselves to be, the harder it is to love others. I don’t know why it’s so hard, but when we make ourselves separate from another, it is. Jesus loved even those who didn’t listen to what he said; he loved all of those people whom others deemed “unloveable”; he loves us even when we think we aren’t worthy of love and when Jesus loves, the Father loves through him and the Spirit moves within us helping us to long for God. God knows that we need help all the time to live as those whom he has created us to be; and so God’s Spirit comes to be our guide helping us to live in relationship to God and to each other so that we might enjoy kingdom life here and now. Kingdom life is that amazing gift of the kingdom of God here on earth as it is in heaven where God loves us and we are able to love others in the same over the top, sacrificial way that God loved. Some days we can get a glimpse of what that looks like; and while it’s nice to feel that in relationships with people whom we naturally love, it’s even more amazing when we can be a part of it in relationships that are difficult. And that, I think, is the mission that Jesus has sent the disciples out on: to love those whom we would not ordinarily love because God’s own love held nothing back from us, and so we are to hold nothing back from others.
Six dogs does not equal two dogs, but one might say that the fun and love are exponentially better when two equals six. I don’t know why God has chosen to be with us in three persons and I don’t need to prove any of it because part of the gift of God’s love is the faith to see it for ourselves. I know that in the community that God has in the Trinity, we have been invited to share in that community, and in the love that community of persons shares within itself. May that love and that faith help us to work to bring the kingdom to earth as it is in heaven.