Today we are celebrating Trinity Sunday, the day in our church liturgical calendar that marks our belief that God is both One God and Three Persons. Today is also Father’s Day, a day when we remember and hopefully give thanks for our fathers who have helped give us life and shaped who we are today.
In thinking about both the Holy Trinity and fatherhood, I need to make a confession. After almost 16 years of fatherhood and over 20 years of studying theology, I can honestly say these are great and deep mysteries which we celebrate today. They are mysteries about which I’m still learning and expect that I will continue to learn until the day I die. So God willing and my family consenting, let’s dive into these mysteries for the next few minutes.
Our readings this morning only begin to touch the tip of the iceberg of all that Scripture teaches about the Holy Trinity and thus also, I think, of what it means to be a father when we pull them all together. Consider our first reading from Genesis 1.
Some of us, if not all of us, have been familiar with these words since we were very young. Maybe we heard them in Sunday School and brought home some pages filled with our drawings of what it must have been like to be there and see God create the world. Maybe it was in a summer VBS or at school. Some of us may not have run into these words until we were older, maybe even as adults.
It is here, in Genesis 1, that we begin to meet God in all of His infinite glory. In some ways the deep mystery of God also begins in our minds here in Genesis 1. We meet God before anything, including ourselves exists. Just as its hard for a child to imagine life before they were born, it seems hard for us to imagine existing before this universe was created. Yet that is exactly where we find ourselves.
We can only imagine what it must have been like before this world began. The writer of Genesis makes a good effort to describe it by saying the earth was formless, there was only darkness surrounding the deep and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.
As I read that I get a sense of expectation that something is about to happen, kind of like listening to the beginning of Kenneth Copland’s Appalachian Spring or the opening music of Also Sprach Zarathustra, the theme music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The quiet is about to explode into the thunder of Creation.
And then it happens.
God speaks a word and there is light and He rests. He speaks again and there is Heaven and He rests. He speaks and the earth and seas come into shape and plants and trees are created and He rests. He speaks and the sun, moon and stars as well as time are all created, and then He rests. He speaks once more and there are fish in the sea and birds in the air and He rests. God speaks a word again and the dry land is covered with bugs, animals and reptiles. Then He speaks one last time, “Let us make human beings in our own image” and people come into existence and God blesses them, calling them to be wise stewards and regents over what he has made. And then He rests.
It’s an amazing story. It’s even more amazing to think about what’s behind the story. Did God have to create this universe? When I read Genesis 1, I always ask myself questions like, what was His motivation for doing all of that? Did He need something? Was something missing? St. Paul when preaching in Athens said, God does not live in buildings built by us nor does He need anything from us as He is our Creator.
Our Psalm for this morning seems to make it even clearer when it says in verse 5, “What is man that you should be mindful of him? The son of man that you should seek Him out?” Indeed, when we step out on clear night away from the city lights and look up are we not filled with awe at all that we see? Some of the light from those stars has been coming to us for thousands of years and God calls them all by name and puts them in their courses.
If God doesn’t need us or anything that this universe might produce, if He is truly without needs as far we are concerned, why make the universe? I think the answer is hinted at in Genesis 1 when God said “Let US make man in OUR image.” God created the universe out of the mystery of the relationship between the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
That mystery was revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ, who though, born of Mary, a human mother, was and is the Son of God, the Second Person in the Trinity. If we read the Gospel of John a few times, it won’t take us long to start seeing that God the Father, loves His Son and the Son loves His Father.
In fact I would say that John’s Gospel is the answer to the question of why did God create this universe in the first place because John also says that God loved this world so much that He sent His Son Jesus, to redeem it with His own life and blood, so that we might be saved and restored to the loving relationship we had with God in the beginning. When sin entered the world through our rebellion, our love for God grew cold and our ability to know God was diminished.
Although God left hints all the way through Creation of His greatness and His love for us, it wasn’t until Jesus came, suffered and died for our sins that the deepness of God’s love was revealed to us. In His Great Prayer on the night before He died, Jesus paints this incredible picture of God’s infinite love for us.
He tells us that we will not be left as orphans on this planet, but will be adopted and brought into the Father’s mansion of many rooms. Jesus tells us that though He will die and go to the Father, He will ask the Father and the Father will send His Holy Spirit to live in us, comfort us and teach us how to follow and obey Jesus in our lives.
What I think is even more astounding is that Jesus tells us in that Great Prayer that as the Holy Spirit lives in us, Jesus Himself lives in us and the Father lives in us. Years ago I worked for a Christian author and teacher who summed up Jesus’ teaching as “I in the Father, the Father in me and I in you!” Jesus is in the Father, The Father is in Jesus, Jesus is in us all through the work of the Holy Spirit.
When we believe in Jesus and trust in His ability to redeem us from our sins, Jesus and the Father send the Holy Spirit to come live in our lives. But even more, He takes us as orphans and places us in the middle of the Holy Trinity, in the middle of the infinite loving relationship that each member of the Trinity has with each other.
In other words, the deep mystery of the Holy Trinity, the foundation and essence of the Godhead, is love. The Trinity is God’s practical way of showing us that we are loved by Him from ages past and for eternity to come. When I sit quietly and think about being placed inside the love and protection of the Holy Trinity, I begin to understand some of the mystery of fatherhood as well.
Just as God didn’t need to create this universe or anything in it to be fulfilled or to be more God than He already was, I do not think any man is more or less of a man because he is a father or not. As I look at my life, I don’t think I was less of a man before I had kids and now am more of a man. I think most fathers (and mothers) would say their lives were less complicated before the kids came along.
It wasn’t that guys were unfulfilled in life. Rather it was that, however imperfectly it may have been, they loved enough to become a father. It was out of the overflow of the love between the man and the woman that kids came along. Guys, we become fathers because we have been made in God’s image to love others, especially our wives who also have been made in God’s image.
Every time one of my kids was born, I was always struck by the thought that this kid can’t give me anything, but I love this kid so much I would give it everything I had, even my life if I needed to. As Jesus said if I, as an imperfect father feel this way towards my kids, how much more does my heavenly Father feel that way about me?
The hard part comes later when see our little, beautiful perfect child imitate our flaws. Dads, what was your reaction the first time your child did something just like you, only you had hoped they would never do it? Like burping at the dinner table when mom isn’t around or getting frustrated and letting out a string words like you when you get frustrated?
To be a father is to be an example and sometimes as fathers that’s the hardest lesson for us to learn. Jesus however, set the example for us in how we can follow our Father in heaven. He mirrored His Father perfectly, just our kids mirror us fathers with all of our imperfections. Jesus even tells us in our Gospel reading this morning that now we, as God’s deeply loved children, are to follow His example and do what He did during His earthly life.
Just as our children become interested in the things we do and imitate us in doing them, so now we are called to imitate God and join Him in the things He does. Jesus said we are to participate in God’s mission in this world by Going into all the world, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching everyone to keep all that He has commanded us to keep. He promises us that He will be with us on the mission.
God’s great love doesn’t end with us. He wants us to carry His love to the whole world so they might believe, be baptized and follow Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Fathers who are filled with love for their children, can’t wait to have all their children home safe and sound.
For us as Christians, this means safe inside the Holy Trinity, knowing we are loved by God with an infinite love. For us as fathers, it might mean knowing that even as we are separated as our children grow and start their own families that our love for them still overflows so that we would willingly do whatever it takes to demonstrate our love for them.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. AMEN!