Homily for 5.26.13
Today, the Church offers us the opportunity to celebrate the mysterious expression of the GOD who is there and who is not silent by thinking-through that which theology has termed the Trinity. In the text before us, therefore, coming again from the Upper Room Discourses, the interplay between the Father, the Son and the Spirit of Truth becomes evident, and is the theme where we place our focus.
We begin with a question: How are we to understand the Trinity?
To ask this is to answer it. We know we will never truly understand the Trinity, for it is, perhaps, the greatest mystery of all. But, if we look beyond the philosophical and ontological discussions and come to see how the Scriptures portray the interaction within the Divine Nature, we can hope to comprehend something of the fellowship and relationship found within the challenge that is this expression of the GodHead.
Note, first, the understanding and relationship Jesus describes within Trinity found in the words of today’s text:
All that the Father includes and encompasses -- here named the Truth -- is established and applied in the Son (“Everything that the Father has is mine,” and “For in Christ the fullness of God lives in a human body” Col.2:9)
All the Truth included and encompassed in the Father and established and applied in the Son is advanced and executed by the Spirit to the Jesus-followers (“But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth,” and “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known” John 1:18)
The Spirit of Truth, sent by the Father and the Son, sustains and guides the Jesus-followers to practice the Divine will by delivering to them the Truth found in the Father and the Son. This Truth glorifies the Son and opens to the Jesus-followers the things to come. (“Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he [the Spirit] will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”)
We find portrayed within today’s text, therefore, the existence within the Trinity of a loving and mutually-nurturing cooperation toward the Divine will. Said differently, if GOD’s good purpose is the reclamation of GOD’s good world now marred by sin and selfishness and the power of evil -- and I think this is exactly the purpose of the Divine Will -- then the Trinity’s enterprise is the determined movement, together, toward that reclaimed world through a sustained and loving care and an empowered and active concern toward one another and toward that world that is still deeply loved.
But, let us dig a little deeper herre, and using the same process as above, let us unpack one additional text that opens a further idea of the Trinity, this time from St. John’s first letter:
11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us. 13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in him. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. (1 John 4:11-16)
Take note here that St. John again presents us with an understanding of the movement and the relationship existing within the Trinity, but with one addition:
Although, no one has seen GOD, the Father loves us so much that he sent the Son to reveal himself as the Savior of the world, and has given us The Spirit of Truth as proof of this love, so that we live in GOD and GOD lives within us.
Jesus of Nazareth is the Son and Savior sent from the Father, absolutely displaying the Father’s love and care for the world, and therefore all who truly proclaim by faith and life (which is love) this Jesus as being the Son (being part of who God is), experiences the Father' living presence living in them.
The Spirit within us, therefore, offers an undeniable proof of the Father and the Son’ presence with us and in us, and of GOD’s trinitarian love for us (and for this good world), a love experienced as a sustained, loving care and an empowered, active concern.
Notice here, to our surprise, that we have been invited to partake in the trinitarian love between the Father, Son and Spirit of Truth. That is, the fellowship -- the shared life of the Trinity -- also includes the Jesus-follower as well, through profession of faith in the Son, a profession that includes the proclamation and testimony of this Son as the heart’s settled and guiding reality.
What must be stated most clearly, therefore, is that the reality of this loving, trinitarian relationship to which we are invited as Jesus-followers only comes to us when we find wholeness (life) in the Son. That is, the relationship with the Son -- a relationship found within:
- the movement of GOD to reclaim the world by sending the Son and the Spirit of Truth...
- the Spirit empowered proclamation of the Gospel, that through the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the powers of darkness are defeated and GOD’s good world is now his...
- the offer that we have been given as life in the Son comes to us from victory of the gospel and the impetus of the Spirit of Truth, and is experienced by faith in the son as a new human life and a new, as a human way to live and as part of God's will to reclaim the world --
This gospel proclamation hinges on the reality that Jesus the Son is LORD. This is hardly palatable to the post-modern mind, which has unhinged truth from reality. (Of course, they no doubt would say the same about us.) As Luke Timothy Johnson reminds us:
“This unapologetic confession of Jesus Christ as divine scandalizes many who call themselves Christian. For fewer and fewer Christians is the robust Christology of the Nicene Creed truly the Rule of Faith.” (from The Creed, page 112)
Later on he concludes:
“To be Christian in any significant sense of the term is to claim that God is fully present in the human Jesus in a manner and fullness not realize with any other creature. It is to claim the way of knowing called faith, with the willingness to imagine the world that is imagined by the Scriptures, so that when we look at the human Jesus we also see God’s only Son and say with Paul, “It is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” -- 2 Cor.4:6 (The Creed, page 113-114)
Dr. Johnson reminds us that the light of the knowledge of the glory of God that reveals Jesus as the Son has shone in our hearts, and that, faith brings this shining and this shining forth brings faith. This is the message, therefore: God has reclaimed the world through his Son, and he is reclaiming the world through the Spirit.
Let me close the homily then, by this time allowing St. Paul to speak this same message concerning the reality of Jesus the man who has been revealed as Jesus the Son of God. St. Paul’s words come to us from the Areopagus:
24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For "In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, "For we too are his offspring.' 29 Since we are God's offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." Acts 17:24-31
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you."