June 3, 2012

Trinity Sunday Sermon

The Holy Trinity
Trinity Sunday
June 3, 2012

Today marks one the high points in our Anglican cycle of prayer. In a sense, today is the destination toward which we have been moving through all the seasons of the cycle of prayer. Today is the day we commemorate the full revelation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus, we have called this day Trinity Sunday.

The Trinity is the foundational doctrine of the Bible and the Christian faith. It is so central that to misunderstand or deny the Trinity is to misunderstand or deny every other doctrine of Christianity. The Trinity is a deep and mysterious truth, but it is well stated for us in many places. The Nicene Creed is almost entirely about the Trinity, and it has become the foundation for many of the later statements about Him. The first five of our Anglican "Articles of Religion" are about the Holy Trinity, and we could even say Articles II through V explain the first Article, which says;

"There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."

We are not going to do a doctrinal study of the Trinity today. We need to do that some time, because, as I said a few moments ago, the Trinity is the foundation of all Christian doctrine, and of the entire Bible. But today I want to look back over the recent weeks of our cycle of prayer, looking at the way the Trinity, in other words, the way God Himself, is the answer to all our needs and prayers.

The first half of our cycle of prayer deals with the major doctrines of the Bible. But it does not deal with them in an academic way; it takes us into them devotionally. One of the major, and very valid, complaints people have about the study of doctrine is that it often seems too ivory towerish and unrelated to life. But our cycle of prayer is doctrinally devotional. It takes us through the preparation for the Messiah, the ministry of Christ, and the advent of the Holy Spirit. It leads us into the deep things of God; things like the nature and ministry of Christ, the nature and being of God, and the full revelation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But we are not led into these things simply to gain intellectual knowledge of propositional truth. We are led into the deep things of God that we may love and worship Him. We learn about God in order to adore the wonderful being and works of God.

We begin in Advent. Praying for grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light, we are led to worship the grace of God, who, perfect in every way, invites imperfect sinners into His presence and love. In the Collect for the second Sunday of Advent we are led to look for God in the Holy Bible. We pray that we may hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest Scripture so by its teachings we may embrace the blessed hope of everlasting life in Christ. In Christmas we adore a helpless infant, who, though without the external trappings of wealth and station in life, is none other than God with us. Through Christmas, Epiphany, and Lent, we follow the life and ministry of that infant through manhood and death. Passion Sunday recalls the terrible price God paid to reconcile us unto Himself. What wonderful love it was when God the Creator died for man the creature's sin. But Easter celebrates His victory over sin and death. What power lies in the hand of God that even death itself is easily conquered by Him in the Resurrection.

In the Sundays of Easter Season we begin to look to the Holy Spirit and the Trinity. The Trinity is the foundation of all. He is the basis of everything we have been praying for. All of the teachings of the Scriptures we have been looking at all through the year have been leading us to know and adore God, the Holy Trinity. The first Sunday after Easter we asked God to help us put away malice and wickedness, so we might serve Him in purity and truth. At that time we had just completed Scripture readings that followed Christ to the cross and the resurrection. Knowing that it was for us that He went to the cross, we prayed that we might turn from sin and serve Him. On the second Sunday of Easter we prayed that we would follow the example of Christ in holiness of life. On the third Sunday we prayed that we would be enabled to avoid things contrary to Christ, and to "follow all such things as are agreeable" to Him.

All of our prayers during this time were the proper responses of faith by those who saw afresh the mighty love of God in the sacrificial death of Christ. But on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we added a different emphasis to our cycle of prayer. It was not easy to see at first glance. We continued to ask for holiness. But in the Collect for that Sunday we affirmed that God alone can order our unrully wills and affections. And we asked God to enable us to love the things He commands and desire the things He promises. The new emphasis was on God as the only power to bring our sinfulness under control and to love and desire the things of God. We began there an increasing emphasis on the power of God as the only hope "that among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely be there fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord."

We began to shift our attention to the Holy Spirit. In Easter we emphasised that it was impossible that we sinners could ever have peace with God, unless God Himself did something to pay the price of our sin. He did this in Christ, on the cross. In the following Sundays we emphasised that it is also impossible for us to live the life of faith and holiness unless God Himself supernaturally enables us. He did this by sending the Holy Spirit. All of the prayers and emphasis of our cycle of prayer through the Easter Season have been about holiness. In all of them we have sought to put God first. But this is a task too great for us. As we have attempted to be holy, we have known the truth of our Lord's words to the sleeping disciples, "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." We must have a power greater than our own. We must have power only God can give. He alone can order our unrully wills and affections. He alone can enable our actions to match our desire for holiness.

On Rogation Sunday we took this one step further, praying "that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same." Inspiration means to instill life and power. In this case it is to put life and power into our desire to think and do the things of God. We are utterly dependent on God for this ability. He must inspire us, or we will be unable to accomplish this holy intention.

On Ascension Day we recalled that Christ rose bodily into the presence of God, and we asked that we might dwell there with Him by faith. But look at the way God is described in the Collect for Ascension Day. He is Christ, the Father, and the Holy Ghost, one God. We were being reminded that God has made a way for us to live a holy and Godly life. It is not by our own power, but by His. The Holy Spirit is our inspiration and our power.

On the Sunday after Ascension this doctrine was brought out much more fully. "Leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost," we prayed. It is no accident that this prayer accompanied the reading from John 14:26 and following, which tells us of the comfort and help the Holy Spirit brings to His people.

Thus we were brought to Pentecost, or, "Whitsuntide." The meaning of Pentecost is that the full presence and power of God is come to His people. Christ is God with us; the Spirit is God in us. The Spirit is unity with God that is deeper and fuller than we can ever imagine. The ability to think and do the things of holiness is ours through the Spirit of God Himself. It is true we could never accomplish holiness by ourselves. If God will not keep us by His power we will fall rapidly and finally back into sin and hell. If God will not dwell within us and empower us to do His will, we can never hope to live a holy life any more than we could hope to save ourselves apart from Christ. But God has come to us. He has not left us orphaned. He has not left us in despair. He has come to dwell in us. In Whitsun Week we have rejoiced that He has sent unto us His Holy Spirit to enlighten and strengthen us to His service, to direct and rule us according to His will, to comfort us in affliction, to lead us into all truth, and to bring us together that we may manifest His power among all peoples. Today, Trinity Sunday, we have met to worship the Unity and to rejoice in the knowledge of our God.

Let us pray.

"Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen."

"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."

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