Disciples Under a Triune God
| Genesis 1:1 - 2:4
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
|Sun, May 26, 2002
|My head hurts. Trinity Sunday – what a time to be asked, to preach on the Word of God. In the end only one thing got me up here. Trust – My trust in your trust and my trust in God’s help. If any of you here today are looking for a church home by all means come back when Ed is here, you will not find a more challenging preacher on the Word and our life together. But perhaps by being here today you are being warned. We, in this congregation, are in the midst of discovering our call to discipleship in this Triune God. A discipleship, which allows each of us to discover the many gifts of the spirit, including preaching, for the lifting up of the whole community. We are beginning to listen to the call of our Lord Jesus Christ and his call is clear “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
When reading Ed’s sermon “A Triune God” Ed states there is no more dangerous ‘mine field’ than this. Ed understands that, with concern for their own preservation, ministers may carefully and quietly steer clear of Trinity Sunday whenever possible.
Mine number one – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said. “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.”
Is this a split? The “Spirit of God” was hovering over the waters. Is this God, the Holy Spirit, or, as many believe, the Christ?
Apparently the idea of a Triune God split the early Church between East and West. Between one God, and a three in one God. One has to remember the Hebrew people were one of the first cultures to believe in and follow one god. This amazing God; the God of the Hebrew people was not like the gods of other cultures. They had gods for everything from rain to war. The idea of one God was new and it set the Hebrew people apart from those who surrounded them. And while we may distance ourselves from these early pagan cultures, we are still fighting the gods of money, status, power and control.
Mine number two – Gender – hovering over the waters, like a mother hen caring for her young. No problem, the bible is full of male and female images of God. Though we are made in God’s image, we put God in images that we can identify with, feel comfortable with and perhaps, at our peril, images we can control. We have to keep reminding ourselves that we are the created, not the Creator. And in any case, gender, male female, limits God and us.
Mine number three
In Psalm 8 we read
“What is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honour.”
You made him ruler over the works for your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
Perhaps we read this thinking of ‘us’ and we are right to do so, we are highly prized by our God. But Paul reads Psalm 8 and writes this in 1 Corinthians. “For he has put everything under his feet. Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
In our gospel reading, at the end of Matthew, Jesus has the last word before believer and doubter. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Some people have accused theologians of making up the concept of the “Trinity”. Though you will not find the trinity mentioned anywhere in the bible this is it’s description. We are called to make disciples and baptize in the name, not the names, of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One God, three in one, the Triune God.
This particular mine is dangerous. It was dangerous in Paul’s day and it is dangerous today.
I confess I spent more time on Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. And before those nice words that Myrna read from Corinthians, we have trouble.
Reading ahead in our Disciple Study, Into the Word, Into the World, in the chapter on Corinth, under the heading “The Human Condition” it reads: “If we look at religion from the outside, it’s easy to walk away. Sometimes churches are little more than friction-filled clubs. Members seem plagued with all the sins that flesh is heir to. They can be downright arrogant. It seems hardly worth the effort to get involved.”
But Paul cannot afford to walk away from the church in Corinth, even when they are questioning his authority, even when he has to defend himself against the “Super Apostles”. The name he gives the false prophets in their midst. Why can’t Paul walk away? Why can’t we walk away?
In Paul’s time Rome was the seat of power, Athens the seat of culture and Corinth was where the action was. A frontier seaport with energy, money and peacetime prosperity. Sound familiar? We in Vancouver have a lot in common with Corinth. Not only is Vancouver a young city, but it is also a place known for it’s youthful “Party hearty” atmosphere. On a sunny winter Sunday, do we ski, sail or golf?
In Rome, the constant fighting in the synagogues between Jews and Jewish-Christians has Claudius expelling Jewish-Christians from Rome, many of which end up in Corinth. This is the time when we see the split between the Jewish Faith and the Christian Faith, from synagogue to home churches. This reminds us of the first exile of the Jews into Babylon. Many believe that if it were not for the exile and the forced move from the temple in Jerusalem to home worship in exile, the Jewish faith would have died. I cannot help but think of this congregation’s experience, from owning a church building to leasing space. Was this painful experience our saving grace?
Prior to Paul’s upcoming visit to Corinth, he writes a very difficult letter. Paul is being put in the uncomfortable position of defending himself, before a church in disorder, by listing his credentials and those of his co-workers. But Paul, even in defending himself, does not stop from instructing the church. From pointing out it failings, (quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance, disorder not to mention impurity, sexual sin and debauchery) and calling on them to aim for perfection, to be of one mind, to live in peace. Remember Paul is talking to the church. He is talking to those who have received the Holy Spirit. He is talking to us.
But what is the minefield here? Is it what the church is doing, or what the church is not doing? I am beginning to see that what we are up to or not up to is not the most important question. The question we should be asking is what is God up to in this congregation and in this world.
I confess I don’t remember the word “Disciple” mentioned in church, except in the context of scripture. Never in the context of our own lives. A few years ago, this congregation did something, which in hindsight, maybe we should have been doing all along, but perhaps we were not ready for until recently. Like the temple focused early Jews, we the Canadian Christian majority enjoyed power and place in our respective societies. And like our Jewish brothers and sisters we lost sight of God’s call. Jesus called the twelve, so he calls us today.
“… ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.’”
Was the church’s move to the margins of Canadian society just some enviable development? Was this congregation’s move from its property part of this process? Or was this the only way for God to prepare us for the discovery of our discipleship? Before we can make disciples of nations, we have to be disciples and perhaps before even that, we had to let go of both our physical and mental place in society.
So here we are taking our first steps in becoming disciples. We are learning who we are and whose we are. We are learning where we came from, how we got here and where we are going. We are building each other up in the Faith and stepping right into that minefield. The one that says all authority has been given to the Son and the only way to the Father is through the Son. (BOOM).
We preach Christ crucified and risen. (BOOM) And if you were here last week and felt the Spirit moving through this congregation, then you know the truth. We may still disagree on the details, but we know that God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, the Triune God, is working in this community, making disciples and preparing us to go out into a hurting world to make disciples of all peoples. And that is why Paul and we cannot walk away. And that is why my head doesn’t hurt anymore.
We give the last word to Paul:
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”