This is the final sermon in a series on the Apostles’ Creed. It pulls it all together and asks if the Trinity really makes any difference in our everyday lives.
Narrative Lectionary texts: Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Matthew 28:16-20
listen to the sermon audio CLICK HERE.
We’ve come to the end of our Catechism experience.
For the past three weeks we’ve been looking at the Apostles’ Creed.
Three weeks ago I kicked it off, and we learned that the word credo means more that intellectual agreement. It has layers. I means
We learned that the creed is divided into three parts.
We believe in God, the Father/Mother Almighty, creator and recreator of all things.
We believe in Jesus Christ, the Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.
We believe in the Holy Spirit who gives life and power to the church.
This week we are going to zoom back out and look at the big picture. If you were paying attention to the readings today you’ll notice that there is a huge problem with this picture.
The books of Moses say that God is one. He was contrasting this against the Egyptians, and later the Greeks and Romans who believed in many gods and goddesses.
Then Jesus came along and talked about the Father and the Spirit.
Look what he said in the Gospel text…
As you are going, baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy spirit.
So, which is it. Is there one God, or three?
What do we call this great mystery of one God in three persons? The Trinity.
Here’s the big question:
Does the Trinity really make a difference in everyday life?
I’m glad you asked.
In fact, that is the question I’ve been asking for the last four years in my doctoral research.
I am pleased to announce that my dissertation is finished and off to the printers!
The Rev. Dr. Thomason…at your service.
Today I want to give the quick summary of my research project, because this is the question I asked.
Here’s what happened. At the beginning of 2014 I gathered together a group of people, just like you, from three suburban ELCA congregations. We formed a participatory action research group and worked on this question together. We wondered if learning about the Trinity would make any difference in our spiritual formation.
I created four short animated videos to introduce the group to a way of thinking about God called the Social Trinity.
I am going to show you the first film. It takes about 7 minutes. Then we’ll come back and we’ll ask, “so what?”
Hopefully that made sense. If you want to watch them all, or read more about the project, go to www.deepintheburbs.com.
So, the research team met together 11 times over a nine month period, we did dwelling in the Word, watched these videos, and came up with action projects that were carried out for seven months. The team members journaled and reflected on what God was doing.
I transcribed the 22 hours of audio, and took all the journals and coded them.
Here’s a couple things we learned…
First, we noticed that there was a directional shift in how we thought about spiritual formation.
It went from thinking about our relationship with God as a personal-vertical relationship where we first worked on loving God personally, and then loving our neighbors…
…to realizing that it is a horizontal-communal process. Do you see how this circle flows? Love God Love Neighbor Love God Love Neighbor.
How do you love God? By loving your neighbor.
How do you love your neighbor? Through the love of God.
Being in relationships with our neighbors is not just evangelism, it is essential to our spiritual growth.
The second thing we learned is that, by understanding God as the social Trinity, it creates space for peace.
Look at this picture. Our natural tendency in society is to polarize between radically extreme opinions.
We are constantly fighting between:
- Liberals vs. conservatives
- Democrats vs. republicans
- Ecumenicals vs. evangelicals
- Christians vs. Muslims
And on and on.
When we realize that the essence of God and the universe is not dualistic, binary, or two separate parts, but is the constant movement between three parts, then we see that the place where life exists is when the conversation between two extremes.
Big stuff, right?
The real question is: so what?
There are two things I hope you take home.
- Vital Relationships are not optional in spiritual growth. Life is relationships, so we must ask if the relationships we have with people are ones in which we can pray with each other and encourage each other to grow. If you are not in a vital, God-centered friendship right now, then I challenge you to find one. Email me and we can talk.
- Open communication is the key to spiritual health and growth. The world, and the church, will never be without disagreements. It is good to have radically different perspectives on things. But, the key to life is to learn how to communicate constructively between the extreme sides in order to promote life for the world.
I believe this is the image of God. I believe this is what Jesus meant when he said, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I believe in the Trinity, because it is life.