TEXTS: 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Psalm 8; Matthew 28:16-20
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. (2 Corinthians 13:13)
“Space: the final frontier.” You all recognize that quote, don’t you? Where’s that quote from?
That’s right … Star Trek!
Each episode of the original TV series began with William Shatner narrating those words. The entire quote goes like this: “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Of course, Star Trek was fictional; it was fantastic entertainment—which is why, for the past six decades, it has continued to inspire spin-off TV series and feature films. It was wonderful science fiction, and I think the reason for its ongoing appeal can be found in that quote from the opening sequence.
It speaks to our imaginations, promising a voyage into “the final frontier … to explore … to seek out … to boldly go” where no one else has been. It appeals to our sense of adventure, and to our inquisitive human nature. We love mystery—or, at least, we’re intrigued by it.
Unanswered questions pique our interest—and the whole topic of outer space abounds with these. Is there life on other planets? Are there other “earths”? Are there other universes? Parallel universes? A multiverse? If our universe is expanding, what’s it expanding into?
No doubt, someday—in the near or distant future—we will have answers to at least some of those questions. Over the centuries, it has always been the goal of the human race to expand knowledge and find answers to everything that is unknown. That’s how we discovered that the earth is not flat, that our planet orbits the sun, and that microbes we can’t see with the naked eye can make us sick—even kill us. Countless mysteries have been solved by science, and countless more will be.
Even so, I think some mysteries will always be mysteries. On Trinity Sunday, we consider one of those mysteries: God.
Now, perhaps we don’t often think of God as a mystery. Especially if we are used to coming before him in prayer, or have experienced his presence in some profound way, we may feel that we know who God is. And perhaps we do have that knowledge, at least in part.
But we have to admit: there’s more about God that we don’t know than we do know. At least, that’s the way I feel.
I can’t touch God. I can’t say how big he is, because I don’t know what to measure.
I can’t see him. If I wanted to take a picture of God, I wouldn’t know where to point the camera.
Whenever I try to describe God, I always end up using earthly images, ascribing to God human qualities so that he (s/he?) makes sense in my limited understanding.
The truth is: as humans—as creatures of God—we can’t even begin to imagine what God is really like. We are restricted to describing God with corporeal terminology—and so, we can only express what God is like in the vaguest of terms. We’re left guessing about what we may have missed. This is the mystery of God.
When the early Christians started talking about the Trinity—about a Triune God—they were not trying to make God more logical and understandable and acceptable to human ways of thinking. In fact, for them—as for us—the idea of the Trinity intensified the mystery and awesomeness of God.
They observed that Jesus had a unique relationship with the Father and that the Holy Spirit had a unique relationship with the Father and the Son. That’s why—against all human logic, and in the face of mounting opposition—the Church maintained that Jesus Christ is true God, equal with the Father; and that the Holy Spirit is true God, equal with the Father and the Son.
Psalm number eight begins: “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1).
The psalmist looks at the stars and the moon—and these days we could go further and add the galaxies and planets of the universe—and he can only conclude that these must be the work of a great and awesome God. And we can relate to that, can’t we? We look at the magnificent colours of a sunset, at the intricate structure of a beautiful flower, at the Rocky Mountains, at a star-filled sky, and we declare: “That is proof that there is a God. Anyone who wants proof of God’s existence doesn’t need to look any further.”
But you know, God’s presence in the universe can only be seen with the eyes of faith. Those who already know God can see that the wonders of nature are signs of God’s greatness—but to the one without faith, or to the mind trained in science, God’s presence is not immediately obvious.
That’s why the psalmist talks about the greatness of God as a matter of faith by calling God our Sovereign: “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God asks:
“To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? … The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth … his understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:25a, 28).
But we do know some things about God. He is more than the God of nature. There is another side to God. He is not only great and awesome. He has also revealed himself as a God who cares—a personal God who wants to have a relationship with his people.
The psalmist marvels at the whole idea that this awesome and majestic God should care for something as insignificant as the human race:
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3-4)
But, in fact, God loves us so much that he even sent his Son into the world to save us from our own wickedness.
A few weeks ago—on Good Friday—we were reminded that God, in his great love for us, sent his Son to die in our place. Then, on Easter morning, we celebrated the fact that—in the resurrection of Jesus—God’s love destroyed death’s power over us. God wants us all to come close to him, something that is only possible because our sin has been dealt with. We have been reconciled to God. God sent Jesus to restore our friendship with him through his dying and rising.
When we ask the question, “Who died on the cross?” the answer is: “God died on the cross!” He did the unthinkable: he allowed himself to fall into the hands of mortals. He allowed himself to be treated cruelly, laughed at, and finally killed.
Now, we want to say that this is impossible. God, who is majestic and awesome, cannot do this. But he did! This is part of the mystery of God.
Last Sunday, we celebrated Pentecost—the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ disciples and upon the church. Jesus said that he and the Father would send the Spirit to remind us of the truth of God’s promises, to guide us, to encourage us, and to sustain us when the going gets tough.
My friends, there is nothing more personal than the Spirit of God. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows when we need reassuring. He knows when we are afraid and uncertain and in need of encouragement. He knows when we are guilty and depressed and need comforting.
The Holy Spirit becomes a part of our sordid existence in this world. He lives in us even though we too often allow our sinful nature to hijack our Christian lives. We might think that a holy God could not possibly do this—but he does! Once again, we are confronted with the mystery of God.
The doctrine of the Trinity is not an attempt by the church to unravel the mystery of God. No. In fact, the doctrine of the Trinity only deepens the mystery. It raises more questions than it answers. However, it does tell us some important things about God—things that are life-changing. Basically, it tells us who God is.
Who is God? He is our heavenly Father who made us, takes cares of us, and calls us his beloved children.
Who is God? He is Jesus Christ, who gave his life on the cross to re-establish our relationship with God. Jesus reveals the way to God, and to eternal life.
Who is God? God is the Spirit in you—the One who gives you faith to begin with, the One who guides you in your daily walk as a Christian.
Faith in the Triune God acknowledges the might and majesty of God; but—at the same time—it also trusts in a God who cares.
Over the years, I have met many Christians who have been confounded by the idea of a Triune God. However, I don’t think we will be quizzed about our understanding of the Trinity when we get to heaven. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be a question on the entrance exam. After all, in human terms, this is an impossible concept. God knows that. So let’s leave it as a part of the mystery.
The really important thing is that—in the rough-and-tumble struggles of daily life—we have a God who saves, a God who loves, a God who wants you to have a living relationship with him. Yes, our God is majestic and mighty; but he is also present. God is right here, right now—and he wants you to be with him for all eternity.
In spite of our unbelief, in spite of our dim understanding, God offers us new life, and a new way of living. And that is why the good news is good news. Amen.