Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on Trinity Sunday, 6/12/2022. The bulletin is available as a PDF: Trinity Bulletin
The texts for the sermon were the day’s gospel and epistle lessons. To read the Bible texts for Holy Trinity Sunday, click here.
Last Sunday on Pentecost, Pastor Barcelos reminded us that great stories resist coming to a conclusion; and that this was especially true regarding the history of our salvation in Christ, and the pouring out of His Spirit on the Church.
He artfully referenced the Iliad as an illustration, but there was a more immediate story available. Over Memorial Day weekend we were treated to the long-awaited release of another story that just kept going: TOP GUN. Maverick.
The reason I bring it up isn’t the value of the movie itself really, but because of an interview I listened to about the movie.
In this interview, a retired Marine aviator (pilot), and former lead instructor at the TOP GUN school, as it is popularly known, shared an insight regarding one of the challenges faced by new pilots.
Though they are all smart, though they are all accomplished, though they can tell you a thousand things about the weather and how engines work, they still tend to think in only two dimensions.
For their whole lives, they have been going left and right, forward and backward. And though they’ve been in planes for years, they never had to move themselves up and down in free space. They never learned to think in three dimensions. For this, their minds needed to be recalibrated, adjusted, even changed.
So, here we are, on Trinity Sunday, and the day of your Confirmation. Today you will say, as you did in the Athanasian Creed, that 1+1+1=1. You can’t really multiply it by anything because God is infinite. And you can’t divide it by anything, because if you tried, the answer would still just be one. Just let me know if you need me to slow down.
The thing is, MIT does not offer a program that will help you understand that equation. And if Harvard ever did, that was a long time ago.
Really, it is not something you can just read in a book on and comprehend. To joyfully confess such a thing before God and everyone else requires something more. To think and speak thusly about God means that your minds have been recalibrated, adjusted, and even changed.
This is what St. Paul indicates in his letter to the Romans when he writes:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed (μεταμορφοῦσθε) by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
This means that God has not only saved you, but also changed you, transformed you, and renewed you. God has restored your minds to think the way He created them to think. So, in our epistle, he isn’t lamenting ignorance or the limitations of reason in a fallen world; he is rejoicing and marveling as he engages his renewed mind to contemplate and meditate:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. verses 33-36
Trinity Sunday is the perfect way to end the festival season of the church year, and an even better day to be confirmed. Because in the retelling of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for you, the great history we retell beginning every Advent, you have learned again how to think about God, as He would have you think about Him.
Christmas: Jesus has made Himself one of you; and so you can actually know Him.
Good Friday: Jesus has loved you to the end; giving you His righteousness in exchange for your sin.
Easter: Jesus has conquered death and hell, and promised you life with Him forever.
Ascension: Jesus has taken His place tat the right hand of God, raising your human nature, and calling on you to contemplate heavenly things.
And finally, at Pentecost, God would not let His story or your story end; and so, He sent the Church His Holy Spirit.
With power greater than your own reason or strength, by which you cannot believe in Jesus Christ your Lord or come to Him, He has called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts, sanctified and kept you in the true faith.
In Holy Baptism you got your Pentecost, as Jesus transformed your heart, and also your mind. Freeing you to think in new dimensions and see things as He would have you see them.
I’m not just talking about how to think about God according to His Triune nature. I’m talking about the Church, the world, and all that is in it. You are enabled now to think properly about everything:
– The Lord’s Supper
– The Church
– How to love one another
– How to pray
– How to be merciful
– What is a man? What is a woman?
– How to live
– How to die
– And on and on…
The only thing you can’t really know is…how to stop.
I asked our resident pilot and head elder, Steve Perko, about this whole three dimension thing; and he told me that really, there is a fourth dimension to flying – and that is speed.
It’s another dimension of thought because unlike walking or driving, you can’t just stop. Because if you do, you’ll stall out, go into a flat spin, eject, and then tread water in the middle of the ocean waiting on a helicopter to pick you up. Which is a real thing that happened to him off the coast of Virginia Beach. I can show you the newspaper clipping.
But, what does this mean? It means that the Church only moves forward, and she never stops. You only move forward. You can never stop.
Whatever you do, keep moving forward. Be in Church and Bible Study every single week. It’s the third Commandment. Treasure God’s Word and increase in wisdom and learning.
Don’t go back to thinking in the same bland, boring, predictable, and hopeless two dimensions, that Nicodemus is stuck in this morning. You are different. You have been, as Jesus says, born from above. If I had enough time to sort it out, we might end up saying that this makes you an interdimensional creature.
You are those who confess in this world, the truth of God and His Kingdom, which is not of this world. The Athanasian Creed went on at lengths to describe what that true, Catholic faith is. Why?
Because it is true, yes. But to think rightly of God the Holy Trinity is to think with a mind that has been renewed and transformed, to live as a free man and woman, thinking rightly not only of God, but of His world and of yourself. It is to be conformed not to this world, but to Christ.
This is God’s free gift to you: won on the cross, poured out in Baptism, nurtured from pulpit and altar. And that is something worth confirming.