Risen. Renewed: Peace
Rev. Louis Timberlake
April 24, 2016
John 14:23-29: 23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate,[a] the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
One of the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith is the belief in the Trinity, that God is Triune. One God in Three Persons––Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Now, let me be straightforward. I spent four years as a Religion major at Davidson, then I spent three years in a Master’s program at Duke, studying theology. But I feel ill-equipped to fully explain the Trinity. While I was at Duke, I heard a great story about a theology professor. Brillant. One of the most renowned in his field. He was explaining the Trinity to his class one day and finally just had to stop. He simply couldn’t explain it. He believed it. He worshipped a Triune God. But, a full explanation was simply beyond him. One of the theology books I read this week said this: “The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most difficult aspects of Christian theology.” And yet, we must engage with it, because it is foundational to our faith.
I want to share with you a compelling reflection on the Trinity that I stumbled upon this past week. Richard Twiss was a minister and a Native American Educator. I love what he has to say in this video.
(Online readers, you can view the video at http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/kingdom-columns. The clip starts at 1:55. You will need to sign up for a free trial account to view it.)
I think there are a couple of things that the Trinity teaches us about God and about ourselves.
First, God is community. God is, by default, in relationship. The three persons of the Trinity are inseparably involved with each other. But, they are still three persons, of one nature or essence. When Jesus says that He’s going away, but the Holy Spirit is coming, He’s saying that the way in which they encounter God will be different. What they encounter is the same (God); who they encounter is different.
I’m going to put on my theology nerd hat for a minute, but I promise I won’t leave it on too long. There are two ways that theologians tend to talk about the Trinity. They talk about the Economic Trinity, which refers to our experience of God–the activity of God in Creation–and, the Immanent Trinity, which refers to who God is–God’s interior life. Now, you don’t have to remember Economic and Immanent, but think about it as the difference between what God does and who God is. And, while we cannot fully grasp who God is, we can know what God does. So, what God does tells us about who God is.
When you hear someone refer to God as, “Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,” they’re referring to God’s activity. God is Creator. We know and experience the creative work of God. We see it all around us. God is Redeemer. We are invited to experience the redeeming work of God, as God invites each of us to move from brokenness to wholeness. And, God seeks that for all of Creation. God is Sustainer. We know and experience the sustaining work of God. God guides us, gives us strength, helps us to grow in faith and love, helps us to embrace hope in the midst of the difficulties we face. God provides our spiritual sustenance.
So, when we say Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, we are saying something about what God does. And what God does tells us about who God is. Often, these three activities are associated with the three persons of the Trinity--The Father that Creates, the Son that Redeems, and the Spirit that Sustains. But, because God is wholly relational, Father, Son, and Spirit are all caught up in all three activities of Creating, Redeeming, and Sustaining. The work of one is the work of the others.
Alright, I’m taking the theology nerd hat off. If you leave here today more confused than when you came, I’d ask forgiveness for my limited abilities of comprehension and communication. I’d also note that, if God were easily understood, God wouldn’t be much of a God. God is, by definition, beyond the scope of our intellect.
So, back to the point. God is relational. And, if God is relational and if we are created in the image of God (remember Genesis 1?), then we are, by default, relational. We are created to be in relationship. Not just with each other, but with God. And, if you think about God’s relationality, the work of the Son is also the work of the Spirit, the work of the Father is also the work of the Son.
So, if we are created to have that kind of relationship, to have that kind of connection with God, then the work of God becomes our work as well. That gets us to the second main thing that the Trinity teaches us about God and about ourselves. When we are in relationship with the Triune God, the mission of God becomes our mission as well. Today, we’re supposed to be talking about peace. You know, right after Jesus is resurrected in John, when He appears to the disciples in John Chapter 20, He says, “Peace be with you.” He actually says it twice, but the second time he adds on, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
The word “mission” simply means “sent.” Jesus is saying, “My mission is your mission.”
The mission of God is pretty expansive, beyond our ability to fully articulate or understand. But, I think the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Luke gets at the heart of it when He gets up on the synagogue and reads this passage from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
I love the way that Richard Twiss says it in the video we watched. “Mission is an activity of God.” But, because we are invited into community with God, we participate in that activity. He says, “we are entrusted with a story.” And, as we tell that story, as we live that story, we participate in God’s mission. The mission of bringing good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, liberation to the oppressed; salvation to all people.
Jesus says, in our passage we read, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” Often, we think about peace as a lack of conflict, a lack of tension. But, Jesus offers us a different kind of peace. Jesus offers us the peace that can only come in relationship with the Triune God. The type of peace we can experience is not so much a lack of tension, but a fullness; the fullness or satisfaction of a relationship with the Triune God and the fullness or vitality of participating in the mission of God. Peace, for us, is becoming storytellers and actors in the great story of what God has done and what God will do in us, through us, and beyond us.
As we come to the Table this morning, we come as people who desire a deepening relationship with the Triune God and a deepening participation in the life-giving mission of God in the world. We come as storytellers of and as actors in the story of God at work in the creation and salvation of each of us and of all of Creation.
- Is the Trinity a doctrine with which you wrestle? Why is it so difficult?
- Why does it mean for God to be Triune? Why is it important?
- Why is it significant that God is, by default, in community?
- What does it mean for us to be in community with God?
- What does it mean for us to be in mission with God?
- What is the mission of God? How are we storytellers and actors within that story?