Trinity Sunday is the one Sunday in the church year when we do something just a little different. Instead of hearing about Jesus’ teachings, healings or miracles, we talk about one of the mist difficult Biblical concepts to explain let alone understand-the Trinity. In fact, one running joke among those of us who preach is that when Trinity Sunday comes every year, we take that Sunday off!
This year’s Gospel reading for Trinity Sunday is Matthew’s version of the Great Commission. The Great Commission has not changed since Jesus gave it to the disciples over 2,000 years ago. Christians today are also called on to go and make disciples, baptize and teach. We are to do this through Jesus’ power, for his sake, and with the help of the Holy Spirit. When we fail to obey the Great Commission, it is because we fail to believe Jesus when he said that he is always with us. Our purpose as believers is to continue reaffirming Christ’s commands and follow-up with explaining how to do what he said. By God’s grace we know that when we search the Scriptures we are given an insight into God’s will and wishes for our lives. God the Creator speaks directly to our hearts and shows us how important our salvation is for Him.
In giving the Great Commission, Jesus created the concept of the Trinity before it was developed in the early creeds. Jesus held the Father, Son and Holy Spirit together as three different persons by whom God encounters us in his love from all eternity and to all eternity. The three persons of the Trinity have the same substance but different expressions. Matthew says that we are to baptize “in the name of…,” thereby bringing people into a direct relationship with God as we know him: Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. They are the way God exists, or how the mystery of God expresses itself.
The Resurrection did not transform the disciples into heroes of the faith. They still had doubts even after they saw and heard Jesus. What did Jesus tell the disciples they needed to do to obey his instructions? He told them the basics that all believers need to be told:
- Salvation must be genuine.
- God’s word must be our priority.
- Prayer is vital.
- Surrender and consecration must become our goal.
- Stay filled and in step with the Holy Spirit.
All of this can be summed up as worshipping God, Biblical ministry and glorifying God. They flow from God’s purpose to show the world that he is our Saviour.
Jesus came up with five tasks for us to do for Him:
- Disciple or train those who are evangelized.
- Minister or serve people demonstrating God’s love.
- Have fellowship together
- Worship together.
None of these functions are more important than the others. They are all equally important.
A good example of how we are to apply the Great Commission today occurred during the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Navy Chaplain Carey Cash, who is the great grandnephew of legendary singer Johnny Cash, asked the members of his regiment if they wanted to explore what it means to follow Christ. He led them in a 12-week Bible study, half of which took place before the invasion. He held classes and counselling sessions with Marines who grappled with Christ’s claims. As the eternal consequences of battle drew closer, their hearts softened, and just before the invasion took place, 60 Marines received Christ and were baptized. Several others were born again or baptized while in combat, and many more were baptized in their home churches when they returned to the United States.
At one point during the invasion, Cash’s regiment encountered a line of Iraqi tanks that American intelligence failed to notice. Their turrets were leveled at the Americans and their tanks were fully manned, but the guns were never fired and 3,000 Iraqi soldiers surrendered. The regiment was also protected during an ambush at the presidential palace in Baghdad, when rocket-propelled grenades would come right at them and then curve and go around them.
We are to baptize in the name of the triune God. Christ’s mission extends to the whole world, and baptism is part of that mission. Jesus is present everywhere thanks to the Holy Spirit, so his worldwide mission can be done easily. The mission involves helping new believers discover that God is a god of light, goodness, mercy, compassion, justice and reconciliation. This does not involve imposing our own cultural values and traditions.
We are called to unite others with the Divine. That unity is reflected in the unity that the Father, the Son of the Holy Spirit have. That unity is in the form of the Trinity, and it is about the nearness and involvement of God. God first entered humanity in human form. After his resurrection he continued to be with his followers in the form of energy and power for living the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is a ceaseless flow of love that believers are caught up in.
When we are baptized, we receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is under the authority of Jesus, and Jesus is under the authority of God. The Trinity has its roots in Jesus’ teaching. The name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is an early sign of the Trinitarian Godhead. We need the gift of the Spirit, especially when life gets rough. We will be witnesses to Jesus by the integrity of our lives and the commitment to his ways. If we are faithful to what the Holy Spirit teaches, there will be suffering and challenges. We might be ignored, described as unrealistic or dismissed as idealists.
The Holy Spirit is always with us, so it will help us fulfill the Great Commission. It will allow us to go anywhere. It works supernaturally through us. We have nothing to fear because the authority of Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit is greater than the authority of all the rulers of this world. In return, we are to obey God faithfully. Being baptized in the name of all three members of the Trinity indicates that our relationship involves all three faces of the Trinity. We have the belief that Christ reigns and will send the Holy Spirit to help us live the kind of lives that Christ wants us to live. We can’t speed up or slow down the pace that the Holy Spirit comes at because it is a gift that we constantly receive and constantly have to wait for.
The doctrine of the Trinity is a confession and not a definition. No one can define God. We can only confess our personal encounters with him. To confess Christ, the Holy Spirit and God apart from each other is impossible. The concept of the Trinity is a concept about the love of God. God loves us enough to be the Creator who created the whole universe and every creature. He created us and gave us life. God loves us enough to be the Redeemer who has saved us and the world from sin, sorrow and separation from him so that we might be joined with his love forever. God loves us enough to be the Spirit or Guiding God who is at work in us to inspire, strengthen, guide, advocate and illuminate us in our daily lives.
Jesus made the statement, “I am with you always to the end of the age.” He is with us because the Father sent him. He died for us in obedience to the Father’s will. He was raised from the dead by the Father. He spoke only what the Father told him to say. We have been born anew by the Spirit through baptism. Jesus is with us through the power of the Spirit, who will take what is his and declare it to us. By his Spirit we can bring the Gospel to everyone and use what the Father gave us for the well-being of others.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing, 2013)
- Pastor John Barnett, “Disciples: Follow Christ & Make Disciples.” Retrieved from www.dtbm.org
- Paul Estabrooks, “Are You Working or Functioning?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, “Sermon for Trinity Sunday.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
- The Rev. Dr. James B. Lemler, “Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah,…Love” Retrieved from www.day1.org
- The Rev. Robina Marie Winbush, “It’s Not Over.” Retrieved from ww.day1.org
- The Very Rev. Dr. Samuel T. Lloyd, “The Nearness of God.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
- Augsberger, M.S. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 24: Matthew (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982)
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 10 Bible Software package
- Pastor Ken Klaus, “Is God in My Plans?” Retrieved from www.lhm.org
- Cecil Murphy, “The Immanent, Present One.” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Exegesis for Matthew 28:16-20. Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
- Mark Ellis, “Chaplain Led Revival in Marine Battalion, Saw Miraculous Protection in Battle.” Retrieved from http://blog.godreports.com
- Roland McGregor, “No Better Words.” Retrieved from RMcGregorAlbq@aol.com