The Feast of the Holy Trinity (June 19, 2011)

Lessons:Genesis 1:1-2:4a Psalm 8 (1) 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 Matthew 28:16-20

Prayer of the Day: Almighty Creator and ever-living God: we worship your glory, eternal Three-in-One, and we praise your power, majestic One-in-Three. Keep us steadfast in this faith, defend us in all adversity, and bring us at last into your presence, where you live in endless joy and love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lesson:

28.16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Mystery of God’s Nature

This coming Sunday is a festival Sunday: The Feast of the Holy Trinity. On this day, we strive to explore the mystery of God’s nature. What does it mean to profess that God is both three and one? What does it mean to embrace the conviction that God is shrouded in mystery, and is never fully known in this life?

Lutheran theologians are fond of dialectic — defined by Webster as, “any systematic reasoning, exposition, or argument that juxtaposes opposed or contradictory ideas.” We believe that Christ is fully human and fully divine. We believe that God is a God of mercy and a God of justice. We believe that God is essentially three, and essentially one. In the process of holding these contradictory notions in tension, we discover deeper truths about God’s nature, and what that means for our lives.

I write this devotional message from Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp, where 100 or so Middle School campers, a few dozen camp staff and I are spending a week learning about prayer. Today we are scheduled to delve into a bit of dialectic as we ask ourselves: “Does prayer change God, or does prayer change us?” When this study was written last winter, this seemed like a relatively interesting theological question. However, this question has taken on new life by the situation that surrounds us.

When we arrived at camp on Sunday afternoon, we noticed a small plume of smoke rising about a mile or so south of camp. By Sunday evening, that plume had turned into a great cloud of smoke and ash, and now we hear that some 1,200 acres of land surrounding the camp have been burned by a ferocious fire. As of Monday evening, the buildings had not been destroyed, but the fire is close by, and the concern is high. We, of course, have relocated. We are in a Junior High School in Westcliffe, and soon will be moving to a neighboring camp.

All the while, we have been praying: for the preservation of a camp that has meant much to thousands of youth (and dozens of Saint Peter members) over the years; for the safety of those who fight these fires for a living; and for all the campers, adult sponsors and staff who are walking the nomadic journey of this first week of summer camp.

Will God hear our prayers and save the buildings that have housed these ministries on this sacred ground since 1957? Or does God have something else in mind, that will rise from the ashes of a devastating loss? There is no way to know for sure, and so we pray fervently, in hopes that God will guide us through this experience in a way that deepens our hope, and strengthens our reliance on grace.

There is a mystery about God’s presence among us. We can’t fully know God’s will, and neither can we fully know God’s nature. On Trinity Sunday, we explore what it means to confess that God is one, at the same time as we speak about God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The task at hand is not to arrive at some clever explanation that helps the whole project make sense. Instead, we hold these two notions in tension, and look for what we can learn from them about the mysterious power and presence of God in our lives.

May God continue to be revealed to you. May the mystery of God’s nature inspire your faith and imagination. And may you be blessed and held near by God’s gracious hand. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why did some who gathered with Jesus on the mountain worship, while others doubted?
  2. How is it that Jesus commands his follower to make disciples?
  3. What does it mean to think of God as three (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What mysteries cause me to give more thought to God?
  2. How have I experienced God’s magnificence, other-worldly power?
  3. How have I experienced God’s intimate nearness to me?