Sermon for Trinity Sunday (7 June 2020)
By Revd George Mwaura
Bible readings for Trinity Sunday: Psalm 8 and Mathew 28: 16–20
Let us pray together:
Jehovah God, you are known to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
and you live and reign in the perfect unity of love.
Hold us firm in this faith, that we may know you in all your ways, in Jesus’ name.
If you listen to some people talk about God, you might be tempted to think God is their drinking mate; they seem to know everything about God. But Isaiah puts such people right when he writes about God and says: His understanding no one can fathom [Isaiah 40: 28]. Those who appear to know everything about God have not even begun to scratch the surface. God is so much beyond our human reasoning that it is only the arrogant and the stupid who can lay claim to fully knowing him. And perhaps nowhere is this true than in the Christian belief of the Trinity. Today is Trinity Sunday and on this day, we focus on the extraordinary truth that God is three persons and yet still one: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In a way it is a bit like a birthday when all we do is celebrate a person and their presence with us. But of course, when we celebrate God, we have a problem: do we celebrate the three as one or should we have three days, one for each? This is a very tricky issue for Christians, and people of other faiths have accused us of worshipping three Gods. No one can ever understand God, he is a profound mystery and all human reasoning will always fail to comprehend his glory. My advice for you is simple: stop worrying about your lack of understanding and instead worship God the creator who showed his love for us through Jesus Christ and today lives in us in his Spirit.
In our Gospel reading today we heard Jesus’ last words to his disciples, in what the Church refers to as the Great Commission, when he said to them: Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. A careful study of these final words of Jesus to his disciples reveals three things which I want to share with you: First; Jesus assured us of his power always. When you read Matthew 28: 18 in different translations, you will notice that they translate this sentence as: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. I do not believe those translations which use the word authority really capture the true meaning in the ancient Greek language. I prefer the translations which says: All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth. Now, I am not trying to show off my ability to conjugate Greek verbs here; but I want to impress upon you that, the word authority means the right to appoint to an office, while the word power is the claim to a purpose. Jesus was claiming the power to accomplish a purpose. And power is not power unless it can accomplish the purpose for which it is intended and applied. A chain saw is great for cutting wood, but it is useless and dangerous for shaving beard in the morning! Dynamite is a powerful tool for blowing up buildings and mountains, but for the purpose of blowing out candles on a birthday cake, it is ineffective and, dare I add, highly dangerous. The power that is needed is the power to accomplish a purpose and this is the kind of power that Jesus claims. He does not claim a power of coercion, but the power of persuasion. All kingdoms founded upon the power of coercion by dictators like Caesar, Alexander, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin and so on are all gone. But Jesus used the power of love and consequently his kingdom has grown from a handful of ill-equipped rough Galileans to literally billions of followers who have chosen to follow him freely. If we want God’s power in our hands, we must have his kind of power in our hearts: power to accomplish his purpose.
Secondly, Jesus gave us a commission: Jesus sent his disciples out into the world with the commission to win men and women to faith in his name. This commission was not just for those first disciples, but for all disciples across the ages and that includes you and me. Jesus expected his disciples to go throughout the world with the good news that would transform the world and he equally expects you and me to do the same. But we have become so complacent and comfortable in our own Christian ghettos that we no longer go out into the world to share the good news and win souls for the Lord. A few years ago, I got lost in Stockport in Manchester while looking for a church where I was meant to be preaching. Finally, I found it and at the gate as you enter the huge compound, there`s a rusty signpost which reads: You are entering the mission field. Mission field; hmph; that’s why Jesus commissioned us as his disciples, isn’t it? We gather in the church to worship and grow in our faith, then we go out into the world where we live out our discipleship. That is the mission field where we are to proclaim the good news, set captives free, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit those in prison and hospitals, protect the weak and console the lonely as we take up our cross and follow Jesus Christ. Our commission is to be his witness and make disciples in his name.
Finally, Jesus promised us his presence: It must have been a scary thing for eleven disciples to be asked to go forth and conquer the world for Jesus. They must have had doubts and fears as they contemplated how they would carry out this mission impossible. But there was also the promise that they would not be alone. Jesus said to them: I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. When the Apollo 13 was preparing to land on the surface of the moon in April 1970, an oxygen tank exploded aboard the spacecraft. They lost power and the capacity to generate oxygen. They did not know if they would have enough fuel to return to planet earth. Everyone held their breath and said their prayers, as the NASA scientists and engineers tried to figure out a way to bring these astronauts back to earth safely. To conserve oxygen, the astronauts were ordered to crawl into the lunar landing capsules and remain there for the three-day trip back home. They did not know if their oxygen would last that long or if the engines would fire on re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. But as you all know, they did make it home. After a very tense landing on the ocean, they were taken for medical examination. As they were waiting in one of the rooms, one of the astronauts looked at the other two and said: ‘I don’t know if you felt the same thing I did, but when we were cramped in the landing capsules wondering if we would make it home, I felt as though we were not alone. I do not know how to put it into words, but I felt the presence of God was there with us.’
Ladies and gentlemen, the promise of Jesus is a promise that we will never ever be alone. He said so to his disciples and he says so again to each one of us this morning. Whether you are in a Covid-19 ward as a patient or you are a front-line worker or indeed you are in the comfort of your house listening or reading this sermon, Christ repeats this promise to you: I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. The Spirit of God is always with us and around us.