Wonder of Wonders

The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to John

Jesus said to the disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-15)

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Today is Trinity Sunday when we seek to celebrate the God we know as the Trinity, and to somehow understand how One God can be at the same time, three persons.

Usually it is easier to resort to a metaphor – an image that shows how a thing that is one can also be three. The most commonly used is the idea of a stream into which you place your fingers, dividing it into three streams.  One stream really but in effect, and for a time, three streams.

But I think the idea of the Trinity has more to do with how we see God, or rather how we have seen God over the years – centuries – millennia – and how our view of God has progressed or evolved over that period.

What we know of God comes of course, as it should, from the Bible. And reading the Bible, beginning with the Old Testament, and working through the Bible, we can see how the presence of God has been perceived differently over time.

We read about the God of Abraham, and of Jacob,  who in his love for his people, rescued them from starvation by placing them  in Egypt. Joseph the eleventh son of Jacob , who as confidante to the Pharaoh, and the second most powerful man in Egypt was able to offer his family refuge in Goshen, a fertile part of the country.

Then four hundred years later God  again rescued his people, this time from the very people who offered them refuge, but had now become their slave-masters. 

And yet, we read in many passages in the Old Testament, that this compassionate God commanded the Israelites to wipe out all men women and children when taking an enemy city. 

How could that be?

At the back of this seemingly incomprehensible command was the idea that Israelites must not be tainted with the paganism and heathenism of those they conquered. And they saw the God they worshipped as a jealous God.

When Jesus came, it was to show that rather than being a jealous God, or a vengeful God, God was an all loving and forgiving God. A God for all people.

And our knowledge of God has thankfully progressed since then.

Most of what we Christians know of God comes from Jesus, of course. People had seen God as a fearsome being. People had trembled before Him. Or Her.  His thunder frightened even those who worshipped and feared him. His vengeance was something to be feared.

Then the Light of the World, Jesus, came to show us a God that we didn’t know, but have since come to love, and not to fear.

The best way to send an idea, said scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, is to wrap it up in a person. Jesus was the way God sent his idea to humanity. Or as a little girl said, more simply,” Some people couldn’t hear God whisper, so he sent Jesus to tell them out Loud.”

John projects the same idea when he tells us, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

When Jesus opens the gates of Heaven we glimpse not judgment, not condemnation but an undeserved, incredible, unending, everlasting, love.

So we find God in the Scriptures, and we find him in Jesus, but we discover more and more about God as we enter into prayer, and communion with Him, over  time.

The Spirit helps us do that.

And Barclay says that God doesn’t only show himself in the words of theologians, or priests; that they are not the only ones who are inspired, but that we learn about God in great poetry, in the words of some of our most lovely hymns, written by those who have been inspired by The Holy Spirit. 

When H.F.Lyte explained how he wrote the words to Abide with me, he said he had no sensation of actually composing the words, but that he wrote them down as if they were being dictated to him.

Handel says that when he wrote the Hallelujah Chorus, he saw the heavens opened and the Great White God sitting on the Throne.

The Holy Spirit has revealed God to authors, and composers, and great preachers, and scientists!

When a scientist makes a discovery that will benefit humankind, or a surgeon discovers a new technique that will save lives and ease pain, or when someone comes up with an inspired way of delivering treatment for deadly disease to those living in undeveloped countries, then God is being revealed. 

Everything we know comes from God. The laws of physics were not invented by scientists, they were there waiting to be discovered.

Before Newton watched the apple fall from the tree and had his revelation about gravity, people weren’t floating in the air, drifting off into space; gravity had always been there. Newton just noticed it and deduced what it was.

Progress in knowing God has come about in the same way.  We discover what has always been there.  

And the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, reveals Him today – in what we discover in poetry and music and great works of art – in science, in medicine, even out in space – we get to know more and more about the One who created everything.

But there is another way we know God.

This world has always been hard for Christians. It was hard in the beginning when the church authorities in Jerusalem tried to eliminate the teachings of Jesus.  It was hard in the time of Paul, when Christians were persecuted in Rome. 

It was hard for those who sought the truth about God within their own church, in the time of the Inquisition. 

Today, persecution continues in some countries as sectarian violence takes lives, and churches are burned. 

In this godless society, we can face ridicule and criticism for our Christian views.

In some families Christians are discouraged from attending church by other family members.

The six or seven day work-week, which we thought had gone for ever fifty years ago is back, and makes it difficult for Christians to attend worship on Sunday. It is not easy to be a Christian, today.

Even so, even in this modern world, an endlessly loving God is still being revealed.   

Paul writes that trouble produces fortitude. He says that suffering is like the process where metal is heated in a furnace to purify it, and make it stronger than before.

Suffering makes us better able to face whatever difficulties come our way, Paul says. 

I am reminded of an item I read some time ago.  

It seems someone wanted to ship live fish across the country, in tanks, to enable those who lived far from the ocean to enjoy fresh seafood. 

The best care was taken with the tanks, and the water, and the transportation, but for some reason the fish arrived worse for wear. The flesh was not even pleasant to eat.

Then some bright spark had the idea of putting in each tank another fish, an enemy – a predator – of the fish being transported for eating.

Wonder of wonders, the fish arrived in wonderful condition. 

The effort they had to take to avoid the predator, the pressure they were under, kept those fish in great shape.  

God doesn’t put hardship in our way deliberately, but hardship reveals  something about God that we might otherwise never know; and that is his steadfastness, his faithfulness and his grace, when we are in dire need.  

As the man Jesus walked with those who suffered, God the Creator, walks with us in our suffering, and is revealed  by the Spirit which, , brings to us, all truth.

The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

One God, three persons.

The Holy Trinity.