Rev. Jack Vaiden
My brothers and I have a family ritual. Each weekend we go onto our computers and have a tele-conference; me in Georgia, my older brother in Pennsylvania, and my younger brother in New Hampshire. I do not understand computers but despite my not understanding I have used them as a tool both in work and at home to bring about desired results.
Recently as we were reminiscing about our time at UNC-CH Russ reminded me of when he was a junior taking multiple variable calculus. The course required that he produce what are called ‘proofs’ as to how the mathematics worked. Ince he was failing both the tests and the homework and feared what failing the course would do to his grade point average he went to the professor. The professor told Russ that “unless you understand how the mathematics works and can ‘prove’ it you can’t use it.” Since Russ was taking physical chemistry, he brought his tests and homework that showed that although he did not understand multiple variable calculus that he was using the formulas as a tool to determine the atomic probability of reactions taking place. He then asked the professor if he drove a car with an automatic transmission. The professor said he did. Russ then asked him if he understood how an automatic transmission works and the professor said he did not. Then Russ asked the professor if despite not knowing how it works that he relied on it and used it to drive from one point to his desired destination. The professor was not pleased with this upstart student’s challenge but nonetheless gave him a passing grade (D-) for the semester.
As many of you know although I am not from the Caribbean I worked there over the course of a year and fell in love with it. I am always seeking to understand more of the geography, culture, history, economics, and of course food. As a way of keeping connected I not only cherish my relationships here at church but also keep up with my favorite TV series is “Death in Paradise” on PBS. I find mysteries intriguing after viewing it for a number of years I use as a tool some of the clues the writers include to speculate who is the culprit. At the end when all is revealed I am either proud of my deductive ability or totally surprised. Either way I am never disappointed.
There are many mysteries about the human body but even a newborn despite no understanding of how the body works can use the body processes as a tool to eat, and sleep, look, listen, move, relate, and love. The list could go on and on.
And then there are the mysteries of our faith.
The Judeo-Christian faith is based on Deuteronomy 6:4 which Jesus quotes in Mark 12:20 “Hear O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” How does this jive with our praying to, worshipping, and praising Jesus and the Holy Spirit? How can God be One yet three?
Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday but nowhere in the Bible is the term “trinity” to be found but, however, the unity of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is well attested to a we see in the following litany of Scripture passages:
We read in Genesis 1:1-2 and then in John 1:1-3a, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while the Spirit of God swept over the face of the waters” and God said, and his words made creation happen. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” What is revealed is the pre-existence of Christ and the Holy Spirit as God’s agents of creation.
The unity and consistency of the Godhead is attested to I in Jesus’s high priestly prayer as He says in Matthew 11:27, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” And how does the Son reveal the Father? By the Holy Spirit for as he says to his disciples in John 14:26 by “the Advocate, 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.” And continuing in John 16:13, “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.”
There are many more examples of the coexistence and unity of the trinity a few of which include:
· Jesus in his resurrection directed the apostles to, “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.”
· Paul stated, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” Again, he states, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” And although not the last perhaps the most recognized his benedictional blessing, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy spirit be with you all.”
And so we have the mystery of the trinity but what we may not understand is nonetheless a useful tool. How are we to use this tool? When concerning the Holy Spirit Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” He did not say into all understanding.
The Greek word for truth is alatheia which in the New Testament means that which is firm, solid, reliable, faithful, tested, lasting, sustaining, supporting and capable of imparting itself to others.
Amidst these troubling and turbulent times, we can take comfort and strength in knowing that Jesus is God’s embodiment and that God is a god of truth, one on whom we can rely and trust amidst the changing conditions and circumstances of life. God’s truth is reality not imagination. Grace is real and solid despite oppression, opposition, or suffering. God is love, God is merciful, God is just, God is compassionate, God bestows blessings, God forgives, God grants His peace (cessation of hostilities, restoration of relationships, balance, wholeness, and health).
Jesus is “The Amen, the first and the last.” Like the word alatheia, the word “Amen” translates as “firm, true, reliable, and trustworthy. In the Old Testament it was a response to the king and equates to, “yes, I believe you, and I promise to do what you command.” Jesus is faithful and true. In him all the promises of God find their “yes.” And we as we give our “Amen” we promise to believe on what he conveys, use the tools he gives, and promise to follow his leading.
The mysteries surround us. Despite there being billions of persons past and present with people dying and being born every minute if not second, yet we can know that God creates, redeems, sustains, and blesses. When I do not understand how to pray the Holy Spirit prays with and for me with groanings which I cannot utter. When I stand convicted of transgressions Jesus forgives and frees me up to move beyond the burden of guilt and empowers me when I have been wronged by another person to move beyond my natural inclination to get revenge or hate to forgive.