Mt. 28:16-20 (AMP)
South Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship of Faith – June 11, 2017
The Reverend Deborah Fae Swift
Mt. 28:16-20 (AMP)
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted [that it was really He]. 18 Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority (all power of absolute rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always [remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion], even to the end of the age.”
I think that one of the hardest things to understand, experience, and ACCEPT as Christians is this whole concept of the TRINITY.
We all grew up with hearing “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” or “Holy Spirit” later on when we wanted to stop scaring our children.
Each one seems to be its own THING, right? Its own ENTITY.
But over time, even THOSE names have changed. “Father” is sometimes too limiting and so we sometimes change that to “Creator.”
Actually, the CONCEPT of a holy trinity pre-DATES Christianity. For centuries before monotheism, goddess religions around the world celebrated the three phases of life and worshiped the trinity of Maiden-Mother-and Crone. Three ASPECTS of the Divine, if you will.
So along comes Christianity and they just can’t EXPLAIN who Jesus is in terms of God … Son? Yes. But also God HIMSELF! “The Father and I are one,” he said in John 10:30. And the SPIRIT – the Holy Comforter … that who breathes LIFE into us … the MOVEMENT of God. Separate from God? No. Linked to Jesus? Yes.
There are some who consider themselves UNITARIANS … all of God is One … there’s not division or even acceptance of the Trinity … but as Presbyterians we continue to struggle with and welcome Jesus and the Spirit as both the same AS and yet distinctly different FROM the person of God.
It’s part of what we call the MYSTERY of faith because we just can’t be LOGICAL about it.
UNLESS you look at quantum physics … especially the study of light.
Y’see … it USED to be that we thought of everything in terms of POLARITY – positive and negative. We thought that the atom with its protons, neutrons and electrons, were the smallest units of matter.
But NOW we know that there are TONS of things smaller than those sub-atomic particles.
And we USED to think that light traveled only in light waves.
But NOW we know that light travels TWO ways … in waves, but also in PACKETS of energy. It’s not either-OR … it’s both-AND. If you look for light to act in wave-like patterns, you’ll see that, and if you look for it to act as packets of energy, you’ll prove that, too.
Both AND …
Like the Trinity.
God is Creator … the Father (or Mother) of all. But God is ALSO Jesus – God in HUMAN form. And God is the SPIRIT … that’s like the WAVES of light … moving around, tying everything together, being the comforter and the connector.
Sometimes it helps to focus on a different FORM of God just to give us a new perspective.
For instance, when I’m feeling besieged and I want the great protective power of the Universe to help me … I’m all about GOD because NOTHING is greater than God.
When I’m struggling with some part of being HUMAN or I want to be reminded how to be in relationship with that huge, IMMENSE God, I look to JESUS.
And when I’m needing to feel the MOVEMENT of God’s Presence, it’s the SPIRIT that speaks to me.
Some of you have read the book (or seen the movie) of The Shack. In it, a man meets up with a Black woman who’s always cooking in the kitchen. Turns out that she’s God.
And there’s a carpenter-handyman … that’s Jesus.
And this sort of LIGHT that’s always swirling with different colors and dancing around … and that’s the Holy Spirit.
But one of the things that’s really COOL about this depiction is that when the man tells something to ONE of those three, the other two automatically KNOW it because they’re all the same thing, really.
It’s one of the best descriptions I’ve run across about the Trinity.
So in today’s reading, Jesus is saying goodbye to his followers on earth. Right? He’s about to rise up into heaven – what we call the Ascension. (I always think of the song “Leavin’ on a jet plane” when I think of the ascension … “Leavin’ on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again.” 😃)
This is where Jesus tells us to go out and be MISSIONAL … go TO people – don’t expect them to come to you — and teach them everything that I have taught you.
And, he says, “baptize them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
Now, let’s just review a little bit about Matthew’s gospel where we find this.
It was not the first one written. Right? That was which one? [Mark]
And Mark was written about 10 or 15 years before Matthew and Luke.
Luke was written for a NON-Jewish audience and Matthew was written for a JEWISH audience. Right?
But I have to tell you that ALL of the gospels were written anywhere from 40-70 years after the Resurrection. That’s a long time after Jesus had been crucified and risen from the dead. They were NOT the first books of the New Testament.
What would be the FIRST things written about Jesus?
[Paul’s Letters] In fact, Thessalonians is the oldest of the New Testament writings.
It was PAUL who really put together who Jesus was. HE’s the one who began to explain that Jesus was the son of God and yet was also God, himself.
Paul was really the first Christian theologian.
And all of the parts that refer to the Trinity – of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – they came LATER. We don’t really know that JESUS ever talked in these terms because HE was just trying to be a good Jewish man and do what God wanted him to do.
It’s the people who came LATER and who were trying to figure OUT who he was compared with God … they’re the one who really started defining the whole concept of the Trinity.
But it makes sense.
God is SO big that we need to have other ways to VIEW or EXPERIENCE the Creator.
And that’s no big deal. ALL of us have more than one identity. For instance, I’m a minister, but I’m also a MOTHER … and a TEACHER … and a DAUGHTER … I used to be an athlete … I’m a musician. To different people, some parts of my life are more important than the others. And by recognizing the Trinity, we have different IMAGES for God – different ways of RELATING to the indescribable infinity.
Pretty cool, huh?
I think more important than the Trinity part of today’s reading is what Jesus says we are supposed to DO. Each one of us … is to [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words]. That’s what we’re called – required by God – to do with our lives.
I like having Caller I.D. on my phone. I can tell who is on the other end of the phone before I even pick it up. It’s a GREAT invention. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I will always pick up when my kids call.
And so will God.
Whenever we get in touch … whenever we reach out to the Creator, the Redeemer, or the Sustainer … God will pick up because OUR Caller I.D. shows that it’s US.
But here’s the deal … WE have to learn to recognize when it’s GOD calling and sometimes it’s as the Father (or Mother) … sometimes it’s at Jesus … sometimes it’s as the Spirit.
SOMETIMES God comes to us as the Lord Almighty … sometimes as the Prince of Peace … and sometimes as the Still, Small Voice.
Sometimes it’s Emmanuel – God WITH us.
But it’s all the same God.
And so this week I want you to play around. EXPLORE different ways to think of God.
If you normally pray to God … try starting your prayers with, “Dear Jesus” or “Heavenly Spirit.” If you normally talk with Jesus, try beginning your conversations, “Creator of the Universe” or “Lover of my Soul.” I think you might be surprised how your OPENNESS and EXCITEMENT about God will change just by doing that one, little thing.
After all … A rose by any other name still smells as sweet …
God, by any other name, is still God.
And let the people say, “AMEN!”