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Jun 11, 2017

Many Names

Passage: Matthew 28:18-20

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Kurt Gerhard

Series: Summer 2017

Category: Christian Responsibility

Summary:

Trinity Sunday sermon for kids and adults

Detail:

The audio of this sermon is based on this text. But in the moment, you never know where the Spirit will lead.

 

Every year, on the Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate the Trinity. It is called Trinity Sunday. The Trinity like a triangle has three parts. Can someone tell me those three names? Even for those who are experts in theology, the Trinity is tricky to describe.  

Here are a few confusing things said about the Trinity…

Jonathan Edwards said, he was “not afraid to say twenty things about the Trinity which the Scripture never said.”

He went on to say: “Indeed, what we call “one” may be excellent, because of a consent of parts, or some consent of those in that being that are distinguished into a plurality some way or other. But in a being that is absolutely without any plurality there cannot be excellency, for there can be no such thing as consent or agreement.”[1]

Athanasius wrote: “We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.” (BCP 864)

There are times when I think I’ve got it (or at least understand a portion of it) and then I read something and I don’t get it anymore. That is because God is too hard to understand even for those who have lived for many years.

So, I am here on Trinity Sunday to tell you about something that I hope you will spend the rest of your life learning more about.  

When I first could answer the phone, the person on the other end would ask me, “Is Deanna there?” And I would say, “No.” And then I would hang up the phone. It took me a while to discover that I knew my mom as mom and other people knew her by her given name, “Deanna.” And people that really knew her might say, “D.” And people who were trying to earn her business or who didn’t know her at all would say, “Mrs. Gerhard.” 

Today, most people call me Kurt because that is my name. Others call me “Father” because that is a title for priests. My aunt calls me KJ because those are the initials of my first and middle name (and my dad is known in some circles as EJ). Other people call me Rev. Gerhard or Mr. Gerhard or Dr. Gerhard. Some people even call me “Sir” or “Hey, you.”

In the same way, God is known by many names including the three that we call the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We also call God: Lord, Almighty One, or Holy One. The thing is, we call God by many names and they are different in every language. And the thing is, God has been around forever and people have been trying to understand the different things that God does. As a result, God continues to be called different names.

Yet, if we are experiencing God through the life of Jesus, doesn’t mean that we are not talking to God.  The thing about God is that we have named some of things that God does. God creates, God gives us an example to copy, and God inspires us to make the world a better place.

Great people can and do argue about the Trinity. Many books have been written about it. But the key thing is that we are responsible for getting to know God. It is one of the most important things we do as we study our faith. We come to understand how God changes our lives only by being aware of God’s story. Today, we heard the story of God creating the world. God made the sun and the moon and the plants and the animals. This story reminds us that God loves all of these things because they are good.

We also heard the last words of the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus speaks for the last time to his disciples and his gives them a job. He tells them to baptize, teach, and remind everyone that Jesus is with them always. We see God through Jesus because of the way he lived and died. We can see Jesus in the good works that continue to be lived out today. And there is this difference maker that exists between us. It is called compassion, or love but we call it God’s Holy Spirit. It continues to move us to do amazing things.

To know the Trinity, we need to care enough to learn God’s story. A story that continues today. And by doing this, we learn to love all God’s created things.

It is hard to know God’s story (as I said earlier it is a lifelong journey), but it is much easier to learn the stories of the individuals we meet along our life journey (and the crazy thing is, learning those stories, listening, and trying to understand bring us closer to God). Each of us have experiences that make us who we are. Some of our stories are short and others have been playing out over many decades. We don’t often take the time to learn stories because it takes us away from following our own path and doing the things we want to do. Learning someone else’s story is the most life-giving and love-filled activity. So I am going to give you some advice: if you want to deepen your understanding of God and God’s love, you must stop, listen, and learn the stories of others because “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.”

When we get to a place where we don’t think that is possible, when someone is not redeemable, then we have forgotten about the love of God. We have failed to honor God’s many gifts to us.

Before you leave today, I hope that you will learn about the life of someone you don’t know (or don’t know well). I am sure that it will change your life and their life forever.

 

[1] Jonathan Edwards, “The Mind,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 6, Scientific and Philosophical Writings (ed. Wallace E. Anderson; New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980), 336–37.