What is it that drove the great explorers of this country to risk their lives to venture across rugged and inhospitable country? What made men like Charles Stuart, Leichhardt, Burke and Wills leave what was safe and secure and set off into the unknown? No doubt it was the idea that there was a large portion of this Great South Land that was a mystery and they were determined to solve this mystery by crisscrossing the inland at the risk of their own lives. They wanted to answer questions like – is there a great sea in the centre of our land, what lies out there beyond what is known, is there good farming land with green pastures out there somewhere, perhaps there is gold or some other precious mineral waiting to be discovered?
Well these explorers and the pioneer families did solve the mystery of what was out there beyond the coastal strip. You can say that it has always been the goal of people over the centuries to expand knowledge and find answers to everything that is unknown.
But there are some mysteries that will always be a mystery. Today, Trinity Sunday, we come against one of those mysteries – God. I dare say that it’s not very often that we think of God as a mystery. Who is God? Where is God? What is God?
• I can’t touch him.
• I can’t say how big he is because I don’t know what to measure.
• I can’t see him. If I wanted to take a photo of God I don’t know where to point the camera.
• I can’t knock on his door and have morning tea with God at his home.
• I can’t feel the presence of God because I’m never too sure if I am only feeling my own emotions.
• I can’t imagine what God is like because I always end up using human pictures, giving him human qualities so that he makes sense to my small human mind.
• I can’t think like God because if I could I would be able to understand why a young mother had to die, why thousands of people die in earthquakes, why a baby is severely disabled.
We don’t often talk about the mystery and awesomeness of God these days. We have tried to be a bit more logical about God and refer to him as a buddy, a friend, a wonder worker.
We often think about God as a bigger and more powerful version of us.
Some even view God as having the same lusts and emotions as we have.
Others view God as a nameless being playing with us in the same way as a cat plays with a mouse. What has happened is that people have fashioned God after their own likeness.
As humans, creatures of God, we can’t even begin to imagine what God is like. We are restricted to describing God with earthly terminology and so can only express what God is like in the vaguest of terms and left guessing what we have missed. This is the mystery of God, the great God, the only God who is three persons in one God, who refuses to be categorised, who is far bigger and greater than we could ever imagine, who existed before this world was made, who doesn’t need us to exist.
The early Christians started talking about a Triune God. This wasn’t to make God more logical and understandable and acceptable to human ways of thinking. In fact, the idea of the Trinity intensified the mystery and awesomeness of God. They observed that Jesus had a unique relationship with the Father and that the Holy Spirit had a unique relationship with the Father and the Son. Against all sorts of odds, against all human logic, and in the face of mounting opposition, the Church maintained that Jesus Christ is true God, equal with the Father, and that the Holy Spirit is God, equal with the Father and the Son.
The psalmist can see that God is truly majestic when he says, “Our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth, who has set your glory above the heavens!” (Psalm 8:1). He looks at the stars and the moon, and these days we could go further and add the galaxies and planets of the universe, and he can only conclude that these must be the work of a great God. Maybe you have done the same. You looked at the magnificent colours of a sunset, the intricate structure of a beautiful flower, the mountains, the green paddocks, a star filled sky and you have said, “There, that’s proof that there is a God. Anyone who wants to see evidence of God’s existence doesn’t need to look any further.” But seeing God in the universe can only be seen with the eyes of faith. Those who already know God can see that the wonders of nature are signs of God’s greatness. The psalmist talks about the greatness of God as a matter of faith calling God ‘our Lord’, “”Our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
The prophet Isaiah talks about the mystery of God when he says,
“‘To whom then will you liken me?
Who is my equal?’ says the Holy One….
His understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:25a, 28).
But we do know more about God. He is more than the God of nature. There is another side to God other than his greatness and awesomeness. He has revealed himself as a God who cares, a personal God who wants to have a relationship with his people. And so, we hear of the writer in Deuteronomy say with a great deal of surprise,
“Ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and from the one end of the sky to the other, whether there has been anything as this great thing is, or has been heard like it? ….Has God tried to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that Yahweh your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?…. Your God is a merciful God; he will not fail you, neither destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which he swore to them” (Deuteronomy 4:32, 34, 31).
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From the very first pages of the Bible we hear of a God who is powerful and great – he creates the earth with just a word – “Let there be” and it happened. We also hear about a God who wants to be close to his people – God and Adam and Eve were like best friends.
The psalmist marvels at the whole idea that this awesome and majestic God should care for someone so insignificant, so mortal as the human race. In fact, he loves the people whom he made so much that he even sent his own Son into the world to save them from the wickedness that had taken over the world. A few weeks back we celebrated Good Friday and Easter; we celebrated the great love that God has for us by allowing his Son to die in our place and to conquer the power of death over us. He wants us all to come close to him, something that is only possible, because our sin has been dealt with. We have been reconciled to God. God sent Jesus to restore our friendship with him through his dying and rising.
When we ask the question, “Who died on the cross?” we answer “God died on the cross!” He did the unthinkable – he allowed himself to fall into the hands of sinful people, be treated cruelly, laughed at, and then nailed to a cross. We say that in theory this is not possible. God who is majestic and awesome cannot do this. But he did. This is part of the mystery of God.
Last week we celebrated Pentecost – the pouring of the Holy Spirit on his disciples and the church. Jesus said that he and the Father would send the Spirit to remind us of the truth of God’s promises, to guide us, to encourage us and sustain us when the going gets tough. There is nothing more personal than the Spirit of God.
• He knows us better than we know ourselves.
• He knows when we need reassuring.
• He knows when we are afraid and timid and need the encouragement that comes from God’s Word.
• He knows when we are guilty and depressed and need comforting.
• He becomes a part of our sordid existence in this world. He lives in us even though we allow our sinful nature to take control of our lives so often. Theoretically this is impossible for a holy God to do. Again we are confronted with the mystery of God.
The doctrine of the Trinity is not an attempt by the church to unravel the mystery around God. In fact, it deepens the mystery. It doesn’t tell us everything about what God is and who he is. It raises more questions rather than give answers. But it does tell us about some important things about God – things that are life changing.
Who is God? He is our heavenly Father who made us, takes cares of us and calls us his dear children.
Who is God? He is Jesus Christ who gave his life on the cross to re-establish our relationship with God. He reveals the way to God and to eternal life.
Who is God? God is the Spirit in you giving you faith in God and guiding you in your daily walk as a Christian.
Faith in the Triune God acknowledges the might and majesty of God but at the same trusts in a God who cares.
The psalmist put it this way
“Our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth,
who has set your glory above the heavens! …
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have ordained;
what is man, that you think of him?
What is the son of man, that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:1, 3-4).
I have met many Christians over the years who have been puzzled by the idea of a Triune God, some even to the point of saying that they find it impossible to believe. I don’t think we will be questioned about our understanding of the Trinity when we get to the Pearly Gates. After all in human terms this is an impossible concept – let’s leave it as a part of the mystery of God. But what is important is that in the up and down struggles of daily life we have a God who saves, a God who loves, a God who has gone to extreme lengths to ensure that you have a living relationship with him. Our God might be majestic and mighty but he is here now and wants you to be with him in all eternity.
Let us make it our prayer,
Lord God in spite of our unbelief and lack of understanding of who you are, show us your new way of living. Amen.