One of the most mysteriously interesting passages of Scripture is Abraham and Sarah’s hosting of three unknown visitors in Genesis 18. These three guests show up from nowhere to affirm God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah, but also end up mercifully bargaining with Abraham about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Are these figures human visitors, angels, or a divine visitation? We are left with many questions about the episode, but it is clear that God is somehow present with Abraham and Sarah at their table through this episode. We are reminded through this story that God draws near to humanity to meet with us and share hospitality with us. This is profoundly revealed in the incarnation of Jesus our Messiah, who “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). In his well-known and beloved icon, Andre Rublev simultaneously depicts the story of Genesis 18 and the wonder of the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three apparently angelic figures gather around a table, with a chalice and host on the middle. All of them have their hands extended in some way toward the center of the table. While various interpretations abound, the prevailing interpretations read the icon with the Father on the left, Jesus the Son in the middle (with hands most clearly extended toward the host and chalice and two finger representing the two natures of Christ as fully God and fully man), and Holy Spirit on the right. Details surround the three figures and there is much to take in. A subtlety of style and color beckons the viewer to slow down and enter into reflection and prayer, but also to enter into the beautiful mystery of God’s Triune presence. Through the redeeming work of Christ we, too, can enter into the wonderful eternal relationship and dance of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
This past weekend at Eastbrook, I stressed the importance of Christian worship being centered in the Trinity in my message “Worship in the Beauty of Holiness” in the concluding weekend of our series “Roots.” There are some things in our faith that I would consider secondary, but the Trinity is not one of them. The Trinitarian understanding of God – one God in three persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is at the core of our faith as Christians.
As Bruce Milne writes in his book, Know the Truth:
Just about everything that matters in Christianity hangs on the truth of God’s three-in-oneness.
Or, to hear from an ancient commentator, Origen writes:
The believer will not attain salvation if the Trinity is not complete.
In the midst of our contemporary worship that often emphasizes personal experience or musical styles, the theological content and shape of our worship must not be underemphasized.
Since I didn’t give as much time to fully addressing the Trinity as possible, and because I am limiting my preaching largely to references found within Acts, I wanted to post some additional resources here. The following two resources can be downloaded as PDFs below and are resources from when I taught the session on the Trinity in the Elmbrook Church New Members class:
Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth:
Set up your kingdom in our midst.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God:
Have mercy on me, a sinner.
Holy Spirit, breath of the living God:
Renew me and all the world.
By N. T. Wright, contemporary New Testament scholar and Anglican bishop.
Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given to us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity,
and in the power of your divine Majesty
to worship the Unity:
Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship,
and bring us at last to see you
in your one and eternal glory, O Father;
who with the Son and the Holy Spirit
live and reign, one God, for ever and ever.
For the Christian there is no doubt that the doctrine of the Trinity is both the revelation of God’s character and being, but also the necessary shape of our faith and worship. If you would like to read more deeply about the Trinity, here is a bibliography I’ve developed on the topic, as well as a teaching outline on the historical development of the doctrine.
Maybe it’s a also good time to re-watch the three-part series I preached last Fall at Eastbrook on the Trinity. You can view or listen to the messages here:Read More »