This is the message I shared with God's people at St. Mark Lutheran Church and St. Timothy Lutheran Church on Sun., 5/31. The scripture text was Romans 8:12-17.
How many of you are familiar with the series of books and pictures called, Where's Waldo? For those of you unfamiliar with this series, the pictures consist of a sea of people and you have to locate the character, Waldo in the midst of the busy pictures.
It is quite a challenge to do so.
Today is Holy Trinity Sunday. When looking at today's readings, we may wonder, "Where is the Trinity?" Although the word trinity is not used in the Bible, our God in three persons is woven into the very fabric of our reading from Romans. Did you notice the names for God in the Romans reading? Just shout them out when you see them.
This passage starts out in an odd way, "So then..." This tells us that Paul is drawing conclusions from the previous verses in which he made it clear that the Christian life is life in the Spirit, not life in the flesh. Today's passage gives us the because for the first part of this chapter.
Paul is writing all about relationships in this passage. Within the godhead, we have the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The essence of the Holy Trinity is the love relationship of the members of the Trinity with each other.
Historically, the relationship of the members of the Trinity has been described in this way:
The Father is God
The Son is God
The Holy Spirit is God
The Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit.
The Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit.
and the Holy Spirit is not the Father or the Son.
We are bothers and sisters in Christ because God has invited us into the love relationship that is shared within members of the Trinity. We become part of the family of God through Holy Baptism and God claims us as his own.
Paul is speaking about our Christian identity or self-understanding and he goes on to speak about the implications of such a life. Just as we are accepted by God through no goodness or merit of our own, our daily Christian life is not the result of our own efforts, but is empowered by the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian community.The Holy Spirit is not the personal property of a few super spiritual people in the body of Christ. Rather, the Holy Spirit is the life-giving breath that enlivens the body of Christ to which all followers of Jesus belong.
The language used by Paul about our relationship with God escalates throughout the passage. We move from slavery to adoption as God's children. In New Testament times, being adopted meant that the adopted one gains all rights, responsibilities and privileges of being in the family. No difference was made between adopted and birth children.
As good as that is, it gets even better when we move from adoption to intimacy with God. "...we cry, 'Abba! Father!'" (v. 15) When I lived in the Holy Land, my family would frequently go into the a part of Jerusalem, where a block had been made into a plaza, which did not allow cars, but only foot traffic. Families would be out strolling together, enjoying a warm evening. Small children would become tired and sleepy from walking in the fresh air, then what we would see is little arms extending toward their father and we would hear, "Abba." "Abba" is a word of intimacy between child and father. It's like saying, "Daddy!"
To cry out to God in such a way is both to confess our need of God and to claim our relationship with God. Because we are God's own children, we can be as intimate with God the Father as Jesus the Son is. "Abba" was used by Jesus in the Lord's Prayer and at his crucifixion in Mark's gospel.
You think that level of relationship is good... there's even more! We are heirs of God! We have received the most unbelievable inheritance! Sometimes don't we wish we just had a rich uncle who left us a big inheritance?
We have someone better than a rich uncle, we have a rich and generous Father!
And...we are not only heirs of God, but joint heirs with Jesus. We have access to the same riches as the Lord Jesus has!
Paul says we are heirs to all this great stuff from God on one condition, "if...we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him" (v. 17). All normal expectations of being an heir are tuned upside down in true kingdom of God fashion with this condition.
Being a child of God does not mean that life will always be wonderful for us and that all our worries are gone. The thing about being family is that that like Jesus, as joint heirs, that which was our Savior's lot, is also ours. Suffering is as much a part of our inheritance as is real and abundant life.
We live our lives in the present under the shadow of the cross. In baptism, we are "marked with the cross of Christ forever." This cross-shaped life we share with our Savior is that of self-giving love in service to others. In the future, it means we will share in the resurrection life of the glory of God at the fulfillment of God's plan for history (Boring and Craddock).
Eleventh century saint and mystic, Hildegard of Bingen described the Trinity as "sound and life...wondrous splendor...which is life in all things" (Sundays and Seasons). How does this "sound and life" infuse our church?
How do we feel when we leave this church and we go back home to our lives, our jobs, being in school. How should we feel? If we are children of God, and we have this amazing inheritance, isn't there a part of us that wants to tell that to everyone we meet? Isn't there a part of us that is so excited about our church family, that we want to bring other people into the family? If not, why not? Amen!
Dr. Gerald Christiansen, The Early Church and its Creeds class, 2008.
M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The People's New Testament Commentary
Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV-Year B
Sundays and Seasons