Sinners in the Arms of a Loving God

The Holy Trinity 30 May 2010

(Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 Psalm 8 Romans 1:1-5 John 16:12-15)

“Sinners in the Arms of a Loving God!”

What does God look like to you?

Seriously, there is solid research to support the fact that the way we live our religious lives is in direct relationship to the way we picture God.

It reminds me of that story of the little girl in Sunday School class who was working furiously when the teacher came up beside her and said, “Ashley, what are you drawing?” Ashley said, “I’m drawing a picture of God!”

Well, if you’re a Sunday School teacher, you can’t let that one get by you, so the teacher said, “But, Ashley, no one knows what God looks like!”

And Ashley said, “Well, they will when I get finished with this picture!”

I guess I’d like to make a similar promise by the time I get finished with this sermon!

From the very earliest days of the church, there was a struggle as to how to best portray the God of Jesus. In struggling with this issue, the early church articulated what has become the defining marker of God by which Christians find their own identity. We call this the doctrine of the Holy Trinity—one God and three “persons.” So today is one of the few Sundays in our liturgical year devoted primarily to a doctrine!

Let’s see what kind of picture Holy Trinity can paint this morning!

One of the last great voices of New England Puritanism was a man by the name of Jonathan Edwards. His journey as a preacher and writer was one of trying to revive Puritan idealism. Although he had written many books, his most widely known piece of writing is a sermon entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God.”

Here are a few lines from this sermon. Be sure to hear the images!

“The wrath of God is like great waters… floods of God’s vengeance [that] have been withheld, but your guilt in the mean time is constantly increasing, and you are everyday treasuring up more wrath. The waters [of God’s wrath] are constantly rising and waxing… and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God that holds the waters back… If God should only withdraw his hand from the floodgate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand it.

The bow of God’s wrath is bent and the arrow made ready on the string and justice bends the arrow at your heart and strains the bow and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood. Thus, all of you who never passed under a great change of heart…are in the hands of an angry God. The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire…you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes than the most hateful, venomous serpent is in ours…yet it is nothing but

his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. You hang by a slender thread with the flames of divine wrath flashing around it and ready every moment to singe it and burn it asunder….”

Wow! For all you Jonathan Edwards fans who are here this morning, I know he was trying to portray an image of grace, but, my goodness, what a way to do it!

That’s not the image of God Holy Trinity paints for us!

Imagine what it is like to be held close by someone who loves you, someone who cares for you. Think of a time when you were scared, or hurt, or filled with joy, and you needed to be held. That’s much closer to the picture of God Holy Trinity paints for us!

Imagine three persons (Father, Son, Spirit) holding each other close so as to become one!

Holy Trinity does not have to become stodgy theology. Rather it can be a vision—a vision of a God whose love is so fierce, so fruitful, and so forgiving that these three persons become united as one. In a society where, too often, we’d rather rant and rave from behind a computer than talk face-to-face; in a society where we rather “take to our bunkers” and label everyone who is not with us as against us despite the fact that we may just have a different perspective; in a society where we hear too little about common concern, where we no longer respect questions, where intimidation and fear and shame and isolation become our answer to differences; in a society that more and more appears to be at war with itself, we need a vision of Trinity; as a society,

we desperately need a vision of a God who gets along within itself as an example of how we might get along with each other!

Today we hear clearly the Gospel invitation to discover that we are created for communion with God and with others, and that we are neither wholly victims nor unredeemable sinners, but rather we are a people called out of our woundedness into the transformed community of the Body of Christ. Today we hear clearly this vision of a God in relationship with itself!

Traditional stewardship practices have always talked of the three “Ts”—time, talent and

treasure. Today I might suggest a fourth “T”—“touch” or “relationship.” In other words, today we are called to become better stewards of our relationships with each. That’s the exciting vision of Holy Trinity!

This vision is for our marriages, our families, our churches, our communities, and our world. Such an exciting image is taken up in a furtive way in Proverbs 8 where we hear of Wisdom being God’s helper in creation. Here we have a feminine description of God! It is also areminder to us of the relationship between the persons of God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—giving and receiving within the very being of God. Even more, in verses 24 and 25, “”…before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth….; being brought forth (whirling and dancing) calls to mind an emphasis on the Trinity literally “dancing around, dancing with itself.”

We do not worship an angry, stingy God, who grudgingly gives gifts and who grants forgiveness as a divine grump. That’s not our vision! Not at all!

The triune God—Holy Trinity—Father, Son Spirit—is a joyous, dancing God who pours out overflowing gifts to humanity with gladness and deep down joy!

This God invites us—Redeemed Sinners in the loving arms of a dancing, whirling, joyous God to walk, laugh, play, and dance into the light of God’s new day! Amen.

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