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Matthew 28:16-20

The Rev. Jon Roberts

7 June


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”


The Trinity by Peter Paul Reubens, 1605

Don’t just be a child of God;

Behave like a child of God.[1]

A bishop is at a parish for Confirmation and decides that in his homily
he will quiz the teenagers he is supposed to be confirming. So he asks them, “who can tell me what the Trinity is?” They all look at their shoes, in that way that teenagers do. So he calls on one young man who mumbles a reply, in that way that teenagers do. The bishop says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that.” The boy sighs, in that way that teenagers do, and replies, only slightly louder, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The bishop, wanting the boy to speak up so everyone can hear him, says, “I’m sorry, I still didn’t understand.” And the boy, rolling his eyes, in that way that teenagers do, says loudly and clearly, “You’re not supposed to understand it. It’s a mystery.”[2]

How many of us have been asked by a friend, “What is the Trinity?” How many of us have been willing to strike up a conversation with friends, about the subject? The Trinity is certainly mysterious, making us want to look down at our shoes rather than to articulate what it is. Sometimes we like to complicate it and show our mastery over it. For example, in seminary some of the first year students were quite impressed with themselves when they learned big words, and wanting to impress others. One word that was used often was the word “Ontology.” Its use became quite popular by those who wanted to sound really smart. When in doubt about the dominion of the Father, the passion of the Son or the ethereal movement of the Spirit, they would simply say it was ontological. Ontology is the study of “being” or the “essence” of an object or even a subject. The Greeks enjoyed talking about the essence of things all the time to rationalize what could not be explained scientifically or otherwise. Shakespeare coined the phrase, “To be or not to be. That is the question.” In the 80’s and the 90’s you may recall a commercial that had a chorus singing this slogan, “Be, all that you can be. Find you future, in the Army.” Apparently it important for us humans to to understand our being. It gets complicated however because it gets caught up with what we do with our being. It gets changed from past to present to future.

It is interesting when around a gathering of men they are more interested in the functional aspect of being. They always ask the question, “What do you do? Interests are mainly in career pursuits and occupations. It is also interesting when around a gathering of women, they are more interested in who you relate. They always want to know who you know and things about your family. Together they are fashioned, but quite different in their own being, wouldn’t you say? So there is this ontological, essence of who we are by what we do, or how we behave and who we relate. This is precisely how God made us. Let’s now return to the question of our learning today, “What is the Trinity?” They have a being. They are Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They also have behavior. You may hear a priest open a sermon with the prayer calling up, “The God who creates, redeems and sustains us.” All of this in the time that encapsulates all of creation. This explains how they interact with one another and what they are intended to do together. Their behavior is around their union and symbiotic approach to complimenting the other.

With all of this, we are still no closer to understanding how this is important to us. Who would you say is an expert in human behavior today? If you are thinkig professionally you may be thinking a psychologist, a judge, a teacher, or maybe a policeman. They are experts because they see what has most likely broken down or lacks something. They can tell you the signs of what led up to these behaviors and exercise their training on how to correct them. But there is a much greater expert than these. Someone who has a much better range of sight and influence. They do not need to be a certified professional and everyone of us has encountered this expert. That person is a parent. A parent is applying their skills to development their children. They tell their child things like, “Sit up,” “Pay attention,” “Don’t talk back,” “Clean your room,” “Listen to what I say,” and the list goes on. There is no mystery behind the role of the parent. They are there to create, to redeem and to sustain. They are there to remind you that you are not simply their child, but that you are a reflection of them. That is why your behavior is so important. Be a child of your parent and behave like you are a child of your parent. Respect and mutual affection around clear expectations is the secret to a healthy and vibrant relationship. No one wants to hear someone who is appalled by your actions say, “Did your mom or dad teach you to act that way?” It would be disrespectful to them. Every parent wants their child to grow up and be independent, exemplifying the good traits and qualities they have modeled.

If we are created to be examples of the parent, you can now see why it was so important for Jesus to be perfect in every way. This was to honor his heavenly Father. Another key point to raise is the importance of a religious upbringing. In his book, “The New Deal” Dr. Cnaan presented an argument that realigning oneself with God reduces bad behavior. Going to Church; singing hymns, taking Communion, fellowship and missional activities together are highly persuasive on the success of an individual. In the studies he illustrated two factors contributed to anti-social behaviors with over 16,000 criminalized individuals specifically in the areas of vandalism, property abuse and theft. We have all seen in our nation this past week, there have been many misbehaving children doing such terrible things.[3]The influence of peer pressure is the number one factor. It is caused “Arousal theory” when you make decisions on impulse, not moral, based one what you are conjured to do by large numbers of people around you. The other is religious revolt. This is when a person is determined to challenge and break apart the authoritative structures related to the divine. Further studies revealed that 81% of all children who start going to church regularly at the age of 2 until they graduate from high school do not commit crimes. We hear the Word of God, together; we pray, together; we recite our beliefs and learn the commands that God has given us, together. There is built in accountability and not only do we hear that we are children of God but that we should behave like we are children of God.

To understand the Trinity even more, is to apply what Paul instructed the Christians in Corinth when he said, “Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.”[4] Jesus is giving last words of counsel to his disciples on a mountain, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”[5] If we teach people what God has commanded, God, the Trinity will be with us always because not only does this remind us that we are to be a child of God, but we are... to behave like a child of God.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[3] 2020 Riots in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, MN.
[4] 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
[5] Matthew 28:16-20

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