Next Door II – What’s in a name? Trinity Sunday
We are in the second week of our message series Next Door: The Art of Neighboring.
The premise of this series is that God wants you to be a source of his goodness and grace in your neighborhood.
Last week, we started with a simple step all of us can take, no matter what.
We were encouraged to pray for our neighbors and neighborhood. We looked at the challenge to pray for the neighborhood as a whole. To do a walk and pray, praying for neighbors we know, and those we don’t. To pray for God’s grace and blessing upon the people who live there.
Today we are going to suggest another very simple step that is a little more challenging. But it is a very simple way we can work with God for his purposes in our neighborhoods.
Today is also Trinity Sunday, so we will talk about how that applies to us today in just a moment.
But to get a good understanding of that we are looking at a passage from the Gospel of Matthew. It is, in fact, the very end of Matthew’s Gospel. On Easter Sunday, Jesus rises from the dead. Then, for forty days Jesus appears to the apostles and hundreds of others, as well.
This multiple attestation was a powerful witness to the truth of the Resurrection. In his last appearance, before he ascended into heaven
Jesus gathered together the eleven remaining apostles and said to them,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
This statement is packed with meaning. And to fully understand it, we need to go all the way back to the beginning of the Bible.
In the book of Genesis, when God creates the heavens and the earth, he gave authority over the earth to Adam and Eve. And Genesis tells us that they, in turn, surrendered that authority by their selfishness and foolishness.
When they chose what they wanted rather than what God wanted, they cut themselves off from God and his authority. Among the many consequences of their choice, corruption was introduced into creation; conflict and isolation became a part of the human condition.
One of the purposes of Jesus’ coming into the world was to win back the authority our first parents surrendered. Whereas they had chosen their will over God’s will, Jesus surrendered his will to his Father’s will – even when that meant death on a cross.
Through his death and resurrection Jesus wins back all authority. And, in turn, he places that authority on his disciples. He says I want you to take the authority and, Go and make disciples of all nations.
Jesus came to renew and restore creation by bringing people into a growing relationship with him, by making disciples. This is why the Universal Church exists. It exists to renew and restore creation by bringing human beings into a growing relationship with Christ.
And while there is a universal call to renew and restore all of creation our own responsibility is more parochial: to make that work as specific as possible.
Nothing becomes dynamic until it becomes specific. God wants to use us for the transformation of the world to build his kingdom. And the transformation of the world happens person by person, family by family, neighborhood by neighborhood.
Jesus continues, he says:
Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Today is Trinity Sunday and we are reminded of a core truth of our faith. God is not alone. God is a community of three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At the very center of being and existence, at the very center of the reality that is God we find a community.
This means that God, in his essence, is relational. God, who is the ultimate reality, is a community of persons who know and love one another. The reality of the Trinity, while impossible to grasp, is not just some ethereal view of God, but has very practical ramifications for us.
Since God is a community of love and all three persons live in an interdependent relationship with one another, the very center of reality is community. We’re created for community. And this is true for every area of our lives. We are made to live in connection with others.
You might like the work you do, but if you don’t have a connection to the people at your workplace, you probably don’t like your job. You might enjoy sports, but you enjoy them a whole lot more when they’re in company with people who enjoy them as much as you do. It is why for those of you who are parents, when your son or daughter moves to a new school or they are going away to college one of the things you worry about the most is whether or not they will make friends or the right friends. You know intuitively that if they don’t find some kind of community they are not set up for success.
It is not good for us to be alone because God is not alone. It is not good for us to try and meet all our own needs on our own because that is impossible. We are not created to meet all our needs on our own.
Independence and self-sufficiency are fine things to strive for and maintain But there are limits to them. Self-centeredness that becomes self-absorption creates psychological alienation.
Nothing makes us more miserable than self-absorption. 25% of Americans say they don’t have anyone to talk to, to share their troubles or their triumphs, or anything else with.
So that means in your neighborhood there are some very lonely people.
The truth of the Trinity tells us that we cannot be fulfilled or content by pursuing a life cut off from others. God has created you to be connected with others. And wherever you are God offers an opportunity for connection.
So there are two truths we see in the Gospel this weekend: The first truth is that God gives us a mission to be change agents to restore the world to what God intended. The second truth is that God gives us a mission to be undertaken in community.
So what does that mean practically? How do we restore our communities? Where to begin? Look again at the passage from Matthew. When Jesus passes on his authority to the apostles and establishes the core purpose of the Church he tells them to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. We are not to simply relate to God in some ambiguous, vague, or indefinite way, instead Jesus gives us the name for each person of the Trinity.
We are invited into an intimate relationship with God and that begins at baptism. The name of God includes all three persons of Father, Son and Spirit. By knowing these three different names we know what we need to know about God. God is Father because he is our Creator, the origin of absolutely everything. God is Father because he is the transcendent authority of creation. God is Son. The second person of the Trinity,
God from God, light from light, true God from true God who became flesh and who showed the Father’s love for us by dying on the cross. God is the Holy Spirit. The third person of the Trinity who proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Spirit lives in us and is with us to guide us.
Jesus reveals the name of each person of the Trinity so that we can know what we need to know about God. It’s true: there is a level of connection that is established when we know someone’s name.
On the other hand it is hard to advance much in a relationship if you don’t know someone’s name. Besides, we honor people and show great respect for them when we know their name. We are drawn to people who care enough to know our name.
So, this week our assignment is simply to get to know the names of your neighbors. A majority of Americans say that they don’t know the names of any of their neighbors. Identify one or two neighbors whose names you don’t know and get to know them this week. Then, add their names to your prayer intentions.
Jesus gives us this huge mission to go out into all the world to bring people God calls us to build his kingdom, to renew and restore the world.
And yet, it all comes down to some very simple steps we can take just next door. Pray for them and then get to know their names so you can pray for them by name. And, when you have the opportunity, greet them by name. You know, the sweetest sound to anyone’s ears is the sound of their name.
Lastly, never forget that God knows you by name. If you are baptized, He gave you your name. He calls you son or daughter, because He named you and knows your name.