Bishop Peter F. Hansen
A Door Was Opened
St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church
Bishop Peter F. Hansen
Sermon for Trinity Sunday, June 12, 2022
“Behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.”
WITHOUT GOD, nothing makes any sense. As rational beings, able to think, evaluate, and speak: we are the smartest things on this planet. And almost every one of us believes there’s a God out there that we don’t see. What if we’re wrong? What would then make sense? And what would not make sense at all?
Good and evil are said to be arbitrary human inventions, social contracts, worked out through eons and concluded by a majority opinion to constrain those who want to act selfishly, against the collective wills of everyone else. We don’t murder for people might then kill anyone who is inconvenient and make other people afraid and sad. We don’t commit adultery because marriage and family bring safety and security to the very young. And so on. We invented commandments and there is no outside, higher source of guilt or innocence. So they say.
In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis uses morality as an inescapable proof that God exists. The social contract idea breaks down, he says, because: while we strongly insist the other guy follow the rules, we ourselves find occasions to break them, and then feel rotten about it. Right and wrong are not imposed by us. We’re inclined to fail this standard, and when we do fail, we know we’ve violated a rule of right and wrong. Why? It speaks of an outside source of this rule. There may be a God.
St. Paul agrees, and he writes of the existence of God, and that everyone ought to know it, but “men… suppress the truth in unrighteousness, What may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” Rom 1:19-20 The clear design of this world speaks of orderly process and thought in its making, a vast universe that spans itself across our sky. We learn the intricate order inside living cells, myriad codes of information on strands of DNA, the atom built of almost nothing, light its tiniest building block. The designer of any orderly system has to be more intelligent than the product. This wonder simply couldn’t be made by dumb matter and mindless energy.
The human mind speaks of the mind of a Creator. Again, how can dirt fashion the human mind? Give it a trillion years, and dirt still can’t think, play music, write a play, teach math, play chess. Nothing low builds what is higher, so much higher, not even by a billion little steps.
Everything that is has been caused by something previously there. Every tree sprang from its own seed, and the seed from a former tree. Go back every step until the earth is being formed from stardust, and back further when light is slowing down to make material objects, clouds in space and glowing centers coming up into points of light burning in a nearly eternal night. Then back to the locus where all these earliest trajectories converge: a point in space where at one moment nothing, and the next, everything is there. What was its first cause? Where did the everything get its being from the nothing?
By these and other arguments we answer voices saying God is a myth, and we’re morons to believe in Him. But I have only illustrated there being a force behind the universe, an intelligent being, but our concept of God is far more refined. How do we come to such conclusions?
The definition of such a God is a sentient being, very powerful, upon whose existence our own depends, and whose very nature defines all that is good. This being creates us, by some wonderful means and design, and gives us this perfect planet that’s just the right size, of proper components, for us to live on. Won’t such a being want to show Himself to us? What’s the purpose of a terrarium for humans and other animals, if our creator – not just a zoo keeper – doesn’t let us know the meaning of the experience and who He really is? In any case, He has done so.
God has let the light from heaven leak out on this world a number of times. The differences between religions are often used to argue their common faultiness—as just mankind’s folly. But see the similarities, the overlap of information that couldn’t be instinct or social contract. Most cultures believe in a creator, a world-wide flood, a very similar moral code, and life after death. These are not things we learned on the Discovery channel. And while there is similarity, differences tell us there’s a best version. Which is it?
Jesus Christ is the most influential human life ever lived. More people base their lives on His than any other gifted sage, prophet or avatar. No one else ever rose from death to life, with witnesses, then a month-and-a-half later ascended to the skies, with witnesses. We might listen to Him to find out the real answers to our questions about God. If His impact on human beings goes on 2,000 years after these events, it gives authenticity to His words and teachings.
First, He told us that He is the Son of God, that His Father can be our Father as well, if we’ll trust in the Son. And He told us He would send us the Holy Spirit to live inside us and teach us. That happened, just like He said. At His baptism by John, the Father commended Him from heaven as the Spirit descended upon the Son. He commissioned the Apostles to baptize in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Thereafter, the disciples taught this creed, that God is One, but God is also Three divine Persons. The New Testament is the clear articulation of this revelation. The doctrine of the Trinity is so unexpected it’s very doubtful people invented it. The strangeness speaks of its being revealed rather than cooked up in order to convince others.
The Old Testament gives many indications of the three Persons of the Trinity, anticipating a final revelation through Christ. God speaks to Himself in creating man after His image and likeness: “Let us make man…”Gn 1 The Father is God In the beginning, the Spirit flows out over the vastness of empty space and the Word speaks into it. The Word is the Son. Psalms speak of God’s Son. Daniel clearly tells of such a one, as do Isaiah and other prophets, who speak of God’s Spirit as a separate experience of God: “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” Ps 51
People may reason that the pattern behind creation is duality, and some human religions have gone so far as to make their god twofold – darkness and light, male and female, good and evil. But these are opposites. Can God be His own opposite? Logic rebels. He’d cancel Himself out. But things that are not opposites are often composed of three elements. Matter comes in three forms: solid, liquid, and gas. Time is past, present and future. Any object is described in three dimensions: height, width and depth. A point in space needs three coordinates to find: x, y, and z. Threes within unity all over the place, when you think of it, and we are body, soul and spirit. Not so strange, after all, that God should be three in One. His fingerprints are all over the world.
And God is love. Our hearts sing to that glorious verse of John’s Epistle. Many stories try to explain the universe—epic battles between gods, strange divine pregnancies, dragons in the sky—but what we find in the Bible for the reason we exist, the cause we are to serve, is love. God can’t create something He doesn’t first have in Himself—that’s a rule. Can a person who’s never had eyes invent a movie camera? If God commands of us love for Him, and for others, He is love Himself. The day, the year, the millennia before He created anything: who did God love? What love did God experience unless He shared love between the divine Persons, the Father loving the Son and Holy Spirit?
So, we have proofs for God’s existence and proofs that the Trinity, a revealed quality of God, makes plausible sense. None of these are scientific proofs, though we use some observed physical or sociological elements as examples. Are we helpless before science, so much of which seems to be aimed at pulling down the church? No. Science can’t talk about God. By definition, science may set its instruments to measure and surmise the nature of nature, the space in which space is contained, and the stuff seen and sensed here in this vastness, but may not peek outside of it. It’s unscientific to theorize about what’s outside the box. Thus, origins can’t be found or measured, only stuff. Science stops at stuff. What we’re talking about is the non-stuff, the One-in-Three whose Word made all the stuff.
If we’re wrong, it won’t be science that disproves us. If we’re right, we have the answer to a great many questions and problems. We can know with certainty that some things are right and some things are wrong, and the rules can’t be changed for altered tastes, morals, definitions, or some perceived fairness. And if we’re right, we possess a truth that can save life — on this planet and in a world yet to come. Every life you see is in jeopardy. Every soul desperately needs to know what we know, to their soul’s health and sanity.
Behold, a door was opened in heaven. A man saw God on a throne, and heavenly beings worshipping Him. The Spirit mysteriously glowed in lamps all round, and the Word of God, His Son, appeared as a lamb, slain before the foundation of our world, who yet lives to unseal a scroll. Strange language, strange visions: our world is more mysterious than we thought, because our God is God. He is three and He is one. Be certain that what you know is true, for indeed it is Truth itself.
In the 5th century, a song was written to express all of this in ways that taught the faith in clear detail. We don’t know the melody, but we have the words of the Athanasian Creed. Once every year we speak it out. Let’s offer it today in faith, standing together.