A Door Was Opened in Heaven
St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church
Bishop Peter F. Hansen
Sermon for Trinity Sunday, May 30, 2021
“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. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.”
WITHOUT GOD, nothing makes any sense. As rational beings, we think in qualities and concepts, apply values, and intelligently speak: we are the smartest things on the planet. And almost everyone believes there’s a God out there that we don’t see. What if we’re wrong? What would make sense then? And what would not?
Surely, we might think good and evil are simply human values. We may call them social contracts, worked out through millennia of interactions, a decision by many to constrain the few who want to going against the collective wills of all others. We do no murder, for then people might kill any inconvenient person and make other people afraid and sad. We don’t commit adultery because marriage and family bring safety and security to all. And so on. We invented commandments and there is no outside source of our guilt or innocence. So they say.
In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis uses the concept of morality as the inescapable proof God must exist. The social argument breaks down, he says, on the fact that while we strongly insist the other guy must follow our rules, we ourselves find ample occasions to break them, and then feel rotten about it. The argument concludes that right and wrong are not imposed by us, because we seem more naturally inclined to fail in keeping this standard, but when we do fail, we know we’ve violated the universal rule of right and wrong. Our attitude speaks of an outside source of this rule. There must be a God.
St. Paul agrees, and he writes that you don’t need the Bible to know the existence of God, that everyone knows it, and “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.” Romans 1:19-20
The design of this world speaks of a clear idea in its creation in a vast universe that spans itself across our sky. We learn that in the intricate order of living cells, myriad codes of information rest on helical strands of DNA, huge amounts of information in every cell. Atoms are built on almost nothing, with light its tiny building block. The designer of any orderly system is always more intelligent than his product. This infinite wonder simply couldn’t be made by dumb matter and energy.
Human thought, it is argued, speaks of the logical mind of a Creator. How can dirt fashion the human mind? Give it a million eons, and dirt will not think, play music, write a play, teach math, speak philosophy. Nothing low can build a thing that is higher, and so much higher, not even by a billion little steps in trial and error.
Everything has been caused by something that’s already there. Every tree sprang from a seed, the seed from a former tree, and so on. Reverse the video and go back until the earth is fashioned from stardust, 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 an eternal night. Back further to a locus where all trajectories converge to a single point in space—at one moment nothing there, the next, everything! What was its first cause? Where did everything get its being from nothing?
Voices say that God is a myth, and we’re morons to believe in Him. I have illustrated a force behind the universe, an intelligent designer, but our concept of God is much more fully developed.
So, this wonderful Being makes us, and gives us this perfect planet just the right size, of proper components for us to live on. Won’t such a Being want to show Himself to His creatures? What’s the purpose of a terrarium with humans and other animals in it, if its creator doesn’t let us know He’s there and the meaning of our existence? Well, He has.
Light from heaven has streamed out the door any number of times. A common thread in all human religions suggest a common source. We trace similarities, shared ideals that couldn’t be sheer instinct or social contracts. All cultures believe in a creator, a world-wide flood, an almost identical moral code, and life after death. Similarities speak of a truth shown to all people, in unequal amounts. The differences between them tell us there may be a best version, one that is most true. Which is it?
Jesus Christ stands out as the most influential human life ever lived. More people base their lives on His than any other inspired sage or avatar. No one else ever rose from death to life by Himself, with witnesses, then a month and a half later ascended to the skies, with witnesses. We listen to Him to find out real answers to our questions about God. If His impact on humans grows for 2,000 years after these events, it lends authenticity to His words and teachings. And more than teachings, the meaning of His existence says God is seeking a relationship with you and me. He has come for us. We need to respond.
He told us that He is the Son of God, that His Father is our Father as well, if we trust the Son. And He told us He would send us the Holy Spirit to live inside us and teach us more. That’s happened, just like He said. He commissioned the Apostles to baptize in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. At Jesus’ baptism, the Father commended Him from heaven as the Spirit descended upon the Son. Thereafter, His disciples taught this creed, that God is One, but God is also Three divine Persons. The New Testament is the clear message of this divine revelation. The doctrine of the Trinity is so strange it’s unlikely that people would have made it up to explain God. The alien quality of the idea speaks of its being revealed rather than cooked up.
The Old Testament gives many indications of the three Persons of the Trinity, anticipating Christ’s arrival. God speaks within Himself in creating us after His own 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 we learn later is the Son. Psalms of David sing of the Son of God. Daniel clearly tells of Messiah, as does Isaiah and other prophets, who tell of God’s Spirit as a separate Person of God: “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” Ps 51
People have thought up divine duality, some human religions making god a dual being – darkness and light, male and female, good and evil. But these are opposites. Can God be His own opposite? Reason says no. He’d cancel Himself out, and only confuse us. We observe that a thing is often composed of threes. Matter comes as: solid, liquid, and gas. Time is past, present and future. An object is three dimensional: height, width and depth. A point in space described by three coordinates: x, y, z. Threes in unity are all over the place, and we are body, soul and spirit. Not so strange, after all, that God should be three in One.
Above all, God is love. The reason given in the Bible for why we exist, and the cause we are to serve, and the mission of Jesus to Earth is love. If God commands love toward Himself, and for one another, He is already that love Himself. In the eternity before He created anything: God was in love. What love did God know about if He did not share love between the divine Persons, the Father loving the Son, and Holy Spirit? He is love.
We demonstrate God’s existence and point to His nature. None of these are scientific proofs, and it always requires faith to know them to be true. Does that make us helpless before science that seems to be aimed at pulling down our faith? No. Science can’t talk about God. Science may measure and theorize the nature of nature, the space in which space is contained, and the stuff seen and sensed here in this container of space, but it may not look outside. It’s unscientific to theorize about what’s outside the box. Thus, the first cause of our origins can’t be found or measured, only the stuff. Science stops at stuff. We’re talking about the One in Three whose Word made all the stuff.
If we’re wrong, it won’t be science that disproves us. It’ll be our lack of love. 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 aren’t changed for altered tastes, new morals, gender definitions, or alleged fairness. And if we’re right, we possess a truth that can save us. Every life you see is in jeopardy. Every soul desperately needs to know what we know, to their soul’s health and eternity.
A door was opened in heaven. God invited certain special saints to see Him on a throne, with heavenly beings worshipping Him. The Spirit mysteriously flamed in lamps all round, and the Word of God, His Son, appeared as a lamb, slain before the foundation of our world, 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. And He is the author and source of love, by which we live and enjoy our lives. Our response is simple. Believe Him and love.
Athanasian Creed (said by Anglicans every Trinity Sunday)
Whosoever will be saved , before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal. As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be both God and Lord, So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.
And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another; But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved is must think thus of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of his Mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his manhood; Who, although he be God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ; One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.