Trinity C Sermon/Bible Study (2007)

Bible Study for Sunday, June 3, 2007

More Trinitarian Math: It takes Three to get One from Two.

The age-old problem in monotheism — Christianity, Judaism, and Islam — is that we really have two gods, not one: a God of love and a god of wrath. The god of wrath is a holdover from all other religions in which god’s wrath is needed to undergird the cultural notion of punishment, of keeping order. As human beings, we can’t seem to get along without a god of wrath, some transcendent power that justifies our keeping order with violence.

“You call it ‘greatness,’ what you have been doing, do you?” asked Dumbledore delicately.”Certainly,” said Voldemort, and his eyes seemed to burn red. “I have experimented; I have pushed the boundaries of magic further, perhaps, than they have ever been pushed –“

“Of some kinds of magic,” Dumbledore corrected him quietly. “Of some. Of others, you remain . . . forgive me . . . woefully ignorant.”

For the first time, Voldemort smiled. It was a taut leer, an evil thing, more threatening than a look of rage.

“The old argument,” he said softly. “But nothing I have seen in the world has supported your famous pronouncements that love is more powerful than my kind of magic, Dumbledore.”

“Perhaps you have been looking in the wrong places,” suggested Dumbledore. (HP6, 443-444)

Proposal: if we as Christians cannot come to see who God is in the Trinitarian relations of love between the Father and the Son that comes to us through the Spirit, then we are looking in the wrong places. It takes being able to see the Father through the Son in the Spirit to finally disabuse ourselves of the god of wrath once and for all. It takes the Three to finally get the One, God as love, from the two, God as both love and wrath.

St. John’s Proclamation that God is Love. Period.

1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 4:11-19 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.

St. Paul’s Transformation of “wrath of God” in Romans (for an exposition of these passages see “Nuechterlein on the ‘Wrath of God’ in Romans”)

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.

Romans 1:19-28 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done….

Romans 2:1 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

Romans 2:8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.

Romans 3:5-6 But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world?

Romans 4:15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

Romans 5:9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath [of God]. [“of God” is not in the original Greek text of St. Paul’s! The translators added it!]

Romans 9:22 What if God, desiring to show [the] wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; [Another translation problem: the NRSV reads “his wrath” applying the “his” at the end of the phrase in the Greek to apply to both “wrath” and “power.” The above rendering is a valid, if not preferable, translation.]

Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath [of God]; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” [Once again, “of God” was added by the translators when it is not in St. Paul’s original Greek text.]

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