First Reading Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalm Psalm 8
Second Reading Romans 5:1-5
Gospel John 16:12-15
Last week someone jokingly asked if I had found a preacher for this Sunday. It is a covert practice to schedule the Associate Priest, Deacon, or really anyone else willing to preach on Trinity Sunday. With none of these available, you are stuck with me.
I believe the attempt to avoid preaching on Trinity Sunday is due to some perceived pressure to ‘explain’ the Trinity. It is a daunting task. The Trinity is not clearly outlined in scripture, although many passages allude to the various natures of God. Humanity has tried to define three persons in one God since the beginning of Christendom. Early Church theologians tirelessly developed the doctrine of the Trinity, and not without casualties. Hundreds of years of councils and debates led to the Nicene Creed we profess weekly, and we are still working through these statements. Much of this debate entered around refuting heresies, describing what God is not.
St. Augustine comments on the Trinity, “It is the Father only who is not of another. For the Son is born of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. But the Father is neither born of, nor proceeds from another. And yet this should not occasion in human thought any idea of disparity in the supreme Trinity. For the Son is equal to him of whom he is born, just as the Holy Spirit is equal to him from whom he proceeds.” Perfectly clear.
I have read thousands of pages on the Trinity, from early Church treatises to modern theologians. I could wax theological on persons and ousia and hypostasis. If our goal is to define the Trinity, I’m afraid this sermon would go on until the Second Coming, or longer. Rather than define, perhaps the higher calling is to experience the Trinity, using scripture, tradition, and reason.
Jesus describes the revelation of God as more than we can bear. Yet Jesus does not withhold the experience of the living God. A gentle teacher, Jesus goes slowly, giving us as much as we can chew on and inwardly digest. The Holy Spirit’s work is to ‘guide us into all Truth’, to continue offering this revelation, not overwhelmingly all at once, but giving us what we can bear, what we need. Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as speaking to us what it hears. All the Father has is also Jesus’, and he gives this through the Holy Spirit. This sounds like a chain of command, but it is more about oneness. The relationship between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is expressed in terms of great intimacy. Jesus is not the Father, but remains united to the Father through obedience and love. The Spirit is completely connected to both Father and Son and is the expression of both. Despite grammatical confusion, the plural ‘they’ are one.
Perhaps our greatest experience of the Trinity is how this relationship manifests in our lives. The Greek word for this is perichoresis. It describes a divine dance of the three-ness of the Trinity, interwoven and intertwined, each acting individually yet so completely of one mind that we cannot deny the one-ness. In our humanity, we can only take one bite at a time, inwardly digesting our experience of God, yet the three are inextricably bound in will and love.
We cannot consider the Father outside of the creative Spirit and the gift of the Son. We cannot consider the Son without the love of the Father and the living presence of the Spirit. The Spirit does not act alone, but in obedience to the Father in the expression of the Son. In the Father’s re-creation through Christ, through the power of the Spirit, we have been invited into fully reconciled relationship with God. Our place in the relationship is seeking, saved, reconciled, and following. We are invited into the relationship of the Trinity, because in faith it makes sense. We are sure of our rightful place in it.
If live as the heirs of God’s promises, the children of God, invited into the relationship of the Trinity, then we are forever transformed. It is evident in our story ... how we came to be, who we are, and who we are called to be. A group of people devoted to worship and obedient to God’s call formed this community 150 years ago. In the 1950’s, against then current cultural norms of segregation, our people decided all races should worship and serve and love together. Later, in the 1970’s, St. Paul’s welcomed people of all sexuality, long before the first Pride parade. Our people recognized the need for safe, affordable housing and the formation of community, and built St. Paul Apartments and Village. This community was a key participant in developing Loaves & Fishes, a ministry that continues to hold relationship with the working poor as we share in suffering and lift others up. We have embraced ministry to a community in Haiti, giving of our abundance, and developing relationship. A self-described ‘old and tired’ people have mustered resurrection energy to mentor and relate to the children and families of Path To Shine, host Freedom School, and invite college students onto our campus and into our lives.
All of these stories are examples of mission and ministry that have formed us. More importantly, they are about relationship. The love and beauty and relationship of the Divine Trinity is embedded in every moment of our lives, could we but see ... and to see, we only have to look. The Triune God is a joyous, dancing God who pours out overflowing gifts to humanity. God showers us with grace because God wants to share God’s abundant goodness and love. The Trinity is the model of our relationship to God and to one another. The Divine Dance continues, and God is inviting us to the dance floor. We need not fear being awkward or stepping on toes. The Father will embrace us. The Son teaches us. The Spirit will guide our feet. The cosmic band is playing some toe tapping music. The next steps are before us. Shall we dance? Amen.