The First Sunday After Pentecost: June 7, 2020
Year A, Trinity Sunday: Psalm 8 (or Canticle 13); Genesis 1:1-2:4a; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
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Homilist: The Rt. Rev. Porter Taylor, ASsisting Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia
Today is Trinity Sunday: one of the major feast days in the Church, and yet – to some degree the Trinity remains a mystery. There’s probably a reason for this. In the back of the Prayer Book – on page 864 – the Creed of St. Athanasius says, “The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible”
In addition, St. Augustine said, “If you don’t believe in the Trinity you will lose your soul
But if you try to understand it you will lose your mind.” So how can we deal with this mystery in a way that enables us to keep our souls and not lose our minds?
Well – to do so we must remember why the Trinity matters to us. It’s because we are made in the image of God. That means that the Trinity is also about what it means for us to be disciples. To follow Jesus is to live a Trinitarian life.
Instead of thinking of the Trinity as a word puzzle or a Zen koan; maybe we need to think of it as a reminder of our calling. Therefore, as we become more and more faithful to who we are, we grow into a greater sense of God’s eternal nature and who we are to be. It’s why St. Augustine held up the host in the Eucharist and would say, “Behold who you are – Become what you see.”
The Trinity is not a mind game – or a vehicle for analogies – like 3 leaf clovers
No – it’s the eternal triangle that’s the DNA of the world.
God is the creator – the Mother/Father – the Beloved – the source –
God is the redeemer – the son – the lover – the Word made flesh – the friend
And God is the sanctifier – the Spirit – love itself – the wind that transforms and unifies.
Rowan Williams writes “The Trinity…provides the root and energy of our being disciples here and now.”
So, what does that mean for us in this world filled with disease and quarantine and yet another killing of an unarmed black man in our streets? How do we go from a theological construct to being disciples? And can we believe that the Trinity has anything to do with healing our country from the racism which infects us – and takes away lives?
Well – I think a contemporary translation of today’s Gospel reading helps:
Jesus says to the disciples: “Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”
This passage reminds us that the Trinity is not a geometrical formula. It’s about discipleship – it’s about being trained in THIS WAY OF LIFE. So, to follow Jesus is not merely to get the words right – nor to affirm that the Creed is correct. It’s a way of seeing and being and behaving. The early theologians came up with the doctrine of the Trinity in order to understand how to live a Christian life – which is a Trinitarian life. Therefore, we are called to embrace the Trinity as The Way and then to, Go out and train everyone we meet, far and near, in this way of life, by living it. So, what does that look like?
First, it means falling in love with the Living God and recognizing that the divine One who created heaven and earth is closer to you than your own breath and loves you beyond your conception just as God loves everyone – all races – God the Creator
It’s giving thanks for all creation including your body and this world which means an end to violence to all citizens but especially black men being killed in our streets. God the Son
It means listening to the creative force of the Spirit that calls you to be an agent of justice, reconciliation and compassion – and to believe in change; instead of inequality between races – the Beloved Community comes near – God the Spirit
This is “the practice” Jesus gives the disciples to do – day after day right up to the end of the age. But remember the beginning words of the Great Commission:” go out and train everyone you meet” – everyone.
Now – I can’t see you, but I imagine you are thinking – “This is sweet but what does it mean for me?” Well, I thought of many stories of Christian heroes to illustrate – Ruby Bridges, Johnathan Daniels, Betty Williams, Martin Luther King, Jr. and on and on. But too often we see these figures as larger than life so, I want to offer an example from a different religion – a faithful Jew – that gives a picture of what it means to train someone in “this way of life.”
On a Sunday morning in June 1991, Jewish Cantor Michael Weisser and his wife Julie had just moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, and they were unpacking boxes when the phone rang. A voice said, “You will be sorry you ever moved into 1510 Randolph Street, Jew boy.” Two days later a package was thrown against their door with pictures of Hitler and the holocaust. Michael Weisser called the police. They thought it was the work of Larry Trapp, the Grand Dragon of the local KKK. Larry Trapp was suspected of fire-bombings in Omaha. Sometime later Larry Trapp put a program on the local access cable channel promoting white supremacy.
Michael Weisser was angry. But he called Larry Trapp and told his answering machine that Hitler put to death anyone who was handicapped – and since Larry Trapp was in a wheelchair with diabetes, why was he promoting Hitler? And Cantor Weisser kept calling him. And kept calling him.
Finally, Larry Trapp answered the phone. When he asked Cantor Weisser what he wanted, he said, “I thought you might need a hand with something and I’d wondered if I could help.” Trapp was stunned. “That’s nice of you…” he said. “Thanks…but don’t call again.” Cantor Weisser kept calling. And kept calling. Finally, Larry Trapp told the Rabbi “I want to get out. But I don’t know how.” Michael Weisser told his wife about this and she said “Take a peace offering.” And she gave him a silver ring to take with him. When Cantor Weisser came to Larry Trapp’s house, the KKK grand dragon burst into tears. He had two silver swastika rings on, one on each hand. He took the two rings off and said, “I want you to take these rings; they just symbolize hatred and evil,” and he put the ring from Cantor Weisser on his finger.
Larry Trapp resigned all his racist organizations and wrote apologies to all he had demonized. When he became terminally ill, he moved in with the Weissers. Julie Weisser quit her nursing job to care for him. Before Larry Trapp died, he became a Jew.
Now – translate this story of two faithful Jews into our calling as Christians.
Do we “train everyone we meet in this Christian way of life” by extending ourselves?
Does the eternal truth of God – the incarnated example of Jesus – and the never-ending creative – unifying wind of the Spirit – move us to “instruct them in the practice Jesus has commanded us? Can those we meet know we are Christians by what we do instead of just what we say?
When we witness racism in our cities and towns, do we reach across the divide? Do we become agents of change like Cantor Weisser? Do we give hope to those in fear or mourning from COVID-19?
The Risen Christ sends us out to make disciples in the name of the Trinitarian God, but let us remember what that means. It’s not about getting someone to sign off on the catechism or the creed because it’s not a head thing. It’s a way of life thing. To make disciples is to be a disciple – It’s to have a trinitarian way of life – connected to God the creator; to Jesus the incarnated one in us – and the Spirit who blows us into a new creation.
The Risen Christ sends us out today just as those early followers were sent out centuries ago – Train others in this way of life. Bring them into the body through water and the Holy Spirit. And teach them the practices of following Jesus by showing them what a trinitarian life looks like – which is to become an instrument of God’s reign of peace, justice, and mercy.
Remember, he says to them and to us, “I will be with you always even to the end of the age.”
- Williams, Rowan, Being Disciples: Essentials of the Christian Life. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2016, p. 15.
- Peterson, Eugene The Message. Tyndale House, 1993.
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