First Sunday after Pentecost – Trinity Sunday, May 27, 2018
Year B, Trinity Sunday: Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; Psalm 138; John 3:1-17
CLICK HERE to listen to the recorded sermon.
The First Sunday after Pentecost is a celebration of the Holy Trinity. It’s Trinity Sunday, the day we celebrate not a specific event in the life of the church, but we celebrate a doctrine, specifically, our understanding of the identity of God.
Last week, we heard the good news that the promised Holy Spirit has fallen upon the young church, empowering and inspiring it to carry the good news of God’s love for the world. As we heard in the reading from Acts last week, the whole focus of Pentecost is on the Holy Spirit, who accompanies the church on its movement out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
Trinity Sunday serves to remind us that this spreading of the church is a result of all three persons of the Trinity, not just the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a day when we honor the triune nature of the one true God.
When I think of the Trinity, I think of ways that we can know and/or worship God. We all have our own ways of praying and knowing God. Some of us probably relate to God most easily as God the Father, the Creator of the universe. Others probably pray to Jesus, the son of God. Others may seem to connect to the Holy Spirit.
What matters here is the idea that we are worshipping one God in three forms or “persons”, not three separate Gods. Also, all three ways of understanding God are equal — the Son or the Spirit is NOT subordinate to God the Father.
In our readings for today, we have examples of people knowing God in different ways. In our Old Testament reading, Isaiah had a vision of God the Creator. Isaiah was terrified by the grandeur of the holy God “high and exalted sitting on a throne with robes so voluminous they filled the room. Isaiah was so scared he thought he was about to die.
He was so stricken with fear that he cried out to God saying, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips..yet my eyes have seen the Lord of Hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5) He senses that God is incomprehensible, unknowable. But at the end of the reading, Isaiah accepts God’s call and agrees to be God’s messenger and prophet, calling people to repent and come into a relationship with Yahweh. Isaiah has experienced God’s transcendence and breaking-into his ordinary life.
That is certainly one way to experience God the Creator – to sense the power and majesty and stand in awe of God’s infinite might. But, that is not “all there is” to God, especially in a Trinitarian sense.
The Gospel today gives us another image of God and reminds us that God is not otherworldly but present in our world today.
Nicodemus, a faithful Pharisee, has been following the Law of Moses all his life. He has heard of Jesus the new rabbi, knows of his healings and teachings, and respects him. Nicodemus knows Jesus comes from God. But he is very puzzled by what Jesus says about being born again. This birth is not a literal birth in a mother’s womb, but a rebirth in water and the Spirit…made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And in baptism, we see the work of the Holy Spirit, that third person of the Trinity. The Greek word pneuma and the Hebrew word ruach both mean both Spirit and Breath or wind. In Genesis, we read in the creation story that the spirit “breathed” over the earth at creation. That is the same Holy Spirit that offers new life to Nicodemus and to us.
God sent Jesus and the Holy Spirit not to condemn the world for our sins, but to redeem the world. That means Jesus came to draw people into a relationship with the Creator and the Holy Spirit as well as with himself.
Jesus has come to reveal the vast love of God in human flesh and presence.
God bless the theologians who have pondered for centuries the mysteries of the Trinity. What I’ve come to learn is this. The Holy Trinity as we express it, whether through “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, “Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier” or “God, the One, Holy and Undivided Trinity”, are all about the interrelationship and love that the persons of the Holy Trinity are unique and cannot be who they are without the others. That is true for us as well. We are all unique, and we cannot be who we are without others.
As we celebrate the Eucharist, we find our lives as a community drawn into the community of love that we name the Holy Trinity.
One of my favorite hymns, though it is Saint Patrick’s Breastplate. “I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity”. Especially at times of pain and suffering that is a very strong image. “I bind myself unto the strong name of the Trinity.” When we can do that we find that we have nothing to fear, that all our worries and fears are being held by God.
The Trinity has loved you in places in your own hears where God most closely dwells, loved you when you were lost. God the Father has mothered you and held you close when you felt lost, God the Son has taken your arm and held you up. And the Holy Spirit strengthens you, giving you breath you didn’t know you had.
Jesus taught about God and the kingdom of heaven so that we could fulfill our desire to grow in our knowledge and therefore love of God, and Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be our guide. As Christians, we abide in God through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our very essence, and our purpose, our mission, become all about interrelationship and love. All things are possible.
That is what Nicodemus is learning. The Pharisee in the night becomes a child of the light, a follower of Jesus. In our own day, the lives of those who hold earthly power and seek a name for themselves can, through Christ and in the power of the Spirit, be similarly transformed. We can all be sisters and brothers in Christ and advocated to work for ushering in the reign of God where inequalities cease to exist.
Our gain, however, is not about earthly power or making a name for ourselves. It’s about showing the God of love to others. Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and its righteousness. Love God, love your neighbor. The Trinity shows us that God is love. Live in the way of the One, Holy and Undivided Trinity, interrelated.
The Trinity, as much a mystery as it will always remain to us, is not a problem, but a place in which we already dwell. God is big enough to embrace us. The Trinity has loved us and taught us to love.
I’ll leave you with one concrete example of love and interrelationship and adoption.
Last week was the Royal Wedding. We’ve all heard about Bishop Curry and his sermon about love.
What some may not have seen is an incredible picture of Queen Elizabeth in a car with the now Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle’s beagle “Guy.” Guy was in a kill shelter in Kentucky, days from being euthanized when he was taken to Toronto to an adoption event. I’ll boil it down to this. Through adoption, Guy is now a member of the Royal Family of Great Britain. We are adopted through the Holy Trinity into the royal family of Jesus Christ.
It is my hope that we always dwell in the Trinity, ever mystical as it is. My hope is that as we go through our lives this week and every day is that we place ourselves in the love of the Trinity, the lives of interrelationship and love, and how we participate in the life God through adoption.
The sermons are recorded at St. Andrew’s and uploaded by Kemp Miller, for whose ministry we are all grateful. You can listen to this sermon by clicking the link above, but to access the library of audio files for recent sermons, CLICK HERE.