Embrace The Mystery: Trinity Sunday

Embrace The Mystery: Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday (The first sunday after pentecost): June 9, 2019

Year C, Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31;  Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15        

There is no recording available for this sermon. Please read the text below.

Jesus says something curious in today’s gospel: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” Why do you suppose that Jesus said that? He was speaking to his disciples. What did he mean? Did he know that his disciples couldn’t handle anymore? Was he concerned the disciples might not remember his words? Were they grieving the death that was coming, and so really couldn’t hear what he was saying? Or were they the frequently-missing the point band of merry men that Jesus had grown to love – and had tried to teach – and they’d had enough truth?[1]

“I have many more things to say to you…” It’s something that makes me laugh a bit because if you really imagine how the inflection that can be used in that sentence, you realize how differently that sentence can be perceived in a variety of situations.

What else did Jesus have to say that was left unsaid?

Many of us love a good mystery. I’ve always loved a good thriller, and I’m a particular fan of BBC television that somehow continually manages to turn out series after series of wonderfully, entertaining mystery programs. And I’ve just finished binge watching the second half of the series, “God Friended Me” and that has a pretty good mystery component going for it.

There is a mystery left in what Jesus is saying, or more aptly in this case, not saying, to the disciples.

We may not know what Jesus left out, but we certainly have some record of what Jesus had already said. Our scriptures in recent weeks have told us what is to happen when Jesus is gone.

One of the reasons I am loving our Bible study on Mondays at Emmanuel right now is that we have endeavored to undertake every sentence of the Apocrypha. Line by line. We’re doing this in part because some of us, particularly in the Roman Catholic and Episcopal traditions, haven’t really studied scripture.

I think what we learn is that the Bible doesn’t say the things that some people would have you believe and that we must always understand the context in which it was written. I think we’ve learned to be cautious about the use of Scripture and how it can be used carelessly.

Once on a radio call-in show in Washington, D.C. a caller cited the biblical passage of Matthew, Chapter 19, Verse 14. This caller recited the King James rendition that begins “suffer little children”[2] and used it to defend corporal punishment because Jesus “said so”. In the texting world, I would offer “SMH” or “shaking my head” to reply. It so happens that in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, the very same verse says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them.”[3] “Suffer” even in the context of the King James version, was telling the disciples not to prevent the children from coming to Jesus. It’s an old usage of the term. I say, again, I’m shaking my head.

I hope some of what we have learned in our bible study, some of what you will take from this church this morning is that the Bible is not a dead or static document fixed in time and space or simply a rule book that is given to stipulate correct behavior. It is so much more. It is a story of people and their relationship with God, of the struggle and challenge of living meaningful lives, of goodness manifest in Jesus and the love of God manifested in a new way.

Living in that new way is part of what Trinity Sunday gets to.

It’s often said that Trinity Sunday is the only Sunday in the church calendar that celebrates a doctrine, a great mystery.

There is a quote that has been attributed to Martin Luther King: “take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Dr. King’s sentiments are likely rooted in scripture. In Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians we hear, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.”[4] we for we walk by faith, not by sight.

God bless the theologians who have pondered for centuries the mysteries of the Trinity. Notwithstanding centuries of scholarship, it is still virtually impossible to convey the meaning of the Trinity adequately in a sermon. So, rather than trying to do that, it seems better to ask what the Trinity has to do with us today? How does the Holy Trinity connect to our day-to-day lives? How can we be drawn more deeply into an unfathomable mystery? As humans our minds have a limited capacity to comprehend, let alone articulate, the infinite nature of God.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is speaking to his disciples – his close friends – just before his final meal, arrest and crucifixion. In addition to his promise that we would be raised to new life on the third day, he wanted his believers to know that God would never abandon them, that the Holy Spirit would be here to “guide [us] into all truth”.

In Jesus Christ, we see everything there is to see about God’s love. We see a person who entered our world in the most humble, most ordinary way possible. We see a person who loved everyone and who challenged everyone to be transformed by the power of God’s love – who challenged us to be in the words of our collect, “steadfast in faith”.

In Jesus Christ, we see that God was willing to endure the pain of becoming human in order that we might more fully embrace God’s love for all people.

In the Holy Spirit, God has promised to be with us always, to guide us into all truth. The Holy Spirit’s guidance and love in inseparable from the love of God the Father and from the Love of God the Son.

We cannot hope to fully understand the Trinity. But it would be a shame to be so overwhelmed by the mystery that we lose track of what we can know. John’s Gospel tells us what we can expect from Jesus once he physically leaves our world. God will still be present with us then, now and until the end of time.

But the mystery does push us to seek and celebrate the majesty of “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, “Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier” or “God, the One, Holy and Undivided Trinity”. Because no matter how we express the Trinity, it is all about the interrelationship and love of God.

The mystery of the Trinity pushes us to build up the kingdom of God in the way God leads us. Because God will lead us into truth and to the kingdom.

Today, instead of becoming mired in thousands of years of debate, let us join heartily in songs and prayers of praise for the Trinity. Let us give thanks for God’s everlasting presence in our lives in this age and in the age to come. Let us savor a God who offers us the best mystery of all because Jesus has many more things to tell us. Amen.

[1] “There is More,” Machrina Blasdell, June 16, 2019, Published by the Office of Communication of The Episcopal Church, 815 Second Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10017 © 2019 The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. All rights reserved.


[2] Matthew 19:14, King James Version

[3] Matthew 19:14, New Revised Standard Version

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:7, New Revised Standard Version

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