Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Trinity Sunday

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Trinity Sunday

Year C, Trinity Sunday
June 12, 2022

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

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Trinity sytol“Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.” “Creator, Protector, Lover.” Shamrocks. Fleur-de-lis. Fish swimming in endless circles. A triangle inside a circle.

These are all descriptions and symbols of the Trinity. What almost all these descriptions and depictions have in common is the emphasis on the equality, influence, and substances of the Trinity.

Unlike other days in the church’s liturgical calendar, Trinity Sunday centers on a doctrine of the church. The doctrine of the Trinity offers that God, one God, not three Gods, exists as three equally divine beings, as three divine persons.

The guiding principle has been the declaration in our creeds, especially the Nicene Creed, which we recite almost every Sunday, and the Apostles’ Creed, which we say during Morning Prayer.

Mind you, you’ll never hear the word “Trinity” mentioned in the New Testament. However, although the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible, the theological concept of one God is founded upon various New Testament texts.

Jesus says 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 any more grief or trouble? Was he concerned the disciples might not remember his words? Were they grieving the death that was coming and really couldn’t hear what he was saying?[1]

Jesus knew what would be required of his disciples when he was no longer with them. They were not ready and didn’t have enough understanding of what would be expected of them. Honestly, no human could know without divine intervention. But that would come.

Of our four Gospels, John spends the most time documenting Jesus speaking of the Holy Spirit after his earthly departure. In today’s Gospel, we hear, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.”[2] We heard last week on Pentecost that “[Jesus] will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of Truth…You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”[3]

Throughout the Bible, God speaks to people. Jesus speaks throughout the Gospels, teaching, healing, and blessing. But nowhere in the Bible does the Holy Spirit speak actual words. So, how do we come to understand the Holy Spirit?

The speech of the Holy Spirit takes the form of action.

I saw it last week at our Electing Convention for our new bishop. We started the morning with two hours and twenty minutes of procedural motions before we had the first ballot. I expected to be there until at least 6:00 in the evening and go through multiple ballots. But, alas, we elected a bishop on the second ballot.

I saw it yesterday when Saint Andrew’s had their rummage sale. At noon when they closed the doors, I looked around and thought, “oh, we’ll be here for hours before all of the leftover rummage is gone. Forty-two minutes later, we were turning off the lights and departing. The Holy Spirit blew through.

God is in action from the first day of creation. God is the Creator. As we are told in the first chapter of John, all things were made through the Word of Jesus Christ, who was also present. Meanwhile, the Wind of God, the Holy Spirit, swept over the face of the waters, making order out of chaos.

The triune God was present at Jesus’ baptism. As Jesus emerged from the waters, the Holy Spirit came down from heaven in the form of a dove. Then God speaks to Jesus, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”[4]

Jesus asked God to send the Holy Spirit. We can wonder why the Holy Spirit has to be sent if the Spirit has been with us from the beginning.

I hope that we have come to understand that the Bible is not fixed in time and space. 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 manifested 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.

The Trinity is inexplicable, just as the people we love most in life are inexplicable. But that has never stopped us from trying to explore and experience God’s loving relationship. For musicians among us, perhaps a musical explanation might help. The Trinity is like the chords of music, each a separate note but in need of the other.

God bless the theologians who have pondered the mysteries of the Trinity for centuries. But unfortunately, notwithstanding centuries of scholarship, it is still virtually impossible to adequately convey the Trinity’s meaning in a sermon.

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 speaks 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 and that the Holy Spirit would be here to “guide [us] into all truth.”[5]

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

Kathleen Norris, a poet, and essayist, deeply rooted in Benedictine spirituality, wrote a poem “Kitchen Trinity.” In it, she says: “Three women at a table hold the world. One gets up to stir the stars, one makes the fire, another blows on it to keep it going.”[6]

 One of the beautiful things about this metaphor is the pragmatic insight into the Trinity. Think of someone lighting the fire for food, someone else stirring the pot of soup, and yet a third person checking it for taste and temperature.

We cannot hope to understand the Trinity fully. But we need not be overwhelmed by the mystery either. 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 Trinity teaches us about human relationships. We need other people. Humans are made to live within a community and to have meaningful relationships with one another. How do we know this? Because we are made in God’s image, and God has existed for eternity in the Trinity.

The Holy Spirit inspires us to make changes, perhaps when we least expect them. Each of us benefits every moment of our lives by the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity. Paul tells us, “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. When we have trouble praying, the Holy Spirit intercedes, praying for us.”[7]

For each of us who seeks a spiritual path in life, the Holy Spirit grants us the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What a way to enjoy a full life! 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] John 16:13, New Revised Standard Version (“NRSV”)

[3] Cf. John 14:16-17, NRSV

[4] Mark 1:11, NRSV

[5] John 16:13, NRSV

[6] Kathleen Norris, “Kitchen Trinity,” Virginia Quarterly Review: A National Journal of Literature & Discussion, Issue: Spring 1995, Volume 71 #2, https://www.vqronline.org/kitchen-trinity, Accessed June 11, 2022.

[7] Romans 8:26, NRSV