Trinity Sunday lectionary musings

This coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday, which is the only day of the church year that I can think of that celebrates a doctrine, rather than a story about humans and how God works in our lives.  And so, Trinity Sunday can be a bit of a pain, particularly for clergy who have to figure out something new to say about the Trinity year after year.  Because the thing is, the doctrine of the Trinity is a rather confusing one, and I don’t think anybody living on this earth really, truly understands it.  Maybe for just a split second, we can get a blazing glimpse of what it’s all about, but that fades just as suddenly, and we’re left just as mystified and dumbfounded by the mystery that is God.

And you know what?  That is good.  Being left with the mystery?  That is good news.  Because I’ll tell you what: although sometimes I think it would be nice to completely understand God’s plan, I do not want a God I can completely comprehend and understand.  Because if that is what we had, then that God would not be big enough.  We are blessed with a God who is the God of galaxies and comets and stars and moons.  We are blessed with a God who is the God of quarks and neutrinos and molecules.  We are blessed with a God who is the God of crickets and locusts and cockroaches and spiders.  We are blessed with a God who is the God of mountains and valleys, of rivers and lakes, of tornadoes and thunderstorms, of hurricanes and earthquakes.  And we are blessed with a God who is the God of silence, of damp moss carpeting the forest floor, of still stones that rest along the path, of blind fish who live underground.  We are blessed with the God of butterflies and roses, and the God of Japanese beetles and dandelions.  We are blessed with the God of mitochondria and algae, and the God of chickenpox and cancer and AIDS.

And somehow, as if that wasn’t contradiction enough, we are blessed with a God who is the creator, our Father and Mother, who deliberately chose to be bound and restricted in a human body, who willingly allowed that human body to be humiliated and beaten and killed, and who returned to us – God’s beloved – in the form of a spirit that gives us life and breath and guidance and inspiration.  We are blessed with a God who dwells completely outside of space and time, and who yet chooses to enter into our space and our time to breathe into our hearts.  And we are blessed with a God who – no matter how horrible and awful and unlovely and unlovable we choose to be – loves us completely, perfectly, wastefully, profigately, scandalously.

Yeah, I know.  I don’t get it either.  It is a grand and a glorious mystery, and I am passionately in love with the mystery of this wonderful God.

The big thing in the readings this week is the creation story.  And we all know this story so well, just as we know the gospel story so well, and the stories of all our special days.  But still, it is good to share these stories, to read then again, to experience them with eyes and minds and hearts that have undoubtedly changed since the last time we encountered them.  These stories shape us as individual children of God, and they shape our community as the body of Christ.  These are the stories of who we are, and today’s stories especially so – even the teeny-tiny epistle, and the not-much-longer gospel story.  In these stories, we see some very important things about our very identity, and those things reveal something about the very identity of the gloriously mysterious God we worship.

The first thing these stories reveal about our identity is that we are creations of God.  We are made according to God’s likeness, in God’s image, male and female.  And we have been blessed.  God shaped us and God breathed life into us, and then God blessed us.  This is something very special, very precious – the gift of life, of existence… and not just of those, but of blessing.

The next revelation is that we have been given this amazing planet to take care of and to make our home.  We are instructed to watch over all of God’s creatures on our earth, to tend to the creeping critters and to the monsters of the sea and to the birds, as well as to all of the green and growing things.  God has entrusted us with this beautiful place, this place that God shaped and formed and gave life to, and this is a tremendous honour and responsibility.  We can squander this responsibility and waste our precious world.  And the truth is, we all do.  We all make choices to trade off one resource for another – maybe an animal for nutrition, or money for time, wood for warmth, or gas-powered engines for time and energy – and sometimes those choices are misinformed, misguided, or selfish.  And at other times, we make choices that better tend to this wondrous home that has been entrusted to us.  But it is one of the deepest parts of our very identity that we were born here, on this planet, on this earth, where God created us.  We do not know any other home.

Third, these readings tell us that we are good.  We are alive, we are blessed, we are home, and we are very good.  Just let those words wash over you for a moment.  YOU are alive, made in the image of God.  YOU are blessed.  YOU have been given a home.  And YOU, my friend, you are very goodThe psalm tells us that we are adorned with glory and honor.  We are but a little lower than the angels – God’s children, treasured and beloved.  Does that not feel wonderful?  Who does not ache to be loved, to be treasured, to be valued for who you are, and not for what you’ve done or accomplished or made?  And God gives us this priceless gift – just gives it to us, with no strings attached! – when God shapes us and gives us life.  Just by being, we are beloved.  And that is at the core of our identity.  We are.  We are good.  We are beloved.

The teeny-tiny epistle reveals to us that as God made each of us, we are brothers and sisters.  We share our wonderful home, entrusted to us by our creator.  We are a family, sisters and brothers of a perfectly loving parent.  When people share a home, they don’t always get along.  We know this.  We are flawed humans, and as hard as we try, sometimes we hurt each other and make each other angry.  And just as it hurts a parent’s heart to hear his or her children trading insults, it hurts God at least as much to hear and see our disagreements and squabbles and wars.  But just as we love our family – even when we have a hard time liking them – we are called to love each other, all of our brothers and sisters.

And finally, the not-very-long gospel story reveals to us that we are the baptized, and not only the baptized, but the baptizers.  To us has been entrusted – not only the care and tending of this marvelous world – but the care and tending of all of our brothers and sisters.  We have the responsibility, and the privilege, of sharing with each other that God loves us, and that Jesus will be with (us) always, to the end of the age.  Isn’t that an amazing message?  We are a family, living in a home entrusted to us by the God who gave us life.  We are alive, and we are blessed, and we are good.  And we are not alone.  We will never be alone.

So here we are on Trinity Sunday.  Last week, we got inspired and challenged by the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the beginning of the church, the day that the followers of The Way grew from 100 to 3,000.  And this week, we’re being challenged again.  Last week, the challenge was, Go!  Teach!  Tell the story! And this week, the challenge is Go!  Baptize!  Tell them Jesus’s message!

We can do this.  We have been equipped by God for this.  God reminds us that we are alive, that we are at home, that we are blessed, that we are good, that we are a family, that we are the baptized, that we are the baptizers.  With these gifts, we can do anything.

God the Father created you and knows you to be good.
Jesus the Son saved you and blesses you.
God the Holy Spirit breathed live into you and is always with you, to the end of the age.
Our one God, scary and mysterious and wonderful, loves you more than you could ever ask or imagine.

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12 thoughts on “Trinity Sunday lectionary musings

  1. I guess I still don’t see why Trinitarians consider the nature of God and He who is Godhood a mystery. And then to create celebrations around it? Does anyone really think that Peter and Paul would celebrate a ‘Trinity Sunday’?

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  2. Hi Polycarp,

    I was intrigued by your comment, as well as with the “Do What Post?” on your own blog, and wanted to engage with you a little further on the subject.

    First, I found it interesting that the word “mystery” seemed to turn you off, and I was curious why this was so. Surely, there are many wonderful mysteries in the bible. How did God create all that is? Why did Jesus choose to be born as a human? Why did Jesus choose to submit to arrest and execution? How did Jesus rise from the dead? How did all the miracles sprinkled throughout history – biblical and afterward – happen? Why would God create us? How can a perfect being love us flawed and imperfect and unlovely humans so profigately? These are all amazing to me, and while I have deep faith in all of these things, I still wonder about them, and I find great richness in exploring the mystery in them.

    Second, I find the Trinity to be a lens for viewing the Divine. This doctrine can be a helpful one for some people and at some times, and for other people and at other times, it can be unhelpful or even harmful. Not every person has experienced a generous and loving Father, so the image of God as Father can be damaging. There are so many lenses through which we can see God and contemplate the glorious mystery that is the Almighty. Because one particular lens is blurry to me, should I break it so that it cannot help anyone else? Or should I simply set it aside, so that those to whom it would be helpful can still find it?

    I look forward to hearing more from you.

    Thank you for your comment!
    warriormare

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  3. I appreciated your thoughts on the Trinity. I struggle with it too, and how to preach it. I think having read your thoughts help.

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  4. As St. Paul wrote: “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Cor. 4:1)

    The doctrine of God will always be the greatest mystery, no doubt to man and angel! This creates even more worship, from created beings…”Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord..” (Isa.6:3 / Rev.4:8)

    “The dogma of consubstantiality, which safeguards the unity of the Holy Trinity, thus remains a sealed book so far as we are concerned – for in a religious sense it has neither assimilated nor unfolded.” (Sophia the Wisdom of God), p. 25 ~ Fr. S. Bulgakov

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  5. I don’t think we should just think of the Father in human or anthropomorphic form. But as the Creeds, He is the monarchal, the regal head of the Godhead. He is the cause or origin of the Godhead, from whom the Son is begotten eternally, and also from whom the Holy Spirit proceeds (alone) eternally. These divine persons (hypostases) are without overlap or modality, and who share one divine essence (ousia)…uncreated, immaterial and eternal. And yet from here, the Son becomes Incarnate, God freely limits his actions in the world by time and space. And the Son’s kenosis is matched by the Holy Spirit, who restricts his power in communicating his gifts to the world. As the Father freely gives His Son into this world of sin and brokenness. Compassionate and sacrifical love in our Triune God!

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  6. I am one of those people who lies quite frankly on the fringes of Christianity, who would love to be more involved in Christian traditions if it weren’t for things like the Trinity. I studiously avoided going to any church that celebrated Trinity Sunday this month because I frankly had a serious problem with the idea of devoting a Sunday to a doctrine that a) is unnecessary, b) nobody understands, and c) everybody is supposed to pay lip service to anyway.

    To be blunt, I prefer to revere the life and teachings of Jesus and honor the faithfulness to God that he exhibited without celebrating a doctrine that people in the Fourth Century AD concocted and forced on the entire faith and then all the subsequent generations of believers were expected to pay lip service to even though they had no idea what it was they were paying lip service to. Saying it is a mystery doesn’t really solve the problem. I could come up with lots of incomprehensible theories about God’s nature and then insist on their truth and defend their incomprehensibility by declaring them a “mystery” so that no one can question it. The real question is why people are supposed to affirm this doctrine they don’t understand just because a more powerful faction of bishops at some point in time under Emperor Constantine forced it down the throats of the entire religion. The “mystery” defense is a way of telling people not to think for themselves. If I am presented with a doctrine that makes no sense to me, I am not going to just accept it simply because that’s what I am supposed to do, no questions asked. I prefer to be part of a religion that does not expect us to check our minds at the church door.

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  7. Mystical Seeker…Well it seems you have stated more than “seeking”, but judging..and something many of us find very mystical, personal and very real! For myself, though Anglican and a priest. The E. Orthodox doctrine of God triune is not forced at all…just very theological! And I follow this – the Nicaea..the First Oecumenical Council. The beauty of “Homoousios”, ‘of one (and the same) sustance, the Father and the Son!

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  8. Irish Anglican, when you say that the doctrine is not forced, do you mean that people are free to disagree with it if they please? From what I have seen, this doctrine is imposed on Christian believers, and has been for centuries.

    What I judge is the doctrinal imposition of an idea that no one understands. If the answer provided to someone who doesn’t buy a doctrine because it makes no sense to them is to just accept it because it is a “mystery”, then that leaves no room for freedom of inquiry. We are then just parroting a doctrine, even though we don’t buy it ourselves.

    True seeking means being free to go where our exploration takes us, not simply parroting what we have been told.

    Prior to the establishment of the Nicene Creed, there were plenty of Christians, including large numbers of bishops, who did not embrace the doctrine of the Trinity. Once it was established, it was forced, on pain of expulsion or worse, upon the church as a whole, and declare a heresy to disagree with. This is what I am referring to when I say it was forced.

    If the doctrine of the Trinity makes sense to you, more power to you. I certainly respect your right to believe in that doctrine if it enriches your own experience. But for me, it makes no sense, and I prefer not to just pay lip service to a doctrine that makes no sense because that is what I am “supposed” to do.

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  9. Dear Mystical Seeker (and Irish Anglican),

    I’ve been enjoying your discussion here, and posted a few thoughts in response on the main page. You can find them here. I hope this is helpful, and I hope to hear more from you.

    Peace!
    warriormare

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  10. True seeking, is really only a Judeo-Christian reality. Something that is being done to the soul, and not so much something “we” are doing. Yes the great synergy of God is at work in us, but there must be a deep sense of humility before God Almighty! And one cannot stand in judgment on the things of God, we can indeed think and are asked to do so, but we also must stand beneath the things of God, and even His order! This was a real lesson for Ananias and Sapphira! (Acts 5: 1-11) The fear of God is still real, even today! God does judge the heart! But, He is also full of mercy and longsuffering with our flaws and often failures. Grace is not just theological thought, but the active power of God in our very lives!

    Fr. Robert

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