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Grace, Love, and Communion

Trinity Sunday

3 June 2023


I have heard it said that Trinity Sunday is one typically assigned to new seminary graduates, curates if you will, because no one wants to preach on this day. If it is a day that requires explaining the nature of the three-in-one Godhead to the congregation, no one wants to do it.

But I don’t think that anyone came to church today to hear how the three persons of the Trinity form one Godhead. If it gets to the point where a dissection and reassembly of the Trinity is the big draw on a Sunday morning, I am out of here.

The question for me, and I hope for you is: what’s in it for me? I don’t say that to sound either cynical or self-centered, but rather asking a crucial question: how does the nature of our God impact our lives, my life, every day? We come for a Word in our lives. People all over the earth go to churches, synagogues, mosques, or temples to experience the presence of God in their lives. At times, we come with joy, celebrating with all the fervor of Handel’s Messiah. Then Easter and Christmas are the feasts we claim. At times, we are so burdened we get mired in Good Friday, unable to make it to Easter at all. Most of the time we are somewhere in between. Regardless, we come and we need to hear a word for our lives. The Good News is that we have a God who chose to be part of us, to be with us. This is what the Trinity is all about. It is about God willing to jump into the mess of our own humanity and existence.

Therefore, it is right and a good and joyful thing that we celebrate Trinity Sunday. It is one of the seven principal feasts that cannot be moved or ignored. Paul did not celebrate Trinity Sunday, but he knew that the God he worshipped had come to bring a New Thing to humanity. He was dealing with a fractious and contentious group of people, enamored of the Gospel but also still enamored of themselves.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Does that sound familiar? I daresay it may be the most recited benediction. It is so familiar that when we hear it we assume the service is over and get up to leave. WE HAVEN’T HEARD IT AT ALL. Paul isn’t telling us the service is over; everything is just beginning. He was trying to help the Corinthians see the nature of the Trinity and work to heal the fractures in their love and care of one another. The words he proclaims are the qualities of the Trinity: order (or peace), mutual agreement, and love. He understood that Christ crucified had changed everything about how we relate to God.

What if we started every service with those words? What if our legislators and members of Congress who are Christian greeted one another with those words every day? Maybe they could all greet one another, regardless of faith, with “Peace be with you”.

The miracle of the Trinity lies in relationship. God is peace. Peace is not the absence of war, or even of conflict, but the willingness to recognize all humanity as being of full value and full worth, no one more than anyone else, and recognize that also that god is with each one of us. The peace of God means that no matter what, you are never alone and that every other human being shares in that peace. It is not a don’t worry, be happy mantra, but a very, very profound statement of the way that Christians need to live. Mutual agreement does not mean denying who you are and what you need as one who is abused, but rather respecting the needs of the other and being willing to sacrifice and give to the other as they in turn give to you. Love does the same thing.

Jesus says as much in Matthew. He is also saying God as done something new, something very new. God is not static, unchanging, out there beyond anything we can hope to every understand. God so loved the world that God did something new: sent the Son to us. The Son showed us the very nature of God: loving all of us and desiring to be in relationship with each and every one of us. In The Shack, God the Father is portrayed as a woman, in particular an African American woman who spends a lot of time in the kitchen, and who “especially loves” everyone.

Jesus came and taught us and showed us what Love is like. We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, that assurance that God is working in us and with us and that our hearts become rivers of living water.

We are commissioned (this would be the Sunday for Lord You Give the Great Commission) when we are commanded to teach. In other words, we can no longer keep this to ourselves. We are to go to the ends of the earth and all the nations, which most of us realize is no farther than our next-door neighbor or the end of the street. Most of us will spread the Gospel not to far and distant lands but in how we conduct our lives among our family and friends, in our work and even in our play. We don’t speak only in the name of the Father, for that might mean we worship only a distant and transcendent God with whom we are not able to relate. We do not baptize in the name of the Son, for then we only recognize the incarnate, the human and we miss both the indwelling spirit and the transcendence of the Holy. We do not invoke the Holy Spirit alone, for that would say that all that we need is in us and that we are spiritually self-sufficient. Go to all peoples and bring the Good News. Make disciples, baptize, and teach.

Trinity Sunday is a time to realize how much work and how much joy there is in being a Christian. It is a Sunday to try to wrap your head, but more importantly you heart, around the seemingly impossibility of who God says that God is, take that to yourself and grow in it and with it, and then take it out to the streets of Harlan and Denison and everywhere.

The great St. Augustine could do no better than to say the Trinity was like a tree: the roots, the trunk, and the branches were different parts but all wood. I would have shook my head and said if that is what the church is like, I am out.

The Lorica, or St. Patrick’s breastplate, has a much better way to put the Trinity in one’s very life. The Celts believed that God was in every moment and every object in their world.

One verse says it so well:

I bind unto myself today The power of God to hold and lead, His eye to watch, His might to stay, His ear to hearken to my need. The wisdom of my God to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward; The word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Amen.

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