Monday, June 5, 2023

Trinity Sunday


Matthew 28:16-20

Trinity Sunday / Year A

Most preachers do not look forward to Trinity Sunday because, well, who really knows what to say about the Trinity?  And finding something new to say year in and year out can be a daunting task.  After botching a sermon on the Trinity, a twelfth-century monk by the name of Brother Elric took a vow of silence and never spoke again for the rest of his life!  Hopefully after today you will not suggest I would be well-advised to follow his example.

In seminary we studied all the ancient creeds at length.  Imagine sitting through a lecture fleshing out how God is neither confounded in Persons nor divided in Substance.  For most people, the Christian faith begins with an experience rather than a system of theological intricacies.  We don’t meet orthodoxy, we meet God in the Father, God in the Son, and God in the Holy Spirit.  A three-fold experience of God precedes a three-fold explanation.  The Trinity wasn’t invented on the word processors for forth-century philosophers and theologians.  Rather, it began in the lives of everyday people who were grasped by faith in the Father, captivated by the revelation of the Son, and filled by indwelling of Holy Spirit.  And, as a result, the lives of these ordinary people were changed forever.

This is why, when we church folk talk about the Trinity, we speak more about our experience of God than we do about explanations.  Our language of God is born from very personal, intimate moments when a Mystery has been upon us; a Mystery we can scarcely describe, but certainly cannot dismiss.

We speak of God as Father, the one in whose image we are formed.  Like many teenagers, I did not want to grow up to be like my dad.  In spite of this desire, I am my father in more ways than even I realize.  I share in many of his good qualities and in a few of his bad.  My physical progression, including weight gain, hair loss, and body aches, mirror his.  In my case, the acorn has not fallen far from the tree.  I am, in many ways, the image of my father – Roger Hugh Emerson 

It is no mistake we use the notion of father to give name to a part of the Mystery we experience as God.  We are, in some ways, created in the very image of the Father.  Every time we demonstrate our capacity to love, to create, to rationalize, to think, to communicate, to build relationships, to make life-long commitments, to demonstrate righteous indignation, to forgive, to show mercy, and to act with compassion, we sense we are expressing God’s inescapable image within us.  And there is something very satisfying, very holy, when we are aware this, in fact, is what we are doing.

Think about the Mystery of God as expressed in the Son.  Jesus takes bread, give it to his followers, and says, “This bread is my body,” and he invites them to eat.  Then he takes a cup of wine and says, “This wine is my blood,” and he invites them to drink.  Think about how our bodies break down the food and drink we receive to nourish and build up the self.  In our Eucharistic thinking, we are expressing a belief the Mystery of God is not only a part of us, it also comes into us to sustain us emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  In an intimate way we come to experience what Jesus says, “We do not live on bread alone, but on every Word which proceeds from the mouth of God.”  We know we would starve without this Word.

Think about the Holy Spirit, which we describe as being like a mighty wind.  Think about how the body draws breath into itself, how some are drawn with great intension, but most without a passing thought, how the lungs break down each breath, and how the blood system carries this life-giving power throughout our entire physical structure.  Breath gives us life.  It animates us.  It becomes us.  This too is how we describe the Mystery of God: life-giving, animating, indwelling, God in us and we in God.

It is not by accident we speak of God in such personal and intimate terms because this is how we come to experience God in our daily life.  We see in ourselves the image of the One who created us.  We recognize how our lives are sustained and nourished by the One we encounter from beyond us.  We sense this Presence moving through us and invigorating us with every breath.  As Paul said, “God is the One in whom we live and move and have our being.”

Yes, all analogies of the Trinity fall short.  True, all doctrines and creeds represent our best efforts to comprehend something which is beyond comprehension.  And still the Holy Trinity is the core of our faith because it is the essence of how we encounter God in our lives.  On this Sunday, we ponder how the Holy One, the Mystery from beyond, comes to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And, as we celebrate and give thanks, we are neither confounded in persons or divided in substance.