Trinity Sunday Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 31 May 2015,
Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17
What does the pistachio tell us
about today's Gospel?
The pistachio holds essential nutritional value that your body needs, including: calcium, carbohydrates, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, protein, sodium, thiamin & Vitamins A, B6 & C.
Look how small the pistachio is, yet it offers a lot of nutrition.
What verse in today's Gospel offers us the essentials of God's Good News that we know in Jesus? [Congregation answers.]
John 3:16 is on the top 10 chart of favorite Bible verses1 and often is #1: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
In the Bible's 66 books, its 1,189 chapters, its 31,173 verses this ONE verse contains the kernel, the essential message to nourish us about God's love.2
It tells us these truths:3
- God acts/God loves;
- God loves the world [including you & me];
- God shows us God's love by giving his only Son, Jesus, so that we can believe in Jesus & through him receive eternal life.4
In this first mention of eternal life in John's Gospel, after John tells of Jesus' cleansing the temple at Passover, John emphasizes quality of life rather than its duration.5 This is simple, Good News to share. Yet we may be reluctant to share. What will it take for us to speak the Good News? A hot burning coal like Isaiah experiences in his encounter with God?
Notice: After earthly King Uzziah dies [736/35 B.C.E.]6, Isaiah sees “the real king high & lifted up,” as writer & contemporary prophet Walter Brueggemann says in his book, The Prophetic Imagination7. This is the birth of a new phase in Isaiah's work as a prophet.8 It is a reminder to us to die to an earth-bound way of life, that human perspective that keeps Nicodemus stuck.
Notice: Nicodemus, a leader, a teacher who knows God's Holy Scriptures, cannot clearly comprehend what Jesus tells him about new birth. To grow in spirit, he must die to old concepts, die to the idea that people can be part of God's kingdom by moral achievement. We enter God's kingdom by God's grace – the transformation God gives us through the water of baptism & the fire of the Holy Spirit that births new life in us.9
This gift is why we can speak to God as “Abba” – the term Paul uses in our lesson from Romans. Abba, Papa, is an endearing term of family love.
What holds us back from sharing the love of our “Abba” that we know through Jesus? The Holy Spirit lives in each of us to help us find our voice. Maybe we are reluctant to share the Good News because we get tangled in theological doctrines. We worship ONE God, who is in THREE persons: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit – 3 in one, one in 3 – a truth we emphasize on Trinity Sunday. How on earth can we share this simple truth that sounds so complex? How can we understand things heavenly, as Jesus asks Nicodemus, if we don't understand earthly things?
The gift of music, one of our heavenly, earthly delights, can give us voice to share the Good News,10 as The Rev. Timothy B. Safford, rector of Christ Church,Philadelphia, explains in his sermon that follows and which Juliet will help demonstrate. Thank you, Juliet. She will press the piano's key in the middle of the keyboard – middle C. What do you hear? One pure, full note that fills your ears and your senses.
Juliet, please press very gently the key 7 keys above middle C [that's one octave above middle C]. Press so gently that the hammer doesn’t strike the piano strings: Those strings remain “open”...[“undamped”]
Without moving your right hand or releasing the key an octave above middle C, with your left hand press the key for middle C. [What a beautiful tone.] Now let go of middle C.
Did you all expect all sound to stop? We could still hear a musical tone. [Thank you, Juliet.] The vibration of middle C's 3 strings11 – its trinity of strings – has caused the strings to vibrate on the C note one octave above: that's why we can hear it. The lower note makes the open note resonate.
This may be a useful metaphor. God is that powerful musical tone at the center of the universe, vibrating so steadily that all that is open vibrates also.
Think of yourself as an open string one octave above middle C. You begin to resonate, not because something or someone has struck you or plucked you like a harpist does, but because you are open & in tune with God.
Created in God's image, we are made to be in tune with God.
Anglican theologian & musician Jeremy Begbie encourages us to imagine God in musical sounds. In the book Beholding the Glory, Begbie says God interacts “with the world intimately, without violating it or merging with it, liberating it to be more fully itself.”
God is a liberating God, not a controlling God. In our resonance with God, we move from dissonance to tunefulness, freedom to live fully into God’s image of us, not the world’s version of us. Begbie says: “...(T)hrough intimate interaction with us, God frees us to ‘sound’ as we were created to sound, (so that we can) be more fully ourselves. We are not de-humanized, (we are) re-humanized.”
Notice what Jesus’ says to Nicodemus: “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Jesus strives to put Nicodemus in tune with the music God makes in the creation, not to dehumanize Nicodemus but to re-humanize him, liberating his spirit from the fallen world's folly so that his spirit may resonate with God's Spirit that gives life to all of creation.
Maybe Nicodemus' question is his way of seeking to open himself from all that keeps him from resonating with God. Maybe he does this because he sees others with Jesus resonating with God.
Jesus tells Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it chooses,... you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Maybe St. Paul shares this truth when he writes to the church in Rome: “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” We could say: “All who resonate with the music of God are children of God.”
Children of God all out: “Abba! Father!” because God's Spirit is bearing witness with our spirit that we are God's children – that we resonate with God’s music. God's Spirit vibrates our spirit, showing us that we are birthed by God, which makes us children of God.
We hear how one note vibrating causes another to vibrate. Our challenge is to make our resonance possible by being in tune. Tunefulness is a gift of grace: we tune ourselves by sharing in the life and death of Jesus.
[One way we do this is sharing Holy Communion, the Body & Blood of Jesus. Today's host is a loaf of bread shaped like the entwined triangles on our order of worship, a symbol of the Holy Trinity, the Unity of he with no beginning & no end. This Bread, like the pistachios you have, offers nourishment which you can accept by eating or ignore like leaving that pistachio uneaten in its shell.]
Know this: playing middle C at the center of the keyboard are 3 notes – a trinity, a full chord – that makes the other open note resonate.
The Lord’s voice is the music at the center of all life in which we strive to be in tune. Being formed in Jesus & imitating the life he shows us, we turn from the brokenness of sin & open ourselves to being made resonant with the eternal life of God.
Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination. Second Ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2001.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essential_nutrient Accessed: 30 May 2015.
http://www.answers.com/Q/How_many_piano_strings_are_hit_to_play_middle_c Accessed: 30 May 2015.
https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2013/01/the-top-10-bible-verses-of-2012/ Accessed: 30 May 2015.
http://www.foodpyramid.com/6-essential-nutrients/ Accessed: 30 May 2015.
“The Gospel in a Nutshell”. http://www.sermons4kids.com/ Accessed: 30 May 2015.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 10 April 2015.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Expanded Ed. Revised Stantard Version. Eds: Herbert G. May. Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press. 1977.
Safford, The Rev. Timothy B. “Sermon for Trinity Sunday Year B”. Accessed: 29 May 2015. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2009/06/07/first-sunday-after-pentecost-trinity-sunday-june-7-2009/
1 Note: Internet showed many sites, including https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2013/01/the-top-10-bible-verses-of-2012/ Accessed: 30 May 2015.
5 The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 114.
6 Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. P. 554.
7 Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination. Second Ed. P. 46.
8 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. P. 796.
9 The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. P. 1289.
10 Note: The music illustration is from The Rev. Timothy B. Safford.“Sermon for Trinity Sunday Year B”. Accessed: 29 May 2015. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2009/06/07/first-sunday-after-pentecost-trinity-sunday-june-7-2009/
11 http://www.answers.com/Q/How_many_piano_strings_are_hit_to_play_middle_c Accessed: 30 May 2015.