Trinity Sunday Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 11 June 2017
Year A RCL: Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
“...I am with you always, to the end of the age."
May we have the grace to remember this blessing!
Jesus gives us this blessing after he gives us our marching orders in today's Gospel: Go & make disciples of all nations, baptizing people & teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us.
Jesus says: baptize “in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit.” Today, Trinity Sunday, we focus on the Holy Trinity we worship: the 3 in One, One God in 3.
To go & make disciples, baptizing & teaching people, we must know & be clear what we are teaching: the Holy Trinity we worship is ONE God. We are monotheists.
The One God we follow has
“3 distinct personal expressions of the one, eternally rich God who is love...”1
Simple analogies may help us with this reality:
- Think of music2. We play it, sing it, dance to it. We don't have to know all about it to enjoy it. We don't have to know all about the Holy Trinity to worship this Unity.
- Dance offers an analogy. Think of folk dances with a circle of participants holding hands, as the Rev. Richard Rorh describes in The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, his book my colleague from Episcopal Communicators, Katerina Whitley, speaks of in her Trinity Sunday sermon.3 [We'll explore Fr. Rorh's book on the Legacy of St. Francis after Labor Day.]
- Think of water: flowing liquid, solid ice, hot steam.
- Think of bread: We experience its taste, texture, nourishment. We don't have to know all about how it nourishes us for it to nourish us.
The bread we eat at this Holy Table, we eat to remember Jesus, who comes to live among to show us how to live, dies to save us, rises again & ascends, & by his departure increases his presence with us4. He says: “I am with you always.”
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus increases his presence with us – not decreases his presence.5
The Triune God who creates all, shows us how to live, & comes to dwell in us, wants to be with us. God’s love creates us to be “in a relationship”6 [with God & all God’s creation]. God makes us for relationship in community & draws us into God’s Holy Community.
We speak of God as Creator, Redeemer & Sustainer. Theologian & author David Cunningham writes of God as Source, Wellspring & Living Water.7 He notes a number of scriptures in Jeremiah & John refer to God & the Holy Spirit as Living Water (see Jer. 2:13, 17:13 & John 4:10-14; 7:38-39).8
The holy scriptures use analogies to help us grasp truths about God, this hard-to-comprehend Mystery, which is ONE.
You & I proclaim faith in this Mystery & declare our faith in the Apostles Creed & the Nicene Creed, the results of centuries of work by wise Christian thinkers to clarify the fact we are monotheists.9
“The doctrine of the Trinity is to explain the range & variety of divine action,”
says priest, author & scholar Ian Markham, who serves as Dean &
President of Virginia Theological Seminary & spoke about the
Trinity at a conference I attended.
Our creeds help us express the Mystery of the One God we know through different aspects of our relationship with God. Notice: Our creeds & scriptures speak of God “concretely & specifically” rather than generally & indefinitely.11
We “Christians affirm [our] faith in God as sovereign Lord of all creation who has done a new & gracious work in Jesus Christ & who continues to be active in the world through the power of the Spirit.”12
We declare “God to be the source, the mediator, & the power of new life. God is the majestic creator of the heavens & the earth [as our lesson in Genesis says], the servant redeemer of a world gone astray, & the transforming Spirit who empowers new beginnings of human life & [an expected]...new heaven &...a new earth.”13
You & I proclaim faith in “...the one, eternally rich God who is love...”14
As we ponder this Mystery, we can take heart in the fact some on the mountain with Jesus doubted. It is OK to question, to wonder. As Albert Einstein says:
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when [one] contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”15
Be wise & do as Einstein says:
“Never lose a holy curiosity”!
Cunningham, David S. “What Do We Mean By God?” Essentials of Christian Theology. ED: William Placher. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. 2003.
Dios Habla Hoy: La Biblia. New York: American Bible Society. 1983.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Hughes, Robert Davis III. Beloved Dust: Tides of the Spirit in the Christian Life. New York: Continuum. 2008.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Markham, Ian S. Understanding Christian Doctrine. Malden, ME: Blackwell Publishing. 2008.
Migliore, Daniel L. Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology. 2nd Ed. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2004.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
Placher, William. Editor. Essentials of Christian Theology. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. 2003.
Whitley, Katarina. “The Mystery of the Trinity, Trinity Sunday (A) – June 11, 2017”.
http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2017/05/18/the-mystery-of-the-trinity-trinity-sunday-a-june-11-2017/ Accessed: 9 June 2017.
Van de Weyer, Robert. Celtic Praise: A Book of Celtic Devotion, Daily Prayers and Blessings. Nashville: Abingdon Press. 1998.
Voyles, Robert J. Restoring Hope: Appreciative Strategies to Resolve Grief and Resentment. Hillsboro, OR: The Appreciative Way. 2010. www.appreciativeway.com.
1 Migliore, Daniel L. Faith Seeking Understanding. P. 69.
2 Idea from “Symphony” P. 15 in Robert Van De Weyer's Celtic Praise.
3 Whitley, Katerina. “The Mystery of the Trinity, Trinity Sunday (A) – June 11, 2017”. Accessed: 9 June 2017.
4 Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. P. 1070.
6 Hughes, Robert Davis III. Beloved Dust: Tides of the Spirit in the Christian Life. P. 59.
7 Quoted by Markham, Ian. Understanding Christian Doctrine. P. 84.
8 Cunningham, David S. “What Do We Mean By God?” Essentials of Christian Theology. Pp. 83-84.
9 Note: This point Ian Markham emphasizes in Understanding Christian Doctrine. P. 83.
10 Ibid. Markham. P. 84.
11 Ibid. Migliore. P. 66.
13 Ibid. P. 67.
14 Ibid. P. 69.
15 Quoted P. 59 of “The Three Faces of Compassion.” based on Voyles, Robert J. Restoring Hope: Appreciative Strategies to Resolve Grief and Resentment.