To say we have a lot going on on this Sunday is an understatement. I’ve been thinking about what to say on this Trinity Sunday as we return to public worship while in the midst of a global pandemic all the while our islands and our nation is in the grips of a reckoning on the issues of race following the murder of George Floyd at the knee of a Minneapolis Police officer.
His death has sparked peaceful protests in many cities including Honolulu where upwards of marched on Friday and Saturday with signs that read Black Lives Matter, chants of “No Justice no Peace”, and calling for reform in police practices. Without a doubt we find our selves in the midst of history- a defining moment from which we and our children and grand children will mark in their lives. There was a time before COVID when we sat were we liked, hugged, shook hands, ate at any restaurant, traveled with relative ease and impunity. There were no masks to hide our smiles or quarantine when we wanted to visit family, friends, or to take a vacation. In a relative instant, it seems, life has changed and now I am speaking to you from behind a mask and a face shield and there is tape on the floor at 6 foot intervals. We wait in lines to enter stores because of something called social distancing and the list goes on and on. How can we even begin to think of any talk about the Great Triune God?
And yet- the God Triune, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is most relevant in this very time of struggle and strife, pestilence and protest, even in riot and rebellion. very One we pray to and is the one who in our gospel tells us “I will be with you until the end of the age.”
Trinity Sunday invites us into the life and transformative power of a God who is one the move since the very moments of creation and into the here and now.
We hear the story of creation itself. Of the way the Spirit moved over the waters of creation; of the way the creator spoke, “let there be…” and that all that was created was declared good”. Of the way the triune Creator said, “Let us make human kind in our image.” And then how you and I inherit in our bodies the very breath of God- the Holy Spirit that gives us life. Which is why when the sin of racism strikes blind the fact that, regardless of the amount of melanin in our skin we are all children of God, and disregards the dignity inalienable to our brothers and sisters and to every one of us, or denies them the very right to breath itself- it should offend and horrify us.
Sure we can look up in the history books for the thoughts of ancient scholars and saints on the finer points of hypostasis (being) and ousias (essence) from the Cappadocian Fathers, but we must not forget that even this early and ancient thinking on the nature of the Trinity originates in the human experience. I came- and still comes- from live encounters with a God who shows up in, among, and always for the sake of humanity.
Matt Skinner, a Biblical commentator said,
If our theology cannot speak directly to the real, lived experience of people and if our theology cannot clearly amplify God’s declaration of human dignity and cannot boldly magnify the love of God, a love committed to be among those who live with dignity denied and love withheld, we need to rebuild it.
The word Trinity never appears in the Bible. Yet, in passages like our reading from the Great Commission in Matthew’s Gospel, we read of baptizing new followers of Jesus in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We read a different Trinitarian formulation in Second Corinthians, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”
We find that the Christians were less concerned about doctrinal formulation than in following the way of Jesus. They patterned their daily lives in prayer and fasting, in service to others, and gathering for worship. Into that community, they baptized new followers using that same Trinitarian formula. In time, they came to think through what it meant to speak of a God who is both one and three.
The image and understanding of the Trinity is an image and understanding of God that is more than we can wrap our minds around. Yet the Trinity is not a mystery in the sense of a puzzle we cannot solve. The Trinity is a mystery in that we see and LIVE n our experience of God the truth of it, but there is more than we can fully comprehend. We can and do know of God from God by the reading and revelation of scripture, from the way God is revealed in the nature, and in and through that most perfect revelation of God- Jesus Christ.
It is Jesus then that tells us to Love God with all your heart, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as you love yourself. In other words, we were created to love- to love upwards to God and outward toward humankind. That web of relationships is interconnected- Loving God more fully helps us to love others more fully and loving people more fully means seeing them as GOD sees them and so loving people can draw us to back to God. Round and round it goes.
In the final words of Jesus in our gospel today is this great commission to go make disciples of all nations, baptize, AND teach all that he has commanded us. St. Timothy’s as congregation takes to heart Jesus’ words in our own mission statement “bring the Lord to others and bring others to the Lord.” We are to take the love of God out into the world; we are witnesses to the very love of God. In our baptismal service we say we are filled by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. As the Church, St. Paul teaches us that we are the Body of Christ. We can see through the tens of thousands of voices that have turned out calling for a systemic, national metanoia on racism the creative and renewing force at work desiring to make real the values of the kingdom of God where, swords will become plowshares, and spears become pruning hooks (Isaiah), where justice will flow like a river (Amos), where we will do what is right, act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah).
My point dear friends is that the Trinity is not some far off, distant, unknowable thing. The Trinity is not a God who sits up there in heaven and allows all the terrible things to happen in the world like a Wizard of Oz behind a mysterious curtain. Such a god is not the God who became flesh and walked this earth; who poured himself out completely on the cross of Jesus Christ.
God is not distant- God is social. Love cannot be distant. It draws us together and has us continuing to care for each other through the measures you see and experience here in church. Love must be present and continue to reveal the true nature of God.
The Trinity, at its heart, is a way of pointing to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the new life that comes from this. In doing so we are saying that is what God is most truly like.
The Love that moves the sun and the other stars is the same love that poured itself out in the self-giving love of Jesus Christ. It is the same love that created us in God’s own image
And if we are created in the image and likeness of God, then we are to find our true selves not in being aloof and alone and apart and above it all, but rather present here and now beign the community that hears the salvation story and how God is acting in history and continues to act in our lives as we recognize that all created in God’s image; that we live the resurrected life of the risen Christ and be the welcoming and inclusive community that Jesus calls us to; that we who are empowered by the Holy Spirit in baptism - live boldly to proclaim the good news of God dream for us and for this world bear the marks of the Trinity itself in the giving of ourselves in love.
(May the grace of our lord Lord Jesus Christ…)
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of god and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and forever. Amen.
The Rev. Daniel L. Leatherman is priest in charge of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church.