Sermon Trinity Sunday June 16, 2019
O Eternal God! O Eternal Trinity! Through the union of Thy divine nature Thou hast made so precious the Blood of Thine only-begotten Son! O eternal Trinity, Thou art as deep a mystery as the sea, in whom the more I seek, the more I find; and the more I find, the more I seek. For even immersed in the depths of Thee, my soul is never satisfied, always famished and hungering for Thee, eternal Trinity, wishing and desiring to see Thee, the True Light.
In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
It’s really nice to be back in Orlando. Most of my time since last Sunday was spent at Camp Wingmann in the depths of orange grove country. While being a chaplain at camp was a very fruitful endeavor, I have to admit that being out there with 70 kids in the Florida heat made it a little difficult to engage the deepest recesses of my theological imagination in order to give you the most erudite and precise exposition on the apex of the Christian doctrine of God and an explication of the most Holy Trinity. I blame the bug juice.
As usual, when I’m hard up for ideas, I quickly turned to the Church calendar; after all today in some ways marks the end of the Church’s busiest liturgical seasons as we look forward to the long green ordinary time that follows after Pentecost. But we can also use the day, this Trinity Sunday, to orient our minds and hearts around that blessed vision by looking back at God’s work as remembered throughout the Church year. After all, the entire of the Christian year is meant to bless, hymn, and explain the working of the Holy Trinity.
So, think back to late November when we started Advent. We put ourselves back into the hearts of those that awaited the Messiah; ready perhaps for somebody in the line of David to stab a bunch of Romans. While God’s people, long ago chosen as His worshipping attendants and representatives, awaited His strong hand in human events, they would not necessarily have been ready for what was to come.
At the Nativity, we meet the fruit of our expectation, and not just an anointed and powerful king. The very Word of God, the wisdom and light of Creation, was made flesh and dwelt among us. People came to adore him, to worship Him, which is a little weird at first, because that’s usually only something you do for God on High. Yet Divinity rested in a manger, the Christ came to us as fully human and fully divine, the most blessed complicating factor in theology for the rest of history.
At the Epiphany, Christ’s divine light was being made manifest to Israel and to the nations. At his baptism, we meet again the Spirit of God, who rested on the waters at Creation, who breathed into the hearts of the Prophets, and who overshadowed Our Lady at the Annunciation. People were coming to grips with the fact that Holy God was up to something new in Jesus, and that Jesus was more than just a teacher and healer. His authority seemed to come from his origin, which is the Father; begotten not made from eternity.
As he ministered, his desire was to draw his disciples closer to God so that they could relate to Him as he does, as his Father. But, he was accused, put to sham trial, and sent to the cross. Lent and Holy Week give us another real theological challenge as our Savior was led to Calvary to die.
But death is not strong enough to defeat God and Easter is proof for the early disciples and the Church ever since, that the God that deserves our worship raised the savior to new life. Only God can do this, and only God can challenge death so that death can die. Easter is the triumph of the Trinity over all that militates against it, and despite the mind-bending aspects of its mysterious workings, it is the entire work of the Trinity that draws resurrection to eternal life from death.
Finally, of course, Pentecost which is the remembrance of the rush of the Holy Spirit:just as Jesus promised before he Ascended. We’d met God’s Spirit before in the Bible and The Spirit was present with the disciples while they worked with Jesus. While the Early Church grew and developed, it was the Spirit that was present with them, guiding, and empowering them, even as the entire Holy Trinity worked on their behalf.
The story of the Gospels, as connected to the Old Testament and the rest of the New Testament is the story of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; the divinity of each person of the Trinity proved by their works and the unity of their being the ineffable truth of Jesus’ teaching and ground of our Covenant with Him. In time, the early Church Fathers would scour the Old and New Testaments and seek after the guidance of the Spirit so as to best articulate the mystery of the inner being of the God they worshipped. The Gospel according to Matthew contains an early baptismal formula in the name of the three persons of the Trinity, and the term Trinity itself came into use very quickly in the life of the Church, first used by the Latin theologian Tertullian in the Second Century. As the Church prayed, discerned, and wrote about the object of their adoration, and the author of salvation, our great theologians sought to provide whatever clarity is available for us.
In time, the Church discerned a few starting places to get us going down the path of trinitarian devotion and investigation; a grammar, a framework for our work as theologians. The best example I can give you and perhaps the shortest summary of this mystery is when we talk about a trinitarian God as known to us as one in essence (or being) and three in person. The unity of God and the diversity of the divine persons is one of the best paradoxical mysteries for Christians to chew on.
But paradoxes are hard and we tend to like easy answers as human beings. So why should we bother with something like the Trinity? I could just say stick with the Creed, avoid being a heretic in the vain of the sabellians, the arians, the monarchianists, the modalists, and so on; to say your prayers, and settle in to a life of unwrapping that mystery by nature of your obedience and Christian practice. I did just say that and I really mean it too. But think of it like this: the Holy Trinity really means that for us love is greater than arithmetic, as love is what truly binds together the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit into their mysterious unity. The being of God is perfect love, a love that shows its perfection by begetting and sending, seeking to draw things into that great love and letting things besides itself know about that love. That’s pretty amazing. Consider that to seek after anything less than that is pretty anti-climactic. To begin with loving less perfect things might seem pretty nice at first, but to love something imperfect is to love something that will fade, might fail, and doing so without the help of the Trinity is to love something without that which makes anything lovable in the first place. Put another way, to seek after the mystery of the Trinity is to seek to adore perfect love and perfect being so that we can participate by the same, growing deeper into communion with each other and with God. The alternatives are readily apparent by looking at your news feed, the drama at our work, the strains in our families, even the strife in our world. Earnest adoration of the Trinity begets more love in the world. The other options, well I’m just not so sure.
So let us take love out with us today. We’ve seen the working of the Father who Created us, the Son who redeems, and the Spirit who makes us Holy. We await that which binds them to unity so that we me be bound to God and to each other in a way that contrasts the alienation we see and experience around us day by day. I pray that we take hold of the thrice Holy of our hymn from the final procession and bring it out to the messes we meet around us, giving glory to God and showing forth his love to all nations; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit Amen.
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
The Very Reverend David Bumsted