A sermon for Trinity Sunday, preached at the Saturday 5:30pm and Sunday 10:30am service
“Go therefore and make disciples.”
These are the closing words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. The last thing that Jesus leaves for us is a call to action. It is a call into an active, engaged ministry, throwing off a static, passive ministry, throwing off the concept that sitting and waiting for the second coming will be good enough, it is now imperative that we go out and do the work, do the transformational work that has been laid out for us. It is this call, to make disciples, that we are all called into as followers of Christ. It is this call, to make disciples, that has harmed many. It is this call, to make disciples, which has seen the teachings of Christ twisted, distorted, used as a weapon for submission, rather than an invitation into hope and love. It is this call, to make disciples, that we need to reclaim for our Christian faith, reclaim from those who would teach messages of a prosperity gospel, messages of LGBTQ hate, messages of fear of other cultures, other faiths, other skin colors, messages that are designed to exclude rather than include, messages that drive us farther away from God, for these messages by definition cannot bring us closer to God. And by driving us further away from God, not bringing us closer, they do not enable us to live into the call that is left for us today. Because disciple making is about connecting others to God.
But why should we got out and make disciples? Why should we take on this hard mantle of countering the messages that have been allowed to permeate our collective conscious’, to divide rather than bring together?
We should make disciples because it is what Christ calls us to do. We should make disciples because spreading the Good News of Christ for all is good work, is God work.
It is the Good News, this God work, that makes it not matter that there are people out there who we see as distorting and leading astray, it is this Good News, this God work, that invites us to hold anyone and everyone (including those with whom we disagree) in our hearts, offering anyone and everyone love, the love of God, the love of God that is made known to us in Christ’s death and resurrection.
Because, you cannot have one without the other. For us, there is no God without Christ. There is certainly no Christ without God. And, the presence of the Holy Spirit means little to us without the context that we are given by the salvific act of Christ on the cross, and the immense grief God experiences in that moment, the grief of a parent seeing their child betrayed, tortured, murdered. It is in this moment, this act, that we are given a glimpse of God’s understanding of our world, God’s hope for us in this world.
I don’t know about you, but my facebook feed has been filled with a lot of priests complaining about the designation of this particular Sunday. Even though our lessons don’t exactly reflect it entirely, the Sunday after Pentecost is always observed as Trinity Sunday. Now back to my facebook feed, I see many clergy-types complaining about heretical interpretations of the Trinity, about how wrong everyone is going to be about the Trinity when they preach it from their pulpits this weekend, but for me, I don’t understand why there is such consternation, such fear about a highly complicated and yet very simple part of our faith that we call Trinity.
It is a part of our faith. It is the reality of our faith. The Trinity is how we know the relationship we have with God. The Trinity is our past, our present, and our future understanding of what God intends for creation.
Now, there are a number of different interpretations of how the Trinity exists in terms of our faith and our understanding of how God has interacted with creation. These various understandings tend to get thinkers far more intellectually inclined than myself into some trouble, as they try to balance their understanding of God within a framework that is unlike any other. For me however, I see the Trinity actively engaged in our world, because we are actively engaged in the world. The Trinity allows us to see the active presence of God in this world. Our way of knowing and being known by God. Our way of (at least trying to) understand the why of our faith, the why of sharing our faith, the why of making disciples. The Trinity, for me, is really about a relational understanding of God, Son, Spirit, a relational understanding that speaks not only to our understanding of God as one, but our understanding of why we are creation, and what we’re supposed to do with that.
I most readily accept the following when I think of the Trinity, and I quote from The Very Rev. Ian Markham: “When we think about God, we are thinking about a God who is dynamic and active. God creates and sustains (and in this mode it is primarily, but by no means exclusively, the work of the [traditionally labeled] Father); God reveals and redeems (again primarily the work of the Son); and God unites, heals and transforms (again primarily the work of the Spirit).”(84, Understanding Christian Doctrine) It is because of this relational understanding of God, a God which we experience as “endless movement between the three modes of being,”(84) that alternative names for the modes of Trinity have come into the common parlance. Names like Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, or Source, Wellspring, Living Water,(84) attempt to speak to the greater nature of the Trinity that moves beyond an anthropomorphic limitation that we often assign to the Trinity when we speak of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It is in this active, relational understanding of the Trinity that Jesus calls us into ministry, assuring us that the work of going and making disciples can and will be done through the Good News, for I AM is with us to the end of the age.
This active and dynamic Trinity, flowing between modes, is our catalyst, our backbone, our strength and resolve in doing the work of disciple making. We are filled with God with every breath we take in, for it is the breath of God which creates life, which redeems life, which unites and transforms life. The breath of God flowed out over the formless void like a mighty wind, and the world was created. The breath of God flowed into us in our very beginning, the breath of God made the dry bones come to life, the breath of God anointed the disciples of Christ as Jesus breathed on them, and that breath continues to flow into us through the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who is with us, in the trenches, doing that God work, sharing that Good News, making disciples.
Our God, through our understanding of Trinity, is active and dynamic in this world and because of this, we have to be active and dynamic in this world too. Jesus calls us today to make disciples, not because we need to convert or fill a quota or convince everyone that our way is the best way, but because it is in the action of making disciples, heck even in the action of trying to make disciples, that we are active and dynamic participants in this creation, that we are active and dynamic participants in our relationship with God.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, but how do I make disciples? How do I be an active and dynamic participant? How do I share the breath of God, share the relationship of the Trinity, share the Good News left for us? And to that I say: you should’ve come to the evangelism training yesterday…
No, really though, we make disciples by trying. We make disciples by being in creation and interacting with creation. We make disciples through our sighs as we stand to fight injustice once more. We make disciples through our voices as we use the breath within us to shout down hate and bigotry and fear. We make disciples because that is the only thing we can do. We make disciples because we are followers of Christ, and through Christ, through God, through the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, three-in-one, we are inspired, fortified, sustained, to go therefore and make.