A sermon for Trinity Sunday
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Our specific expression of the Christian faith is founded upon the understanding of the historical and traditionally received Trinitarian model. This expression of our Trinitarian faith is found all throughout our service. We invoke the name of the Trinity with our opening proclamation, in the definition of our faith in the Nicene Creed, in the giving of absolution, and in the words of the Eucharistic prayer. We are welcomed into the church itself with the name of the Trinity when we are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These continued references to our Trinitarian understanding of God, speak to the deeper reality of our relationship and connection to God, and what this relationship and connection means to us, today as much as at any point in history.
Why the Trinity? Why has this element of our understanding of God persisted and maintained throughout the history of our church?
We receive our concept for the different aspects of the Trinity, God the creator (most often referred to as Father), the Word made manifest in Jesus Christ, the Advocate that is the Holy Spirit, from the Bible. While we have not always brought everything forward in our tradition that is found in the Bible (moving past the ban on bacon being probably the tastiest example), the elements of the Trinity have persisted because they help illustrate an important understanding of not just what our relationship and connection to God is, but also what we can expect from that relationship and connection.
Much of what we wrestle with in our faith journeys is how we relate to and connect with God. Engaging in personal prayer practices, coming together to worship in community at church, seeking God through retreat and sabbath (either formally through organized retreats or informally like hiking in the mountains or sitting at the edge of the ocean allowing the beauty and power of creation fill and connect with you), studying, learning, serving, all are about our experience of relationship and connection with God. Sometimes we experience our relationship and connection with God through our experiences of relationship and connection with one another. We seek the presence of the holy in others. We seek this presence because it reflects the beauty and love of God back to us and to the world. We seek this presence because it reaffirms that God’s presence is within us as well. This understanding of relationship and connection also enables us to be connected to saints that have come before us. We continue to practice our faith, to interact with the Trinity in full, because it keeps us connected to all those that have come before, leaving a path for us to follow and learn and grow from, always moving forward towards establishing the kingdom of heaven here in this creation.
So, how does the Trinity work? What specifics are we to take in our understanding of relationship and connection with one another?
God, as the creator, exists outside of our understanding of place and time. That’s part of our understanding of God, for if God is omniscient and omnipresent, if God is capable of all and more, then God exists outside whatever boundaries we might try and place upon God. But, in that, God cares for this creation and has chosen to interact with us in a number of ways.
Jesus Christ is the foundational interaction between God and creation for our expression of faith. God could only be made manifest in this one way through the Son, a singular expression of God’s reality, the Word that is the law of God made flesh to bring us the new and final covenant with God. But with that, there is a long history that leads to this realization of God made manifest.
The covenants made between God and creation stretch back to the beginning of creation, the rainbow placed in the sky to covenant with Noah that God will not ever wipe out creation to this extent again, to never again hit the hard reset button on creation. On Mount Sinai, God again creates a covenant with the creation, asking creation to step up and be accountable for their role in creation, to be accountable for how they interact with each other in the creation. In between, God continually interacts with creation in very direct ways. First, as honored in the icon printed on our front cover today, Abraham hosts three strangers, one of whom is very clearly the Lord our God in an angelic form. Jacob earns the moniker of his people to be, Israel, when he wrestles with a man, who many argue was once again God present on earth. These very direct physical interactions give way to the divine interactions that course through the actions and prophesying of the many prophets that will come to pass. And then, as a final act of intervention with creation, God is made manifest in the fully human and fully divine Christ, who establishes the new covenant between God and creation, and creates for us an avenue of connection, of relationship to God that unites us with our creator in a way that had never been experienced prior.
But, in Christ, this is only an example of God interacting in an overt manner in this one specific place and time. Even with the prophets and the stories of the foundations of our faith, God interacts in very specific instances, for very specific purposes. So, how does God remain present to us, here, now, today?
We gain access to this presence through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our advocate, the truth that comes to be with us and lead us to the glorification of God through Christ. The Holy Spirit creates our lasting connection, for the Holy Spirit constantly points us back to Christ, and through Christ, God our creator. As Jesus speaks to his disciples today in the gospel, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” This is the third person of the Trinity, one and the same with God, with Christ, but continually with us, interacting with us. This is not the same specific, overt, physical interventions that have preceded us in time and tradition, but it is an interaction nonetheless that leads and guides us.
It is clear that even though God exists outside of our concepts of time and place, God still desires to interact with us throughout our creation. These interactions came as God’s self in the form of an angel, in the Word being made manifest in Christ as one with the creation and yet still fully divine, and God, today, remains with us, moving amongst us, standing with us, empowering and strengthening us through the movement of our advocate, the bearer of truth, the Holy Spirit.
How do we know all of this about the Trinity? We take it from the words of our faith, the understandings of our tradition, the interaction and exploration of this relationship and connection to God, through Christ, as constantly illuminated by the Holy Spirit, both now, presently, and throughout the whole of our history.
This understanding of relationship and connection to our creator should inform our own understanding of what it means to interact with the creation that we are blessed to exist within. This understanding of relationship and connection to our creator should inform our own understanding of what it means to interact with each other as equal, beloved parts of this creation. This understanding of relationship and connection to our creator challenges us to continually seek the truth, to know Christ, to be aware of all that God has done and continues to do for us. It is in this understanding of relationship and connection to our creator that is made clear through the Trinity that we can find the power, strength, courage to stand up and speak to the truth that is readily available to us, to share that truth in the form of the Good News with all we interact with, to connect others to God, through Christ, with the assurance that in the Holy Spirit we can always find that way.