The Rev. Robert P. Travis
Trinity Sunday Sermon –
8 and 10:30am Eucharist Services, Church of the Ascension, Knoxville TN
RCL Year C 5/26/2013
Scripture Text: Proverbs 8:1-4,22-31, Psalm 8, Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15
I'm so excited that I get to preach to you on Trinity Sunday.
Many preachers dread this day,
because they think somehow Trinity Sunday
requires the preacher to explain how God
can be three in one and one in three.
But I don't see it that way.
The Trinity is of crucial importance to Christian belief,
but we don't have to understand how it happens,
though many people have spent thousands of hours
arguing about how it happens,
we just need to understand why.
In a way it's sort of like the Eucharist in that way.
So let me dive right into it and tell you the Trinity is important because of Love.
Our shared belief,
our Holy Scriptures tell us that God IS love.
And that is only possible if God exists in a loving relationship
of equality within Godsself.
That's why the Trinity is important,
so if you want to tune out now,
because you get it,
that's fine, bask in that love for the next few minutes,
if you want to understand this better, listen up.
From the beginning to the end of Scripture,
God reveals Godsself as more than one person.
From the very creation we see
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
active in creation,
God even says “Let US make human beings
in OUR image.”
And we see that “In the image of God, God created them, male and female, God created them.”
But I'm not going to talk about how
God is both male and female today,
though I have some interesting thoughts on that,
and we see one of the feminine images of the divine in
our proverbs reading today.
But I'm not going to talk about that,
because on Trinity Sunday there is so much one could say.
It is that important of a doctrine,
that I find we need some focal point,
in order to get perspective.
So we hear about God living in unity though made up of three persons all through the scriptures,
through thousands of years of revelation
to his people in many places.
And all the way to the Revelation to John of what is to come,
we see them active together.
A couple of weeks ago I spoke about the importance
of unity in marriage,
and how our unity in marriage is not possible,
without God as the third person in the marriage.
That has to do with the nature of love that I mentioned earlier.
Other monotheistic religions,
while understanding the oneness of God,
and all that goes with it,
God's majesty, transcendence and power,
seem to lack a deeper understanding of God's love.
A friend of Jackie's who grew up as a muslim,
and is now spiritually seeking expressed this to us
clearly when he told her how compelling
the message of Christianity is to him,
because it is the religion of love,
focussing on God's love for us, and for Godsself.
That depth of understanding of God's love is not possible,
if we do not see God as Trinity.
Let me explain,
We all know that God loves us as a parent,
and that Jesus loves us because he became one of us,
and that the Spirit loves us, because He continues to live
in and with us, strengthening us and comforting us.
But love in all of those cases is based in inequality,
we are not God, we are creatures of God.
And God in all three persons may care for his creation,
but God's love for us will always be less,
than one could have for an equal.
Look at us, at the way we love as husbands and wives,
and as parents and children.
Our love for our children is intense,
and amazing, and seems to grow the more children we have,
changing us all along the way.
But our love for our partners is based in equality,
as we give love to each other,
without the relationship of dependence
that children have for us,
there is greater risk.
Our partners in love have a choice,
our children do not.
And in that greater risk,
is also greater reward.
For in knowing that the other person is our equal,
and yet chooses to love us,
we thrive in a belovedness that strengthens us,
and expands our love out into other relationships.
And love is only pure when it is focussed outward.
You all probably know couples who are so close to each other, but have no outlet for their love,
whether that is through children,
or other people in the community.
When that happens the love can grow overwhelming,
In God, Love focussed outward between Father and Son,
requires and is even fulfilled in a third equal
with whom to perfectly share that love.
For in the greatness of God's love,
we his creation could not fully receive it in ourselves.
That third person who can fully receive and dwell in God's love is the Holy Spirit.
One blogger priest I read described it this way:
“Of the deep and abiding relationship of God and Jesus
is born the Holy Spirit,
that powerful spirit arising from and enfolding this powerful, prodigal love of each for the other.
God’s love for humankind,
and Jesus’ love for God are each irrational;
neither conforms to our human definitions
or expectations of love.
Each is selfless, and excessively generous.”1
And here's the other thing about God in Trinity,
we exist and are even dependent on time,
but God's relationships within Godsself are not bound
by time, because God is eternal.
So any statements we make like the previous one,
which talk about birth or coming into being,
are not accurate except in how we experience them,
in our own time.
It's hard to think about eternity,
and yet I was reminded of this illustration I saw at my Allergist's office, that was trying to give a sense of
the greatness of the number 1 trillion.
It said, if we “think about seconds going back in time,
1 million seconds ago = 12 days ago.
1 billion seconds ago = 30 years ago.
1 trillion seconds ago = 30,000 B.C.”2
That gave me a sense of how huge a trillion is,
and of course, eternity is much, much longer backwards,
and forwards than a trillion seconds, or even a trillion years.
In part that is what is going on in our reading from Proverbs.
The writer has a revelation of the eternal relationship between
Wisdom and the Lord.
Proverbs is written long before Jesus' incarnation,
And many followers of Jesus,
see the second person of the Trinity, or Jesus,
as evident in all the references to Wisdom there.
But even with that divine revelation
you can hear how challenging it is for the Proverbs writer,
to describe the eternal relationship
between wisdom and the Lord.
“Ages ago I was set up,
at the first,
before the beginning of the earth.”
And of course that reminds me
of the opening to John's Gospel,
“in the beginning was the Word,
and the word was with God,
and the Word was God.”
That passage describes how intimately they worked together,
but also the love between them.
“I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world,
and delighting in the human race.”
So we hear in the Gospel reading from Jesus,
that same one who delighted in us
before he came to be one of us.
“I still have many things to say to you,
but you cannot bear them now.”
Indeed how could we ever bear them?
how could eternity come into our time-bound selves?
How could infinite love, come into our very finiteness?
It is only through the gift of the Holy Spirit,
coming to live within each one of us,
as even Jesus in the flesh could not,
that we can truly participate in the great love of God,
which Jesus, The Father and The Holy Spirit,
have shared forever.
And that comes back to what we've been emphasizing
from the pulpit for months now,
through the power of that same Spirit.
The Spirit of Truth is all about relationships,
for there is nothing truer than love,
and that is the truth that the spirit is guiding us into.
Listen to how that love is expressed in unity.
“He will not speak on his own,
but will speak whatever he hears . . .
he will glorify (Jesus) 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.”
The relationship we are offered by the Holy Spirit,
is the way we participate in the Love of God,
He is what empowers us to be Christ's on going presence
and work in the world,
as Fr. Brett talked about last week.
And as that Blogger Fr. Sam writes:
“How do we know we are truly in love and harmony with God, with ourselves,
with our neighbors
and with all creation?
The short and honest answer is, we can’t know.
That’s what distinguishes faith from knowledge
in all relationships.
Our status in relationship is always a matter of trust.
But we’re not completely rudderless.
We’re not flying blind.
We’re inheritors of a long experience and a wisdom multiplied many times over
by successive generations in relationship with God,
all bequeathed to us in an unending story.”3
We may not understand how God can live in perfect
unity, while being three distinct persons.
But we can live out of the Love that
the Trinity shows us,
and in fact that is what we must do,
if we are to follow our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Sam Portaro, from “Spirit” in Veni Credo Blog. http://credoveni.wordpress.com/
2World Magazine, August 15, 2009 page 10.