Sunday, May 31, 2015

Trinity Sunday, Year B, 2015; Is. 6:1-8; Canticle 13; John 3:1-17

Today is Trinity Sunday.  Today is the one Sunday of the year that is fully dedicated to the Godhead.  And today may just be the most confusing Sunday of the year.  Or, as my favorite blogger calls it, “Heresy Sunday.”

A lot of ink has been spilled and a lot of words have been spoken trying to explain this particular mystery of God.  The Trinity is like an apple – core, meat, skin.  The Trinity is like a clover – three leaves, one flower.  The Trinity is like H2O – ice, water, steam.  The Trinity is like . . .

The truth is, though, that the Trinity is like nothing we have ever seen, and it is also unlike anything we have ever seen.  Christianity is full of mysteries – the Incarnation, Resurrection, Ascension, Holy Communion, forgiveness,  – but the biggest mystery of all may just be the Trinity.  The question is, how did we evolve from strict Jewish monotheism to Christianity's claim of a three-in-one-and-one-in-three monotheism?

As Christian theologians read through Scripture they found clues to the Trinity.  God created, the Spirit swept over the water, God's word was spoken.  The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre in the form of three men.  Isaiah hears the thrice-holy hymn.  Jesus is transfigured, the voice of the Father is heard and the Spirit overshadows them.  I am in the Father, the Father is in me, the Father will send the Holy Spirit in my name.  Early theologians such as Tertullian, Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Athanasius developed the doctrine of the Trinity which became a major point of dogma in the Church.

This transition took a long time and, most famously, stretched over the controversies between Arius and Athanasius.  Arius, and those who followed him, believed there was a time when Jesus was not.  This would make him not co-eternal with God the Father, but a created being.  Athanasius, and those who followed him, claimed that was heresy and that Jesus, along with the Holy Spirit, was co-eternal with the Father, three-in-one and one-in-three.  Eventually Athanasian orthodoxy won out.

This is not easy stuff and there's a lot to take in.  As I’ve said before, when discussing the Trinity, all you need to say is “three-in-one and one-in-three” and then stop, because anything more than that is probably heresy.  But maybe that's okay – stopping, that is, not heresy.  Maybe it's okay if we stop without having to explain and understand everything.  After all, this is God we're talking about.

As we go through the readings today, especially the Lesson, Canticle and Gospel, notice that we weren't given a scriptural case for the Trinity.  What we have instead are readings that try to give us a glimpse of the glory of God.  Isaiah gives us an image of six-winged Seraphs flying in the temple of God while singing, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord,” with the smoke of incense filling the holy house.  Canticle 13 is a song that continually extends glory and praise to God.  And in the Gospel, we hear the dialogue between Nicodemus and Jesus in which the glory of God is manifested through the love of Jesus for the whole the world.

I read recently that we will spend the rest of eternity learning about God because God is infinite and we are not.  If that is the case, then we have a lot to learn.  And maybe that's the point of the Trinity – that the Trinitarian Godhead is not for us to understand, but to impress upon us the limits of our understanding.

In the Trinity is fear without horror, perception without understanding, confirmation without certification.  In the Trinity is the eternal Godhead, the Great I AM, who is worthy of our worship and praise.

And speaking of worship, we are living in interesting times.  There have been and continue to be reports about the demise of not only mainline denominations but Christianity as a whole.  Those willing to say they don't attend a church, or don't necessarily believe in God, are increasing.  People are either too busy or unconcerned to spend time in worship.

Our book group has been reading through Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison.  In one of his letters he muses about idolatry.  It was his opinion that what we normally call idolatry – wealth, sensuality, pride, etc. – isn't really idolatry at all.  He contended that idols are worshiped and we don't actually worship anything; not even idols.  That was written in 1944, and I think it's just as true today as he thought it was then.  For as much time as people spend golfing, mowing the yard, watching football, reading the paper, going to the lake or taking kids to soccer games, people really don't worship anything.

But on this Trinity Sunday we are reminded that God is worthy of our worship.  On this day when too many people try to explain the unexplainable, let us spend less time on trying to understand the Trinity and more time devoted to worshiping the Triune Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.
Glory to you in the high vault of heaven.
Let us give our thanks and praise to the one, holy, undivided Trinity,
because it is meet and right so to do.



Lady Anne | 7:17 PM, May 31, 2015  

Our guest preacher today said there are two trinities - me, myself, and I, and the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. One grasps and clutches, and the other spreads out and gives. Which do we carry in our hearts? A bit more than that, but that was the gist of it.

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