Sermon for Trinity Sunday 2022
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 Canticle 13 Romans 5: 1-5
An old guy was working out in the gym when he spotted an attractive young woman. He asked a nearby trainer, “What machine should I use to impress that lady over there?” The trainer looked him up and down and said, “I believe I would try the ATM in the lobby.”
What do we believe? Our beliefs are supported by the events in the church year. This is Trinity Sunday, but people are going about our busy lives. We don’t dwell on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We just want to know that God is God and that God somehow knows who we are, what we are doing, what we are going through, and what we need. We need to understand who God is for us before we venture into understanding the Trinity.
Trinity Sunday is a time of theological reflection. That’s what the Old Testament reading from Proverbs presents for us. It contains serious reflection on issues closely related to the questions that finally led to the doctrine of the Trinity. In the reading, playful Wisdom delights in the proclamation of being the first product of God’s actions, as one who reveled in the presence of the Maker at creation. The New Testament reading for Trinity Sunday mentions the Trinity, but does little to fully develop the picture of the Triune God. In John’s Gospel reading we find the parting words of Jesus to his followers and the present word of the risen Christ to his church in the world.
The reading from Romans speaks of the God who bestows peace on those who are justified by faith, who lavishes us with love, and who invites us to share in the eternal glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, as the one through whom God’s peace becomes a reality and continues to remain a reality because of his mediating role in granting access to the divine grace. Jesus affords us the opportunity of the Holy Spirit given to us as the means of experiencing the love and grace of God.
The key passage reminds us that we justified by faith, not by our religious works. This provides us food for thought. It is Christ through whom peace is accomplished. But he does not merely initiate peace; he sustains it through his role as mediator who grants access to God’s grace. Here, divine grace is presented as that realm in which we position ourselves and find our place to stand together.
Trinity Sunday, what do we need to remember? It is the love of God that stands at the beginning and the glory of God toward which all things move. It is with the reconciling peace of God serving as the ongoing relationship in which we are able to deal with God. The role of Christ is to be an active agent, the one through whom we are able to experience God’s salvation. The Holy Spirit is envisioned here as the one through whom and in whom we actually experience the love of God. It is the Spirit who gives concrete form to divine love and does so within us where God’s self converges with our own selves.
In the Gospel passage, Jesus continues his teaching and is talking about a new relationship between believer and God. We will be led into the truth. Truth that the Holy Spirit guides us to is the truth about Christ. The Spirit also helps us through patient practice to discern right from wrong. The Holy Spirit is to tell us what is to come. The nature of the mission, the opposition they would face and the final outcome of their efforts. But the teaching had to unfold for them. They didn’t fully understand these promises until the Holy Spirit came after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Then the Holy Spirit revealed truths to the disciples that they wrote down for others to learn. It is a wonderful thing, that all of us are works in progress.
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity can be described as a map charting the Christian journey into the mystery of God. Believers throughout the centuries have tried to describe God, but descriptions don’t satisfy us. The problem is that we rarely experience God the same way twice. God meets us where we are. Barbara Brown Taylor tells us that “some days God comes as a judge, walking through our lives sweeping our messes into neat little piles and containing them. Other days, God comes as a shepherd, fending off our enemies and feeding us with cool water and warm words. Some days, God is a whirlwind who blows away our doubts and uncertainties, and emboldens our gifts. Other days, God comes as a protector, a dazzling King and a silent servant. The list goes on and on - God the teacher, the challenger, the helper, the stranger, God the encourager, the affirmer, the adversary, the yes, the no, the not yet.”
God is many, which is at least one of the mysteries behind the doctrine of the Trinity. That faith statement is our confession that God comes to us in all kinds of ways, as different from one another as they can possibly be. The other mystery is that God is one. There can’t be a fierce God and a loving one, a God of the Old Testament and another of the New Testament. When we experience God in contradictory ways, that’s our problem, not God’s. We can’t solve this dilemma by dissecting the divine being. All we can do is decide whether or not to open ourselves up to a God whose freedom and imagination is limitless – a God who can boggle our minds – a God who can be all for us.
We preachers sometimes tie ourselves in knots to explain what all this means. Some explain that the Trinity is like a three-leaf clover. St. Patrick supposedly used the clover. Others point to H2O in its three incarnations as water, ice and steam. All I know for sure is that if human beings were created in the image of God, then God is wonderfully diverse and we are more alike than we think.
With all of that said, thank goodness, Frederick Buechner comes to our rescue with a helpful way of thinking about the Holy Trinity. From all eternity, God is God in three persons, just as the creeds affirm. But for our limited human perspective, we experience the Father as God-beyond-us; the Son as God-beside-us; and the Holy Spirit as God-within-us.
There is not much in our physical lives that allows us to experience something in three forms. It does not compute. But it is real. God beyond us is the God we worship and pray to on Sundays. God the Father is in charge – the Chairman of the Board – the ultimate decision maker – large and in charge.
God beside us, in the image of Jesus is seen in his walking with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus – not seen as the one who is in charge, but the one who is our friend, our companion through those difficult times. We are a team with Jesus having our backs. Isn’t that what Jesus does with us? Jesus - has our backs, has our hearts, and has our future as we move through life.
God within us as the Holy Spirit gets a little trickier. In today’s gospel we hear of the Holy Spirit’s relationship with the Father. The activity of the Holy Spirit advances the teachings of Jesus and facilitates a mature appreciation of the revelation brought by Jesus to the community of faith. So, the Holy Spirit could be represented by the holy wind that swept through the upper room at Pentecost. The news has shown pictures of the damage done in Mayfield, Kentucky six months ago. That is the kind of wind we tend to think of, but the Holy Spirit is about restoring and recreating our lives. The Spirit offers us new possibilities. So, it is wisdom, scripture and experience that leads us into all truth.
When we share the gospel with others, our love must be like Jesus – willingly giving up our own comfort and security so that others might join us in receiving God’s love. Perhaps today on Trinity Sunday, we should listen to the stirrings of our hearts, our earnest human efforts to describe something that cannot ever be described, which is the nature of God. What if we committed to talk more with God and less about God and see what happens in our hearts, in our minds, in our relationships, in our lives? Our lives will be transformed. In the name of the great Triune God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer…Amen.