Sunday, June 16, 2019

Trinity 101 Trinity Sunday 2019

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
8:1 Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?

8:2 On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;

8:3 beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:

8:4 "To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.

8:22 The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.

8:23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

8:24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.

8:25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth--

8:26 when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world's first bits of soil.

8:27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

8:28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep,

8:29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

8:30 then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,

8:31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

Pastor Carol Cavin Dillion from Christ united Methodist church in Tennessee tells the story of when she was the asked if she could speak to the first-grade Sunday school class. The topic was worship, and she was to meet with the children in the sanctuary so that they could get a close look at the baptismal font, the altar, and the paraments.

So she met the youngsters at the front of the sanctuary. The children’s minister had asked her to wear her robes so that the children could see them and they could talk about it. After they toured the sanctuary and talked about colors and symbols, remember the Methodists have a high church style everything has a purpose and everything has a meaning. She sat down with them and asked if they had any questions. One little girl looked down, pointed at the white stole and said, “What’s that thing?”
She replied, referring to the intricate design upon the stole, “It’s a symbol of the Trinity.” “What’s the Trinity?” the little girl asked. “Uh. . . .” For the next five minutes (which seemed like an eternity) she found herself trying to explain the Trinity to a group of first graders.
 By the time she finished hemming and hawing, they looked so confused! How in the world do you teach a bunch of six-year olds about the most complicated theological concept in the book? The answer might be just to wait until they’re older. A six-year-old is too young for Narnia, much less the Trinity!
Perhaps we should wait till they’re teenagers. Or even adults.  Because we adults can handle such theological complexities, right? We’ve been to school. We’ve studied literature and algebra and biology and philosophy. Heck, some of us even have a Masters and PhD! surely it’s easy for us to understand and explain the Trinity Right?
Okay Go…
A professor in a seminary jokingly once tried to explain it like this: “It makes perfect sense. God is three . . . is one . . . is three. Get it?”


Okay this concept is hard to wrap our brains around.  And I admit it is not even part of everyone’s theology.   But I grew up with it and so I wanted to explore the concept. It has been explained like the Shamrock.  The Trinity just as the shamrock is one plant with three leaves; God is one God with three faces.  Then there is the water metaphor as H2O can take three forms in ice, liquid, and steam, so God has three forms. The Trinity!

To be honest the Trinity is one of those elements of faith that tends to be taken for granted.  It is a foundation of what many Christians believe about God, yet I would venture to say, that most don’t even try to wrap their minds around it. We believe in God the creator, Christ the redeemer and the Holy Spirit the sustainer and we speak of the three as one and just leave it at that.

Today, the first Sunday after Pentecost, is known as Trinity Sunday. But do we have any idea what we’re talking about? Is the Trinity just an obscure concept that we give lip service to because the church calendar tells us to or the traditions we came from declare it as absolute doctrine? Does it have anything to do with our daily living? Think about it—what does the Trinity mean to you?

In our readings this morning and throughout our worship this morning we have heard references to God and how God self is revealed to us.  In the opening of Proverb we hear speech of wisdom and it is spoken of in the feminine which is a common concept of the spirit.  Then later it proclaims how “I” was given birth before the first acts of creation this is often heard of and referred to as Jesus. Mathew calls us all to baptize in the name of the trinity. In John Jesus expresses unity with God and the Holy Spirit, and he speaks of three unique persons doing three different jobs: Abba God shares the Son; God the Son stands among the disciples, teaching of the spirit; God the spirit helps interpret and teach the truth that comes from Abba God and the Son.

We often speak of God as the creator and God loves creation and wants us to love creation as well. One way that God teaches us how to love creation and one another is in the person of Jesus Christ. As John and the other gospel writers tell us, Jesus walked alongside us on this earth to show us the face of God. And in Jesus’ death and resurrection, God becomes our Redeemer. Now, we spend a lot of time in the church talking about Jesus. We learn about Jesus’ teaching, his example, his healing, and his love. The gospel stories give us something tangible to hold onto. Jesus gives us all sorts of guidance on how to live our lives. It’s not hard to find ways that Jesus is relevant to our lives.

The concept of A Trinitarian or triune god speaks of God in relationship. Abba, Son and Spirit have always existed in relationship, loving relationship, with each other.  Lady wisdom declares I was there in that moment of creation alongside the Son and Abba.  I was having fun, stirring the elements, sparking life and rejoicing in the dance that was creation.  In the opening verse of the song “The Lord of the Dance” it states:

“I danced in the morning when the world was young
I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun
I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth
  That energy that drives the dance…that energy that makes us want to dance. That is spirit and the dancer is Jesus and God the music of the universe.

For many of us, that Spirit is very relevant to our daily living. We recognize the Spirit’s activity all around us: in those little nudges to call someone or pray for someone, in the peace that surrounds us before we undergo surgery, in the inspiration that comes when we’re teaching or praying, in the board meeting where truth is spoken and consensus is reached. Many of us know the Spirit as our sustainer, our inspiration, our daily guide and yes the mischief maker.

We see daily evidence of God our Creator. We strive to follow the concrete example of Jesus the Christ. We look for signs of the Holy Spirit around us. Individually, the three persons of the Trinity make sense to us. But what does it mean for the three to be one and the one to be three? Abba God, Son, and Holy Spirit. Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. One in three in one. Ice and liquid and steam. Three leaves of a shamrock. What power can this mysterious concept have for us?

Whether you relate most to God the Creator, Jesus the Redeemer, or the Holy Spirit
 Sustainer, the mystery of the Trinity has something to teach us. There is something beautiful and powerful about a God in three persons. There is something God can reveal to us when we ponder the mystery of the Trinity.

The triune God of our faith is a mystery, revealed to us only partially and gradually.  God goes way beyond our human capability of comprehension and understanding and our language.  Yet we are offered an opportunity to reach out, touch, and try to understand how these three, these three in one touch and bless our lives.  Heck, it wasn’t until long after the stories of the creation of all, the passing on of the stories of God active in our world...Long after someone decided to write down the stories then collect them into a book, did we even conceive of this nature of God.

In the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, there is an icon of the Holy Trinity painted by Andrei Rublev sometime around 1400 C.E. For those of you who are unfamiliar with icons, they are pictures that are used in prayer. Believers are to gaze at them prayerfully until they become like a window into the heart of God. God can reveal Godself to us as we are praying through the image of an icon. This is the image on the bulletin cover.

This icon takes as its subject the mysterious story where Abraham receives three visitors as he camps by the oak of Mamre. He serves them a meal. As the conversation progresses he seems to be talking straight to God, as if these 'angels' were in some way a metaphor for the three persons of the Trinity. In Rublev's representation of the scene, the three gold-winged figures are seated around a white table on which a golden, chalice-like bowl contains a roasted lamb. In the background of the picture, a house can be seen at the top left and a tree in the center. Less distinctly, a rocky hill lies in the upper right corner. The composition is a great circle around the table, focusing the attention on the chalice-bowl at the center, which reminds the viewer inescapably of an altar at Communion.

On one level this picture shows three angels seated under Abraham's tree, but on another it is a visual expression of what the Trinity means, what is the nature of God, and how we approach God. Reading the picture from left to right, we see Abba creator, Son the redeemer, Holy Spirit the Sustainer.

Rublev gives each person of the Trinity different clothing. On the right, the Holy Spirit has a garment of the clear blue of the sky, wrapped over with a robe of a fragile green. So the Spirit of creation moves in sky and water, breathes in heaven and earth. All living things owe their freshness to her touch. The Son has the deepest colors; a thick heavy garment of the reddish-brown of earth and a cloak of the blue of heaven. In his person he unites heaven and earth, the two natures are present in him, and over his right shoulder (the Government shall be upon his shoulder) there is a band of gold shot through the earthly garment, as his divinity suffuses and transfigures his earthly being. The Creator seems to wear all the colors in a kind of fabric that changes with the light, that seems transparent, that cannot be described or confined in words. And this is how it should be. No one has seen Abba, but the vision of Abba fills the universe.
The Creator looks forward, raising a hand in blessing to the Son. this gesture expresses a movement towards the Son. The hand of the Son points on, around the circle, to the Spirit. In this simple array we see the movement of life towards us; we are the fourth being at this table, the life flows clockwise around the circle. And we complete the circle The Spirit touches us, even though we do not know who it is that is touching us. The spirit leads us and moves us in ways we are unaware until we look back.  In moments of stillness and clarity, then can we see where the spirit, the hand of God has touched and moved us.

It is interesting to note that each of these great winged creatures have staffs for a journey.  They each have a staff because we are on a journey and instead of flying on ahead, avoiding all trials and trouble they walk with us, beside us on our individual journeys in this life here and now. [1]

In many traditions, this concept of the trinity is a doctrine; a belief written in stone that must be believed, three separate beings and yet one God.  I perceive them more as aspects of God.  Different parts of one personality or being.  The three are in communion with each other as we are one community and yet each one of us is a unique expression of this community.  The Trinity is a community of Love.

As we think about the community of love that has been within God since the beginning of time, the trinity. Let us understand that there is an invitation for us to be part of that community. Just as Andrei’s icon shows us a place at the table so we can see it for real, as the invitation stands open to all in this community and at the Communion table, God’s table.  As we see real, concrete examples of how God has created us, redeemed us, and sustained us, let us respond with love and gratitude. Let us add our love to the Trinity’s communion of love.

Let us allow God to be revealed in our community. The concept of the Trinity teaches us that no one ever stands alone. As soon as we accept God’s love and reflect that love back out to the world, we are members of a community. We cannot be a community without being connected to one another. If we are to embrace the triune aspects of God the creator, Christ the redeemer, and the Holy Spirit the sustainer then we are called to embrace each other as community and reach out beyond these walls to those who challenge us, need us, who are hungry for a message of love. The love we find in the Trinity, in the communion, we find with one another, is not just for our own sakes. It’s for the sake of the world. It’s meant to be shared. [2]
The world needs love. The world needs grace. The world needs community. May the Triune God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer—help us to share the message of the Trinity with all creation. [3]

[1] sacred heart pullman, Explanation of Andrei Rublev's Icon of the trinity, (accessed May 14, 2013).
[2] The Abingdon Preaching Annual 2013 (Nashville: Abingdon press, 2012).

[3] David N. Mosser, Abingdon Preaching Annual 2008 (nashville: Abingdon Press, 2007).

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