St. John's Episcopal Church

Sermon given Sunday, June 16, 2019

Trinity Sunday

The Rev. Carol Hancock

                            

St. John's, Centreville
June 16, 2019
John 16:12-15
Trinity Sunday C
 
     God of new beginnings, meet us where we are on our journey, imperfect as we are, and use us in ways we cannot imagine to make a difference in the world for you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
     Today is Trinity Sunday, one of the seven principle feasts in our church calendar. We are celebrating a church doctrine, a Christian belief about the nature of God. On other feast days, we celebrate a specific event, the birth of Jesus at Christmas, the resurrection at Easter, the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. So today is a different kind of celebration - a celebration of the mystery of God.
     We have just finished singing one of the great hymns about the Trinity - Holy Father as great Creator, source of mercy, love and peace; Holy Jesus as Lord of glory, dear Redeemer; Holy Spirit as Sanctifier, source of comfort, touching our hearts with sacred fire.
      Basically, the Trinity gives us three ways to know God - God the Father as the creator of the universe, the one who made the world and all that is in it. God the Son we know as Jesus Christ, the carpenter's son, the man from Galilee, who walked this earth some 2000 years ago. Some of us took a pilgrimage earlier this year to the places where Jesus walked and lived. The Holy Spirit leads us, guides us, directs us, and comforts us. According to the doctrine of the Trinity, there is one God in whom there are three persons, who share one substance.
     The doctrine of the Trinity did not come about until several centuries after the death and resurrection of Jesus, when people were wanting to name the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity grew out of a desire by those in the community of faith to explain most fully the various ways God is known and experienced. The Trinity gives language to our strongest belief that our God is not just a God of history, performing mighty acts in biblical times. Our God is a powerful, active God of the past, present and future. That's the importance of the Trinity - a God with whom we can interact at any time and in any place because God is always with us, a God with whom we are in relationship. And that is what the Trinity is all about - our relationship with God - with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
     In our Old Testament reading from the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom is created by God before the creation of the world. And wisdom was "beside God, rejoicing in the inhabited world, delighting in the human race." God delighted in the human race! God delighted in the human race that God created. There are so many parts of scripture that point out the sins and shortcomings of human kind and how unworthy we are. But Proverbs says that God delighted in the human race. And I would dare to believe that God still does. Because God loves us no matter what.
     God is not always pleased with our behavior and how we treat one another. God cannot be pleased with wars and famines and terrorist attacks and man made environmental disasters. But God delights in the human race, just as God delights in all of God's creation. In the story of Genesis, after each thing that God makes - the seas and the sky, the plants and the animals - God declares that it is good. What God creates is good, and because we are part of God's creation, we are good.
     It is rather incredible to realize that although God doesn't need us, God wants us. God wants to be in relationship with us, to have us love God as God loves us. The Trinity, who creates, loves, empowers, and comforts us, also encircles us and weaves itself among the fabric of our lives, strengthening us and binding us together. Perhaps Trinity Sunday is a good time to consider the fact that as unity exists among the Trinity, it should also exist among all of us.
     The doctrine of the Trinity is not something we can learn about and understand just intellectually. The Trinity is a mystery, constantly unfolding. It is something that needs to be experienced in order to understand it. It is about relationships - our relationship with God and with each other.
     In the final analysis, the Trinity is about love and relationships - God's love for us, providing different ways to be in relationship with God. Augustine said, "Lest you become discouraged, know that when you love, you know more about who God is than you could ever know with your intellect."
     John Westerhoff wrote in his book, "A Pilgrim People" about a family of three little pigs. (Hang in there with me, it's not the story you think it is.) "Once upon a time, a family of three little pigs had settled down comfortably in their brick house in the suburbs. Years had passed since the crisis with the wolf. Gradually boredom set in. One day, the pigs decided that what they were missing had to do with love, and they were determined to go and find the meaning of love.
     "The first little pig went to the university library and read all she could about the subject of love. When she had finished, she had learned a great deal about love, but her life was still empty.
     "The second little pig took another route. He read in the newspaper that a famous pig was coming to town to deliver a series of sermons on the subject of love. He attended all the sermons and was filled with enthusiasm and high emotions. The second pig's high lasted about four days and then his life became pretty much as empty as it had been before.
     "The third little pig invited two other families over to their house one evening and all three families began to share their life stories, continuing late into the night. They found this so interesting that they agreed to meet regularly to share experiences and life together. In time, they came to care about each other very deeply. One evening, after all the other families had left, the third pig said to her siblings, "Now I know what love is; I have experienced it."
     To understand the Trinity, to know God reveals Godself to us in different ways, we need to experience it, not analyze it. Perhaps our best response is to let the joy of the Trinity breathe through us and our worship experiences; to let go of the analogies and definitions as we open our hearts and minds to the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What we need is not merely a deeper intellectual understanding of the Trinity but a life filled with love for God and our neighbors.
     We will never fully understand the mystery of God in this life. But to see God as three persons who created us and loves us, leads us and guides us, helps us in our understanding of the incredible love that God has for each of us. Amen.
   
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