Sorry it’s so late! We started our 9 am summer worship on Sunday and I was so excited to be out early that I forgot to post this before I left.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
June 15, 2014
Genesis 1:1-2, 4a
Why The Trinity Is Important
Two weeks ago at the Trustees meeting, Ray was practically beside himself and said to the Board, “Guys, I’m really disappointed in us; we totally dropped the ball.” Everyone looked at him, a little scared of what he was about to say. “We missed Secretary’s Day!”
There were a few seconds of silence and then mutterings of: “We did?” “When was that?” “Did you get your secretary anything?” “No, did you?” “Shouldn’t my phone remind me of these things?” And – perhaps my favorite: “Now is this a real holiday or one of those holidays that those crazy Facebook people have made up?”
This morning is Trinity Sunday. Trinity Sunday – every year – immediately follows Pentecost; it is a celebration dating back to the early 1300’s embracing God as three persons.
Now Trinity Sunday is not the most well-known of Christian celebrations; in fact most people outside of liturgical circles have probably never even heard of it. And I would be willing to bet that the people who have heard of it wonder if it is – in fact – a real holiday or one of those holidays that those crazy church people have made up.
I have to be honest, I do not always make a big deal about Trinity Sunday. The trinity is confusing to explain and not really all that entertaining to preach about. But I read something this year that got me thinking and I would like to share it with you all this morning.
Steven Eason wrote this reflection for the Feasting on the Word commentary series. Rev. Eason is a Presbyterian pastor and serves the Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. He said:
This is Trinity Sunday, but people who have cancer probably do not care. This is Trinity Sunday, but those young couples who cannot get pregnant probably do not care either. “But this is Trinity Sunday,” proclaims the worship committee. Even so, the family dealing with the wayward teenager, the couple headed for divorce, the person who has lost a job, they do not care. Does it really matter to them that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? They just want to know that God is God and that God somehow knows who they are, where they are, what they are doing, and what they need.
Okay, hold on a second – I can relate to this! This in Trinity Sunday, but members of the Rehoboth Congregational Church who are still recovering from Children’s Day probably do not care. This is Trinity Sunday, but the families who are celebrating Father’s Day probably do not care. This is Trinity Sunday, but people who are hoping Rev. Sarah stays true to her promise that summer worship will not last longer than 45 minutes probably do not care.
“But this is Trinity Sunday,” proclaims the pastor who so deeply believes in the trinity that she actually had the emblem tattooed on her foot. Even so, is it really necessary to devote an entire worship service to it?
It can be a heady discussion to talk about the Trinity. If you look up the history, it was not an easy doctrine to nail down. There is a ton of mystery that surrounds the person or persons of God. Some people seem entirely clear about it; others are confused, and still others could not care less. The truth is that preaching from a stance of trying to defend the Trinity will make for a tedious sermon and will be like firing a shot over the bow of your people’s real lives.
Note from Rev. Sarah: No one wants to listen to that sermon.
Why do we even need a Trinity Sunday? It does not hold a candle to Christmas or Easter.
Dude, it does not even hold a candle to Children’s Day! Did you see the Children’s Day news skit last week? The video? The poem? The balloon arch? Seasons of Love? What an amazing worship service!
It does not get a lot of press. May that is because it is so confusing and we really do not know how to talk about it. The Augustine had to reduce it to a very simple illustration. He used the example of a tree. The root is wood; the trunk is wood; the branches are wood: one wood, one substance but three different entities. Okay, so try preaching that! Short sermon. They will love it.
I am going to have to remember that one for next year.
Perhaps we can come at it another way. What is there were no Trinity? Jesus told us to go and baptize people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. What if we baptized people only in the name of the Father?
What if we just baptized people in the name of Jesus? “I baptize you in the name of Jesus. Amen.”
What if we said only, “I baptize you in the name of the Holy Spirit”? What is missing there?
Shirley Guthrie writes, “The same God who is God over us as God the Father and Creator, and God with and for us as the incarnate Word and Son, is also God in and among us as God the Holy Spirit.”
You cannot go out into the world, according to Jesus, without all of that. We are immersed (or sprinkled) into the whole being of God, whether we understand it or not. We are not powerless in the world; we are not disconnected from the omnipotent God as Creator, or from the redeeming work of God in human flesh, or from the very presence of that same God in the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us and among us and sometimes outside of us. That is a tremendous gift to celebrate for people who are sitting in the pew feeling detached, isolated, alone, angry, deserted, depressed, grieving, hopeless, fearful, anxious, wounded, ashamed, and tired.
Jesus did not send the church out to perform the ritual of baptism. The world will not be fixed by merely getting everyone wet. Saying the words “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” is not magic. The more difficult task is that of making disciples. (1)
In today’s scripture, Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We are called to be disciples; we are called to minister throughout the world. We are called to be the hands and feet and face of Christ to the world and I do not think that Jesus said these words in order to confuse us or start a 2,000 year debate on Trinitarian doctrine and the essence of three beings in one. No; I think Jesus said these words in order to lift us up, in order to strengthen us and in order to remind us that we are not alone as we listen to God’s call and strive to live out that call in the world.
Is it easy to live out this call? Not at all. I am sure that you have noticed – the world is not as easy place to live in. I called my mom on Thursday night and asked her what she was doing and she said she had been watching the news, but after consecutive reports about a stabbing, a shooting and a robbery, she finally just gave up, turned off the TV and started playing solitaire. I am sure many of you can relate.
How are we supposed to minister in this world? How are we supposed to minister in world where this week – once again – we mourn the loss of lives in a school shooting? How are we supposed to affect change when the problems around us seem so great? How can we create hope, peace, joy and love when humans consistently foster hatred through violence?
This morning we read the beginning of the first account of creation.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void … (2)
One of the most amazing parts of the creation story is that God created order out of chaos. There was nothing and God created everything. God did not look at that formless void and see nothing, God saw potential for heaven and earth, light and dark, seasons that change, vegetation that would flourish, animals that would roam and humans that would create lives. The God of Genesis saw beyond what was there and saw potential for so much more. The God of Genesis did something absolutely transformational.
And I truly believe that when Jesus called us to be disciples, he was calling us to do the same thing.
Baptism is not a passive act, it is an active one; it is one that calls us into the creation of being, into the redemptive grace of the Body of Christ and into the sustaining ministry of the Holy Spirit that has the power to change lives. Discipleship calls us – too – to make order out of chaos, to look at nothing and see great potential and to transform lives.
When we remember the creation stories, we need to remember that God is more than the God of Genesis. The God of Genesis is not a God that existed thousands of years ago, created the world and then disappeared. The God of Genesis still exists today – in our lives and in our hearts.
And the God of Genesis is now calling us to continue the work that was started.
God created the world, but that world is crying out and we are the ones who God has called to bring healing, peace, reconciliation and love into the world. That is what it means to make disciples of all nations. We have a really big job to do. We are called to make a difference in our homes, in our communities, in our nation and throughout the world. We are called to heal the sick, help the poor and speak up for the marginalized.
I know this is not easy. But you have to remember that God is not a singular notion that is there, off in a distance, and pops in from time to time. God is an all-encompassing being; one that works with us and within us and through us – always. This is what it means to believe in the trinity.
The trinity is a really confusing doctrine, but at its core it reminds us that God is intrinsically complex and has the capability to be with us whenever, wherever and however we are in need.
Friends, we can make a difference in the world. God is with us! The creation story reminds us of the overwhelming potential to create even when all seems lost and I truly believe that we, too, can create something truly spectacular. We can bring healing, peace, reconciliation and love into the world. We can make a difference, even if it is not easy. We can be the disciples Jesus calls us to be.
So perhaps Trinity Sunday is one of those holidays that crazy church people have made up. And truthfully? I think that Trinitarian doctrine is entirely too confusing for me to even wrap my head around sometimes, let alone preach about.
But I also think that using language of the trinity – whether it be “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” or “Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer” – reminds us that – like the formless void that existed before God created the heavens and the earth – God’s love, strength, grace and wisdom also knows no boundaries. Anything is possible. We, too, can make order out of the chaos that we are living in because God is always with us and God’s creating, redeeming and sustaining powers are helping to move us somewhere spectacular.
So let us go, therefore and make disciples of nations. And let us give thanks to God – creator, redeemer and sustainer – for equipping us to do that work.
Thanks be to God!
(1) Eason, Steven P. | Bartlett, David L & Taylor, Barbara Brown, Feasting On The Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year A, Volume 3, Pages 44-48
(2) Genesis 1:1, NRSV