Sermon; Trinity Sunday 2019
Water is in the form of a liquid, a solid, or a gas (steam).
Light takes the form of a beam, a wave, and heat.
An egg is made up of its shell, the white, and the yolk.
A clover is a plant made up of three parts to the one flower.
A person describes themselves as Me, Myself, and I.
A woman may be a mother, daughter, and self.
And holy matrimony is made up of two people and the marriage itself.
These are just some of the ways in which people have tried to describe the Trinity – that great and holy mystery of three in one and one in three. And, generally speaking, they are all heretical in one way or another. Because while they do describe three aspects of one thing, none of these three aspects can ever completely be completely the other thing. A shell is an aspect of an egg, but it can never be a complete egg. And this is why explanations of the Trinity break down.
Our understanding of the Trinity, however, goes beyond the examples I gave. Whereas an egg is present as the shell, white, and yolk, the shell is not a complete egg, the white is not a complete egg, and the yolk is not a complete egg, even though they share some of the properties of a complete egg. On the other hand, God is present as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And within those three persons, or substances, the Father is completely God, the Son is completely God, and the Holy Spirit is completely God. The three are in unity and complete. But we must also remember that the Father is not the Son is not the Holy Spirit and they are completely differentiated. Completely different and completely unified, three in one and one in three.
So what do we actually DO with the Trinity? That is, other than end our prayers, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen” What does the Trinity have to do with us today, and what can we learn from this great mystery?
For starters, we can understand that the Trinity is relational. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, while individual members of the whole are also unified in relationship with each other such that their individualism is completely bound together in unity. They are self-differentiated, but they are also completely selfless. This is something that humans can never do or be because we are selfish beings. Oh, not always; there are times we commit selfless acts. The J2A group, and several adults, selflessly gave of their time and effort as they raised money and then walked Friday night and into Saturday morning. But we can never be completely self-differentiated AND completely selfless as the Trinity is.
The Trinity gives us an example and goal of what humanity could look like if we could live in good, holy, and complete relationships all of the time. We will probably fail at this more often than we succeed, but the invitation, the example, and the goal is there. So while we do try to live into where God is calling our relationships, as well as other aspects of our lives, we do fail. As Eucharistic Prayer C says, “We are sinners in your sight.”
We have failed to be in relationship with God. We have failed to care for God's creation. We have failed to respect the dignity of every human being. These and other failings remind us that we are sinners in need of redemption.
Through prophets and sages God called us to return. In the life of Christ we have an example of what a life lived with God could and would look like. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit we are drawn deeper into relationship with God. The triune God is inviting us to participate in the divine life. That invitation should challenge us to become both humble and grateful. Humble because the Holy Trinity loves us enough to want us as part of their life. Grateful that the Holy Trinity has shown us the way to salvation. And all of this is reflected in what we do here: In our worship of God with our heartfelt praise, blessing, and thankfulness.
Following up on the understanding that the Trinity is relational, we can come to understand that it is in the worship of God where we reflect the divine entity most clearly. The world may be broken by sin. We may have fallen away from God. We have sinned in so many ways that one may wonder why God still wants anything to do with us. But the invitation is continually there. God really does desire our return into his loving embrace.
So while we and creation may have lost the image of God's complete goodness, love, and mercy, God has not. The goodness, love, and mercy of God remains intact in the Trinity. And when we come together in worship, when we participate in and partake of these holy mysteries, we, for a brief moment, are one with the Trinity. We are one in relationship with our fellow worshipers and one with the triune God, three in one and one in three.
We have had a lifetime of participating in our own selfish desires. Those desires have left scars on the world, the people around us, friends, family, and ourselves. Those desires have led, or will lead, us to force those around us to bend to our will or to change into our own image. Just look at how humanity has treated the environment and others, or how corporations conduct business.
But God, through the Trinity, is asking us to live life differently. In the Trinity we can see lives lived selflessly. In the Trinity we can see relationships that are both differentiated and united; bound in love with no other desire than to just BE.
Using the Trinity as our guide we open ourselves up to being changed from the sinful, fallen creatures we are, into the people we were created to be – caretakers of God's creation living in union with our Creator.
The Trinity isn't so much a doctrine to be described – being like water, or light, or a clover, or an egg – as much as it is a way to live and love.
How would our lives be different if we lived a life based in this Trinitarian theology of selfless unity? How would our lives be different if we lived “Out There” like we worship in here?
I can only answer those questions for myself. And my answer would have to be, “Better.”
May the love of God the Father create in us a desire to live selflessly and in unity.
May the wisdom and grace of God the Son grant us the strength and courage to pursue his will in all that we undertake.
May the fire of the Holy Spirit kindle in our hearts the flame of burning love for him, this world, and our fellow human beings.