A Sermon preached on Trinity Sunday
St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Georgetown, DE
Broadcast live on Facebook: Sirach 26:10
May 30, 2021
We gather this morning on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, which proves – contrary to the opinion of some – that I have a firm grasp on the obvious. This is the weekend when we are asked to honor “the fallen soldiers” who “made the supreme sacrifice” and died in the effort to protect the sacred values of this country.
This is also Trinity Sunday – the first Sunday after the feast of the Pentecost – when we honor the three person of the God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Mind you, not once in scripture is the word “Trinity” used. There is no explicit doctrine of the Trinity that is articulated in Scripture.
Rather, the founders of the early church used their God-given abilities for reason and determined that the mystery of God is revealed in the gift of the Spirit of the Resurrection at the event we know as Pentecost. God is three persons in one; one being in three persons. A mystery
I’m going to pause here for just a moment before I get back to the Trinity to tell you the third of the trinity of events which we observe and celebrate today.
This is also the Sunday after we observe what is known as Ember Days. Four times a year, we set aside three days to focus on God through the glory of God's creation.
In Spring, the week after Ash Wednesday
In Summer, after Pentecost Sunday
In Autumn, after Holy Cross Day (September14)
In Winter, after the Feast of St. Lucy (December13)
Or, as we learned in Roman Catholic School: "Lenty, Penty, Crucy, Lucy."
However, that which was originally set aside to celebrate the Glory of God’s creation somehow became a way for the church to celebrate the gifts of the sacraments in general and the sacramental role of the priest, in particular.
When I was a child, four times a year we Catholic school kids were asked to break into our piggy banks and bring in a contribution for something “Father” needed: new shoes and socks, a new suit, new shirts, etc., because, well, without “Father” we wouldn’t have the sacraments.
Insert child's eye-roll here. Although, you know, that’s a great gig if you can get it, right?
Thankfully, the church has shifted away from its focus on “the priest” and toward “the priesthood of all believers”. That means all the baptized who take from the wonder and abundance of God’s creation and share it with others so that all might be fed and clothed, visited when sick or in prison, given shelter when needed, and comforted when they experience the loss of a loved one.
As I was explaining this to your Wardens, we all agreed that it would be a wonderful thing if we used the Ember Days after Pentecost – on Trinity Sunday – to recognize and celebrate the various ministries of the Priesthood of All Believers right here at St. Paul’s.
So, I’m going to keep this sermon short and let the testimonials to those who do the work of the Gospel in this church and in the world in various ways, large and small, be the sermon on the mystery of the Trinity.
Let me just say this: You’ve probably learned that the Trinity is one God in three persons – might have even learned that in Confirmation or Reception Classes. And, you’ve no doubt heard every single last really poor analogy of the Trinity:
It’s like water: liquid, ice and vapor. Or how the same man can be a husband, father and an employer. That’s called Modalism (or Sabellianism) which was condemned as heresy because it only represents three aspects of God, not three persons in one.
Or, it’s like the sun in the sky: Star, light and the heat. That’s called Arianism – also condemned as heresy because it denies the divinity of Christ.
Or, it’s like St. Patrick’s three leaf clover: That was also condemned as Partialism, a heresy because it suggests that each person of the Trinity is not separate and distinct but only partially God, only becoming God when they are together.
Here’s a hint: The only
correct definition to the Trinity is this: The Trinity is a mystery. St.
Augustine said trying to understand the mystery of the Trinity was like trying
to fill a bucket with the ocean, bucket by bucket.
While I can’t define the Trinity, the one way I see it manifested is in the mystery of community. I don’t know stuff gets done in this church. I don’t even know who does all the stuff that needs to get done in this church.
I only know that somehow, the work of this church gets done. And often, it gets done by some of the same people. Who do so every week. Week after week. Sunday after Sunday. With no expectation for accolades or expressions of appreciation.
I’ve often said to you that I love being with you all because you know how to BE church and DO church in love. And that, to me, is the best definition of the mystery that is at the heart of what we call The Trinity: A community of people, being and doing in Love, working together to be and do the Gospel – the Good News – of Christ Jesus.
You’ll see example after example of this when the Wardens have their turn, after the Announcements, so I’ll let that be the best part of this sermon. Because it is.
Nicodemus heard those words but did not understand. And yet, as one of the religious leaders of his time, a Pharisee, who came to Jesus by night so that it would not be known that he gave any credibility to the teachings of this upstart Rabbi from Nazareth, was so moved by his teaching that he secretly gave his own tomb so that Jesus might have a proper burial.
Nicodemus knew how to BE more
like Jesus and DO more like Jesus in the unconditional love of Jesus. Which is
the best definition I know of church, the body of Christ, the community of the
resurrection of Jesus and the best revelation of the Trinity.