Insights on the Lectionary
First Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
June 3, 2012
Almighty God, you have revealed to your
Church your eternal Being of glorious majesty
and perfect Love.
One God in a Trinity of Persons:
give us grace to continue steadfast in the confession of this faith,
and constant in our worship of you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit; for you live
and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen.[i]
The Christian Doctrine of The Trinity is unique in a monotheistic religion. Our Muslim brothers and sisters pray, “There is no God but God,” and the Jewish affirmation is, “The Lord is One, Blessed be the name of the Lord”. And we sing “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty, God in three persons, Blessed Trinity. Yet, we are all expressing belief in the same deity. Confused yet? You are not alone. Explaining the triune God has proven difficult and intriguing throughout the centuries. Legend tells us that St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach the concept. I’ve heard others explain that it describes the functions or roles of God. For example I am a daughter, a mother and a grandmother – – but I am in the end one Lucinda.
Although I concede that this doctrine is difficult for many, it has always made “spiritual sense” to me: God nurtures, redeems and sustains us. I feel at once: protected, championed and empowered, and/or created, sanctified and comforted by a loving God that defies definition. But where did this doctrine come from? Is it Biblical? Is it uniquely New Testament? “Our understanding of the Trinity… emerged from the creative struggles of…the church to understand and talk about the nature of God” [ii]
The term trinity is not present in the Bible; Tertullian (A.D. 145-220) is considered to be the first to use it in reference to God.[iii] However, there are Trinitarian formulas present in Matt 28:19 and 2 Cor.13:13. The doctrine was formulated post- biblically in the fourth and fifth centuries through a series of councils which also developed the creeds and formed the canon which became the New Testament.
During Eastertide we focused on the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Christ. At Pentecost we embraced the power of the Holy Spirit. Now on this day we celebrate the full revelation of God.[iv] How is God revealed to you? Do you find God in nature, in the glory of Creation? How has Jesus’ life and teachings brought God closer to you? Have you ever felt the Spirit move you? How does your faith community demonstrate the love of God? These are good questions for Trinity Sunday. As the Church, we are still creatively struggling to understand and express the nature of God. How do you experience God “in different persons”?
The Book of Isaiah presents many images of God: father, mother, shepherd, potter, warrior and king.[v] In today’s lection (Isaiah 6:1-8) the kingly image of God comes in the form of a vivid vision. Isaiah considered himself a man of “unclean lips”, a blatant sinner when compared to the majesty of the Most High God. In his vision he entered the throne room of the Lord. He saw the hem of the robe of God and was surrounded by six-winged Seraphim. It was a shattering experience for Isaiah. A seraph cleansed him by placing a coal from the altar fire to his lips, and he was now purified and able to answer God’s call- “Here I am; send me!”
Carefully read this scripture: what other images of God does it hold for you? Do you with your “Christian eyes” see any expressions of the Trinity?
The reading from Romans (8:12-17) emphasizes new life in community using a Trinitarian formula.[vi] “All who are led by the Spirit…are children of God (who cry) Abba Father… heirs of God…united to one another in Christ”. According to Paul, baptism is the element that unites us in this new life in the Spirit. In Romans 6:3-4 he says that through baptism we are “buried” with Christ “so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life”. It is a transforming event when we enter the new community, a new social order. We are compelled to remain committed to our baptismal covenant, embodying the love and justice of our triune God in this world.[vii]
In the Gospel (John 3:1-17) Nicodemus sought out Jesus under the cover of darkness. He wanted to know how to enter the kingdom God. Jesus told him he must be “born anew …born of water and Spirit…born from above. The wind (breath) blows where it chooses, you hear…it but do not know where it comes from or where it goes …So it is with everyone born of the Spirit”.
God in three persons seeks us out so that God’s self can be revealed. We are to be active participants in the life of God. We do not earn this by actions, or knowledge or circumstance. Like the wind that blows, we do not cause it. God longs for God’s work to be done, Jesus came to save and renew creation and the Holy Sprit enables us to complete the mission.[viii] So how do we participate in a life reborn? How do we live in a world reborn not only for us but all of creation? How do we enter into the life of God? How do we do God’s work? I wonder? I wonder? I wonder?
May the living God,
Nurturer, Redeemer and Sustainer,
enter your hearts, minds, souls and lives
and bring you peace. Amen
[i] Book of Common Prayer, p. 251
[ii] The New Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education, pp. 118-123
[iii] Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, pp. 1178-1179
[iv] Ibid # ii
[v] Keeping Holy Time Year B, pp. 208-209
[vi] Preaching God’s Transforming Justice Year B, pp. 261-262
[viii] Daily Feast Year B, p. 308