Sermons

"Dancing Around the Trinity," A Sermon for Trinity Sunday, Year C

"Dancing Around the Trinity," A Sermon for Trinity Sunday, Year C

Jun 16, 2019

Passage:John 16:12-15

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Jill Walters

Series: Pentecost

Category: Trinity

Keywords: love, trinity, grace

Summary:

On this Trinity Sunday, we attempt with our human language to describe the indescribable. The Gospel of John gives us images that help us understand how the Trinity functions. In today's reading, we see a Trinity that meets us where we are. The Trinity rejoices in our constant transformation. The Trinity knows that we cannot bear all things at once. And the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit walk with us along every step of this journey in life...in our joy...in our despair...and in between.

Detail:

May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of each heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.

​Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Trinity.  It’s one of the seven principal feasts of the church year.  In case you’re keeping track, last week we celebrated the principal Feast of Pentecost.  So, we’re at two in a row.

I have to admit that I’ve been entertained this week by the many memes about Trinity Sunday that I’ve seen online.  My particular favorite is:  “How not to commit heresy preaching on the Trinity.  Say nothing and show pictures of kittens instead.” 

Now, I certainly don’t want to be branded a heretic and, as much as I’m tempted, I’m not going to show pictures of cute, cuddly kittens. 

And, I’m going to answer this question that has been the subject of debate and contemplation for more than two thousand years:  “What is the Trinity?”  Are you ready?

Here we go: 

“The Trinity is a mystery that cannot be comprehended by human reason but is understood by faith and is best confessed in the words of the Athanasian Creed which states that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the Substance. That we are compelled by the Christian faith to confess that each distinct person is God and Lord and that the deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one equal in glory, coequal in majesty.”[i]

         So, there you go...that’s the Trinity without heresy.  

I imagine you’re really not satisfied with that...right?  I know I’m not.  But I’m also not sure that analogies of the three states of water or the Shamrock or the yolk, whites, and shell of an egg really do the Trinity justice either.  And I certainly don’t want to be become the subject of an Episcopal meme featured on social media.

So, let’s dig a little deeper.  Let’s see where the Gospel of John takes us.

Today is a continuation of Jesus’ farewell to his disciples.  He’s been telling them all the difficult things, the suffering and sacrifice that are coming as he heads toward the cross. 

But how are they supposed to take this in?!  How are they supposed to understand it all?!  It doesn’t fit!  It doesn’t make sense!  So much is happening so fast...they “cannot bear” to hear all that Jesus has to say to them.

And Jesus knows this.  He knows them.  He loves them.  There’s so much left to say and so little time left to say it.  They need to be ready to continue his work after he’s gone.

But they’re not ready.  They can’t bear to hear it all.  It’s not because they’re being stubborn or refusing...they just can’t...they’re not ready yet. 

Several years ago, I had a dear friend who was diagnosed with a rare cancer that has no cure.  Her family moved into action.  A couple of members were at her side at each doctor’s appointment. 

They took notes, asked questions, clarified information.  They started doing intensive research to find out all the information they could about the options and the course of treatment. 

The doctors all said “knowledge is your best weapon” in this fight.  Knowing what the options are and what’s right for you can dramatically impact how long you live and your quality of life.  This makes sense, right?

But my friend, who ordinarily would have immersed herself in information, didn’t...she couldn’t.  She was paralyzed.  Fear engulfed her.  The earth had shifted and she couldn’t find steady ground.

As her family kept finding new information and trying to share it with her, she finally told them to stop. 

She couldn’t take it all in.  She could only take small bits at a time.  But she trusted them and asked them to help her make those decisions by using their vast knowledge, but not overwhelming her with the information.

There was too much and she wanted time to slow down.  She couldn’t process it all.  She just needed to take one step at a time.  She trusted her family to walk alongside her on this journey. 

She trusted them to guide her.  She trusted them to be patient with her and to let her face whatever she needed to face when the time came.  She trusted them to help her find steady ground.

The disciples aren’t ready yet.  They can’t bear it.  They can’t bear to hear about all of the scary things that are going to happen.  It’s too overwhelming.  Their brains can’t, not won’t, but can’t process it all.

So, Jesus, lovingly, reassuringly, continues to speak truth and life to them:  “I get it.  And it’s okay to not bear it all right now.  The Holy Spirit is coming to help you navigate all of this.  The Holy Spirit will be with you even when I am gone.  God is not done with you yet.”

God, the Father, and Jesus, God the Son, share all things.  “All that the Father has is mine.”  There’s no holding back.  They share all things...all knowledge...all power...all patience...all love.

And God, the Holy Spirit, shares all these same things.  The Holy Spirit walks alongside us.  The Holy Spirit works within us as we grow...as we are ready for more...as we are able to bear more. 

The Holy Spirit doesn’t just work within us as individuals, but it works among us as the Body of Christ...as we care for each other and walk alongside each other.

 

The Holy Spirit calls us to be patient and loving with one another.  Most often, people are doing the best they can at that time.  As a community who follows Jesus we can follow the Spirit by loving each other and giving grace to each other as we grow in wisdom and in faith.

This love is the ever-present, never-giving-up love of God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  It’s not a love that keeps people on the “other side” or “on the edges.”  It’s a love that requires us to truly walk alongside one another...to offer the grace that gives us room to breathe and time to grow.

  • We can walk with and give grace to someone whose belief in God looks different than ours.
  • We can walk with and give grace to someone whose choices in life look foolish to us.
  • We can walk with and give grace to someone whose political beliefs are different from ours.
  • We can walk with and give grace to someone whose pain is raw and agonizing.

 And, let me be clear, walking with someone and giving them grace doesn’t mean that we don’t have boundaries.  It doesn’t mean that we accept abuse.  And we’re not always called to walk alongside every single person that comes into our lives...sometimes that may be someone else’s calling.

But living this love of the Trinity also calls us to allow others to walk with us...to give ourselves grace...to be patient with ourselves when we’re not ready...when we can’t yet bear it.  This love is for us, too, not just for everyone else.

God, the Father, God, the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are constantly loving and creating.  There’s no limit and no end to this love.  It’s revealed to us as our lives unfold...and there’s no “arrival.”  We’re never finished living in this love.

The Trinity meets us where we are.  The Trinity rejoices in our constant transformation.  The Trinity knows that we cannot bear all things at once.  And the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit walk with us along every step of this journey in life...in our joy...in our despair...and in between.

Yes, the Trinity is a mystery that can never be adequately explained. But what we can be sure of is that this eternal love surrounds us and flows through us...that God is patient with us...and God gives us grace.  God is always working in our lives whether we know it or not.  God wasn’t finished with the disciples...and God’s not finished with us.

Amen.    

 

[i] St. Patrick's Bad Analogies - Lutheran Satire – YouTube, March 14, 2013