Trinity Sunday • June 7, 2020
Genesis 1:1-2-4a • Psalm 8 • 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 • Matthew 28:16-20
In the Name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today we celebrate the doctrine of the Trinity—that God is Three in One, and One in Three. Since the Third Century, this doctrine has been central to Christianity and you will notice that the Nicene Creed is divided into three paragraphs, each celebrating one Person in the Trinity. Also, every collect in our Prayer Book ends with an ascription to the Trinity.
The doctrine, as such, is not found in Holy Scripture, but once you know the doctrine, you can find reference to it. Two of those references are in the lessons this morning. In Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, he concludes it with what we now call The Grace, saying, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” There they are—Christ the Son, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Paul may have written this casually, and not as a doctrine, but he got it right.
In the Gospel, the resurrected Jesus sends his disciples out in his Great Commission, “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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” This may not have been Jesus actual words—scholars think it was added a century of so later by some scribe—but it certainly declared the mission of Jesus’ followers accurately, that we should let others in on the Word of Life.
But what is all this three-in-one business? How can God be a singular God, but with three persons? Here is a parallel example: Supposing a woman who has parents marries and has a baby. She is simultaneously a daughter, a wife, and a mother. The Greek word persona means mask, and in the Greek theater the actors wore masks to indicate what kind of character they were playing. The woman acts differently around her husband than she does around her parents—she in effect has a different face for each. And she has quite another one for her baby. Yet all of these persons are contained in one single human being. She is three in one!
So also with God. You can see in Genesis that the Father created the world in the first lesson this morning. He sent his Spirit out over the void, and “Then God said, let there be light.” The Father created the world by speaking the Word, whom John identifies as the Christ. The three-in-one appears again.
This is the accepted doctrine, correct in every way, but it is all very rational and brainy. It is all about God, which is fine, but we want not just an idea of God, but God himself, or God herself, the reality of God. We want to experience God. We want God to be part of our lives. We want God to be alive in the world in which we live. We want the experience God himself.
Our former bishop used to continually ask us, “Where have you seen God at work?” It is a good question, but I found it a hard one to answer. It becomes much easier to answer, however, if we ask it in the context of the three Persons of the Trinity. For example:
Where have you seen the Spirit? I saw the Spirit at work in Lafayette Park in Washington DC, full of citizens protesting for justice. Some trouble-makers came and tried to start a riot. But the Spirit moved through the protesters and stopped them, saying, “It is not about that. It is about justice.” That, it seems to me, was the Spirit of God in action.
You know the Spirit as she manifests herself in this congregation. You experience her every time we come to church and meet our friends. It is the Spirit that binds us together, even in the face of ZOOM meetings! That spirit is the third Person of the Trinity, the Spirit generated by the Father and the Son.
Where have you seen the Son? Where has the Christ shown himself? Christ showed himself in Florence Nightingale, the woman who left a comfortable life in England to minister to the sick and dying soldiers during the Crimean War. A gentle English woman who invented sanitation and hospital care at a whole new level, she transformed nursing and made it into the profession it now is.
I saw Christ this morning in the faces of the policemen, nurses, and doctors who conducted covid-19 testing this morning, and in the city official who allowed a person without insurance to be tested anyway.
As for the Father: Who is the one to whom you speak in the dark of night, the one who hovers near you when you are sick and afraid, to whom you appeal for help when you are out of resources? This is, for me, the Father who loves me, who will turn any circumstance to my benefit, and who will transform any defeat or humiliation into victory.
The Trinity is a powerful way to see God: The Spirit moving among us; the Christ saving us; the Father, the source of all. Blessed be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.