Holy Trinity Sunday
June 11, 2017
Matthew 28: 16-20 You can click on this link to read the text in Oremus Bible Browser
You’re probably settling in with mixed feelings this morning, expecting me to talk about the Trinity. I’m not a systematic theologian, I’m a pastoral theologian, one who connects scripture with the necessities of everyday life, not the kind that can spin the mysteries of faith with logic and enthusiasm. And I am deeply skeptical of trying to make Scripture, written in the bronze age and the first century fit our neat categories of Trinitarian Doctrines. It’s pretty hard to inject the Doctrine of Trinity back into Scripture that was never meant to proclaim it. The doctrine of the Trinity as we have it was wrestled out of three centuries of controversy about how Jesus could be both divine and human, and how he fit into the scheme of “You shall have no other gods before me.” It was not until the 4th Century that the Cappadocian Fathers – Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nanzianus, finally gave the church the key to the Trinitarian Doctrine as we know it today. They said we have experienced God as Father, Creator; Son as Incarnate, Redeemer, Holy Spirit as Sanctifier and Flame of God’s love, therefore we can worship them as such, and not have to understand any more than that.
Truth be told, it was the phrase “but some doubted,” that caught my attention in today’s reading. In the midst of the wrap-up of Jesus earthly work, as he is commissioning his followers to ‘make disciples of all nations,” and claiming to have all authority on heaven and on earth, that we hear that some of those gathered were still skeptical of the whole thing. “Thank God,” was my reaction. I am not usually skeptical of what Jesus said, although I realize that I have to read much of it through the lens of my 21st Century habituation. But I am often skeptical of what the church says. Don’t get me wrong. I love the church. I even love the church of the ancestors, those misguided, grossly human patriarchs with all their faults, the examples of God’s steadfast love and mercy to flawed humans. I love the church of the prophets, the one that got so caught up in politics that it disregarded the words of God’s messengers to bring them back to the tenets of God’s love and mercy and that paid the price in exile and division. I love the early church, so motivated by the love and message of Jesus that they traveled the world to spread the Word. And the church of my own ancestors and my own age which regularly hi-jacked the Gospel to justify slavery and racism and pharisaic rules, and at the same time, moved the country to include everyone in the full benefits of citizenship in the USA.
“But some doubted,” has reassured me this week as I am homesick for some of the people I’ve loved, brought up in old family stories. “But some doubted” has comforted me in the face bad news all around: cancer returning, chemo starting, surgeries being required, the word ‘inoperable’ ringing in my ear, friends at the very edge of the end of life. I stand skeptical of the Church’s need to have a pat explanation for everything we do and say. I throw my lot in with the Cappadocian Fathers who said we understand the mystery of God’s Trinitarian presence with us through our experience of God’s presence in our lives and our world.
We glory in the wonder of our bodies that work so well for us, until they don’t, and the miracles of healing that modern science brings us. We thank God for the wonderful mysteries of creation that ground us in the majesty God’s artistry, including the awesome mystery of soul and body knit together. We celebrate the incarnation, God with us; Jesus walking the very earth we know and trust, his experience of empathy and of suffering, reassuring us that God knows us more intimately than we can imagine. We know Jesus’ healing hand through the ministrations of others, and remember that God’s love was so powerful that it came to be among us, and that it triumphed over the death that scares us. And we know the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in the peace that comforts us when we cry out in fear, and in the stirrings of our hearts when we hear a word of Scripture that moves us and changes the way we see the world. We have experienced God in each other’s care, and in the faces of those whom we help, the Holy Spirit’s gift of joining our hearts to God’s heart.
My experience is that God breathes in God’s people and in the whole world, always inviting us into relationship as close as being part of the Three-in-One we try to define, but really can only sense. My experience is that “Grace bats last,” as Anne Lamott says; God loves, encourages, walks with us, and assures us of our belovedness, all accomplished only through that unfailing, overwhelming love for us. We earn none of it, we cannot buy it, it only comes as a gift that transforms us, over and over and over again, as we grow in understanding and knowledge. May this Trinity Sunday be a time for you to reflect on your experience of all the times that God has been with you, in you, flowing out of you, in whatever form or person you needed God to be. And may the gift of God’s gracious presence enfold you now. Amen.