Trinity Sunday: June 11, 2017
Genesis 1:1, 26-31; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
By Rosy Kandathil
Last Saturday, I attended my friends’ wedding at Saint Johns in Collegeville, MN. As many of you know, I have been working on a Masters in theology at Saint Johns for the better part of the last two years. During that time, these two friends who were getting married last weekend had become particularly dear. They lived across the hall from me. We had shared meals, stories, laughter and tears. Our relationship meant a great deal, and I was so glad to celebrate with them and participate in their marriage.
As we gathered in the church, I reflected on the mysterious nature of love. I couldn’t help but reflect on the relationships in my own life, the people that had nurtured me and taught me how to love by loving me. And I thought of this assembly, of the people who would gather here today on Trinity Sunday and what I might to say to you in my first homily back after my degree.
My church background didn’t include Trinity Sunday; it’s not something I grew up celebrating. The Trinitarian formula of Father, Son and Spirit; Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier (and others) are litanies I take for granted. Maybe you do too. If you’ve been around the church scene, these words can trip off the tongue easily. We invoke the Triune name at the beginning and end of everything we do together, often accompanied by the sign of the cross. Why do we need a whole Sunday dedicated to the Trinity? And why does it sit here in our liturgical calendar, crowning the 50 days of Easter, Ascension, Pentecost?
Although the Trinity is a fundamental confession of Christian faith, it is often hard to see its implication for our daily lives. The concept of the Trinity is honestly confusing, we really don’t know how to talk about it. It is mystery. Richard Rohr says “the Trinity can only be understood by the contemplative mind. It is only God in you that understands; your small mind cannot.” What to do when this “small mind” is tasked with preaching on Trinity Sunday?
As I witnessed this wedding last weekend, the love that passes between two rather ordinary people, I realized that I was looking at one image of the Trinity. I recognized what I would be preaching on today. It was Augustine that described the Trinitarian being of God so beautifully as the lover, the beloved, and the love that binds them together. Three persons, bound in one. God is love, the scripture says (1 John 4:8). This is a triune God, who dwells in relationship, and who delights in being revealed in the love that we bear for one another.
Our first reading from Genesis tells us that we are made in God’s image; we are made in relationship to God for relationship with one another. And this purpose dates all the way back to the dawn of time, with the Spirit of God, the breath, ru-ach in Hebrew, moving upon the waters. In that majestic passage, God talks to God-self: Let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness, male and female, diverse and creative (Gen 1:26-28). From the beginning, we were designed to look like this God, to resemble God. And like God, we are charged with responsibility for one another and for the world of creation: plants and animals, fishes and birds. We share God’s life in relationship to all things.
Closing his letter to the Corinthians, in our second reading, Paul urges the community to live in peace and famously blesses them with “the grace of our Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13:13). Grace, love, communion. The nature of God.
Our scriptures today give manifold witness to the image of the Trinity as overflowing love in steadfast relationship. This love is stamped on each one of us, in our being, in the communion and union of everyday, ordinary human love and kindness. And that is frankly amazing. That God should choose to manifest the divine Self in human relationship is astounding.
Because we all know relationships are messy. They’re often difficult, disappointing, painful. We are made vulnerable in relationship. Living together, working and worshipping together in community can get tough. It’s easy to profess love before friends and family while dressed in your wedding best, it’s every day afterward in the daily irritations and annoyances of committed life that proves difficult. I know this. You know this.
We get an inkling of that in our Gospel passage. These final words of Jesus in the book of Matthew – the so-called Great Commission—is directed to the remaining “eleven disciples.” Eleven, because we all know what happened to Judas. He had committed suicide in the aftermath of his betrayal. The eleven who are left are still reeling, those who had abandoned their Friend in His hour of need are still unsure about their future. When these eleven see the risen Savior, Matthew tells us they worshipped—but some doubted. Some doubted. And I’m so grateful that Matthew includes this important detail, because it is truthful. It gives me hope. Despite their doubt, Jesus does not hesitate to entrust them with His mission anyway. All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go, make disciples of all nations. The word in the Greek is “ethne” – foreigners, non-Jews, gentiles. Go outside your comfort zone and bring people into relationship. Baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, and teach them to obey what I’ve commanded you. Jesus doesn’t give up on his rag-tag team; he doubles down.
And this tells me something about the nature of God. The trinitarian name is not just a litany, it’s not magic. But it is a promise. It’s a promise to be in relationship with you and with me. It’s a commitment. Just as God is in relationship with God’s self (Father, Son and Spirit), baptism in God’s triune name, immerses us into the whole being of God. And I know this because the final verse of Matthew reads: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). But while our translation reads “remember,” which suggests a past tense, the Greek reads: kai idou. And behold, look, see: I’m right here with you. Now. All the time. I won’t leave you. Not ever. While Luke’s Gospel ends with a dramatic ascension, Matthew’s ends with Jesus remaining.
The triune life of God is about giving, relating, loving. You and I, we are invited into that life of giving, relating and loving. God is a community of persons that can only be truly experienced in community, in deepening bonds of love and support, working to reach out and bind others into lasting relationship.
As I watched my two friends get married, friends I had known as individuals and now as a couple, I felt overwhelmed. I was joyful for what lay ahead, but I wondered what would change. At the altar, love can look perfect. But real relationship happens at the most inopportune moments, in the conflicts and trials, in the doubt and frustration, in the commitment to simply remain.
In a world that prizes independence, a world of increasing polarization and isolation, how do we uphold the value of relationships that model the Trinity, relationships that are loyal, generous, inclusive, and share power? One way, I think, is to celebrate Trinity Sunday.
It is only fitting that we should celebrate Trinity Sunday this year with a baptism, in the relationships between Desmond, his parents, his godparents, and this community of faith that surrounds them. Invoking the triune name of God, baptism draws us –every one of us – explicitly into a flow of a generous love that precedes us to the dawn of time, is with us now, and will follow us, until the end of the age.
Let us go forth then—to live and to love – in the name of the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Amen.
Let us turn to God in prayer.
- For communion and communication in all Christian churches as a reflection of the mystery of God
- For love in word and deed in this Sunday Assembly as an expression of the Spirit of Jesus poured into our hearts
- For Desmond Robert McCluskey who will be baptized today, for his parents and godparents, for this community and for all who will nurture his life and faith, we pray
For what else shall we pray?
We now lift up all the prayers listed in our book of intentions, the prayers we hold silently in our hearts, and mention quietly the names of those people we wish to pray for.
God, we praise you.
The mystery of your presence unfolds through time:
Creator of all, Savior Jesus,
Spirit of wisdom and truth.
One God in three persons,
Be near to the people formed in your image,
Be close to the world your love brings to life.
We ask this, triune God,
Living and loving for ever and ever.
Let us offer each other a sign of peace.