Getting to the Heart of the Trinity

Recently, a friend, also an Episcopal clergy person, posted a question on Facebook. It said something along the lines of “Serious question/no judgement zone: Why don’t you go to church (or synagogue or temple) on Sundays?” It was interesting—and about 80 people answered. It was some combination of not connecting with what goes on and the reticence to discard Sunday newspapers and brunch invitations. It’s sometimes about a need for a break from the busy world.

When I first read it, I actually misunderstood the question. I thought she was asking “Why DO you go to church?” It might be a harder one to answer. What is it that draws us to this community on a Sunday morning? What is it that calls us out of our comfortable places to gather in this place together?

That’s the question that came to me as i read our Gospel reading today. The Gospel said: When [the disciples] saw [Jesus], they worshiped him; but some doubted. In a nutshell, that’s what brings me to this community each time I am here. The knowledge that we will encounter Christ. The opportunity to worship. And the understanding that, when we are together, there room for doubt too. I come for the reminder that God is with us, in many ways.

That’s, at least in part, is what Trinity Sunday is all about.

When we baptize two youngsters later this morning we will say “I baptize you in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Often (and particularly this morning) we use this same Trinitarian language at the opening of our Sunday Eucharist as the officiant said: Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Each week, we reaffirm our belief in a triune God in the words of the Nicene Creed. This morning we will profess our belief in the baptismal covenant. It is repeated again during the absolution prayer after the confession of sin. 

church-window-511751_640That’s a lot of talk about the Holy Trinity in just the first half our Eucharist service.

On the other hand, scholars have fought for hundreds and hundreds of years trying to explain the theology of a God that is one God and yet three persons. In fact, most major heresies in the church can be traced back to an attempt to explain and understand the Trinity. One God, three persons. It’s easy to say, and hard to understand.

I think part of the problem is that we fall into the trap of trying to understand the trinity with our minds, rather than our hearts.  It’s an easy mistake to make… You say theology, and the mind naturally goes to deep thoughts and heavy tomes in a dusty library.

Instead, let’s try to understand the Trinity with our hearts… My brain struggles with how to hold simultaneously a concept of God that is omnipotent and omnipresent and God that can be experienced as God, Son, and Spirit. At the same time, my heart understands a deeper truth: the Trinity means that God is willing to be with us in whatever way, in whatever place we need God to be. God is willing to create an entire world and give to us to care for. God is willing to take human form and walk with us. God loves us enough to abide with us, guide us and inspire us in the Holy Spirit.

That’s the message of the Holy Trinity: God loves us. Without limits. Without boundaries. Without deadlines. God is present in every moment of our lives. And God knows that we will have moments of doubt—and loves us in that too.

God is the God of Adam and Eve, the God of Moses, the God of the prophets, the God of people throughout human history. Our God is willing to be our Creator—and to walk with us in the Garden of Eden, to invite us to care for Creation, to lead out of the desert, to hand us laws to follow, and to make promises to us and to keep them.

God is the God of the Christmas manger, and the Easter Cross. Our God loves us so much that our God is willing to be human, to be weak and frail, to be afraid and angry, to befriend and to be befriended, to be betrayed and killed, and finally to conquer death and to return to us.god-2391848_640

And God is the God of Pentecost, God of fire and wind. Our God loves us so much that our God is willing to inspire us, to teach us, to lead us in grace each and every day, to guide us so that we help each other and love each other and know each other.

God is present in endings and beginnings. God is present in joy and in suffering. God is with us. In the past, in the present, and in the future. Now, that is what I call some good news!

Now, since we haven’t used up all our energy trying to explain the Trinity, we have plenty left over to LIVE the Trinity. What does that mean? When we live knowing the Trinity with our hearts, we live in faith that whatever happens, God will be in it and it will make a difference.

Better still, it gives us the ability to be creative, flexible, and inspirational in the ways that we serve God.

Since God is willing to be with us in so many ways, we need to be equally willing to serve the world and those around us. All we have to do is recognize the opportunity to preserve and enhance God’s creation, to serve and know Christ in those we meet, and to be the spirit of creativity and inspiration that brings God’s message of never-ending love to the world.

Like Trinitarian theology, that is easy to say and sometimes hard to do. At the same time, we can take the heart of the trinity and let that lead us into what we are called to do. In practical terms, that means keeping our eyes open as we move through the world. It means being open to getting to know unexpected people in unexpected ways. It means being willing to speak the truth, to be the voice of the Holy, in the world. It means living out the three persons of God boldly and without apology.

The exciting part is that that will mean something different for every single person. God chases each of us down with opportunities to live faithfully and in witness to God. Right after this, for example, we’ll be renewing our baptismal vows. 

We will promise to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers. For some of us, that will mean serving on the altar guild, being as a eucharistic minister or visitor, or joining our intercessory or healing prayer ministry.

We will persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we do fall into sin, we will repent and return to the Lord. Part of that is bringing our temptations and failings to our soul friends, those who are making the Christian journey along with us. It’s about encouraging each other and listening to each other. When like the disciples we doubt, then we remind ourselves that the doubt itself is what signals our engagement and faithfulness in knowing God.

We will promise to proclaim in word and example the Good News of God in Christ. That’s a scary one. At the same time, it’s a huge part of the life and work of this parish. It may be the conversations that we have with others about what we believe and how we have come to believe it. It’s also about meeting others where they are, and listening carefully even when we disagree. It’s about caring about relationships (with God and others) more than anything else.

We will promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.  Perhaps that is in serving on our outreach commission, or helping out when we host homeless families as part of the Home and Hope ministry.

We will promise to strive justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of the Earth and of every human being. That’s about being thoughtfully involved in how we spend our time as a parish and as individuals. Of caring deeply about what the decisions we make as a country, a parish, or as family, might affect the rest of the community and the world.

Most importantly, we’ll be promising as individuals and as a community to support our newest members in their life in Christ. We will promise to not jut make room for them but to celebrate the people that they are now and support them as they grow into who they are meant to be.

Without a doubt, the life we live in this community prepares us to make a difference in the world too. Maybe you are called to save the rainforest or protect animals. Maybe you are called to start a recycling program. Maybe you are ideally suited to reach out to children, or those who are sick, or those who are imprisoned, or those who are homeless. Maybe you are called to write, or to speak, to give witness to something that is happening in the world, something that needs to be changed or something that needs to be lauded.

Whatever it is, remember the heartfelt truth of Trinity Sunday: Wherever we go and whatever we do, God loves us enough to be there. All we have to do do is show up and be ourselves.

Preached by the Rev. Hailey McKeefry Delmas at the Church of the Epiphany in San Carlos, CA on June 11, 2017.

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