Sermons That Work

Trinity Sunday Celebrates…, Trinity Sunday (C) – 2001

June 10, 2001

Trinity Sunday celebrates the union for all time of God and God’s people. It is the day when the fullness of God’s presence in all aspects of the life of God’s people is recognized and lifted up. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition of Christianity, the relationship is expressed very simply and directly–like a neatly wrapped package–by the monk and mystic called Simeon the New Theologian: The Holy Trinity, pervading all men from first to last, from head to foot, binds them all together. This tells all Christians, not only Eastern Orthodox believers, an important truth. The Trinity is not just a theological idea that is “out there” someplace, too complex for most people to understand. The Trinity is intimately with us all as a fact of our spiritual existence. It is the great Fact, you might say, that tells us how we relate to God, to ourselves, and, most importantly, to each other.

Great truths are probably never understood instantly and completely by most humans–not even by the saints among us. Most of us do have some idea about the relationship of Father and Son in the Trinity because we recognize that kind of connection. It has some immediate resonance in our human experience. We have had parents. Some of us have had loving and nurturing parents. It is probably the nature of the Holy Spirit, the role of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity, which has given Christians, both theologians and everyday people, trouble over the ages. And it is interesting to see the care taken, in all of the readings we have heard today, to help us understand that role.

In today’s passages from John’s Gospel, we have the parting messages of Jesus to the faithful on earth about how they will experience his absence, how they will cope with a world without his physical presence after he has joined the Father. And Jesus reassures the faithful that they will bear his physical absence because of the binding power of the Holy Spirit that will, in a sense, explain to them the total presence of the Holy Trinity in their lives. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

It is not easy for humankind to conceive of the width, the breadth, the full majesty of the Holy Trinity. It is probably easier for us to deal with the “relationships” or connections between the persons of the Trinity, because on a superficial level they do indeed seem to bear some resemblance to relationships we know within the human family. However, our readings for today are not all so direct and almost down to earth as today’s Gospel. Although the Holy Trinity can be, and should be, understandable to us on some level, it is also one of the profound mysteries of the faith. And it is a mystery so deep that we can, perhaps, only hope to throw pebbles into the pool of belief and try to understand what the ripples might connote.

There are certainly hints of the mystery in our reading from Revelation with its vivid and strange description of coming into the heavenly Presence, the throne of God:

Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God; and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal.

The creatures gathered around the heavenly throne sing a song familiar to us all:

Holy, holy, holy,
The Lord God the Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come.

The word pictures of this holy place are full of the imagery of mystery. We hear of “…four living creatures, each of them with six wings…full of eyes all around and inside.”

All of this reminds us of the things about God and the Holy Trinity we cannot hope to fully understand. But it would be a shame to be so dazzled by the mystery to lose track of what we can know. John’s Gospel does indeed bring us a forthright statement of Our Lord about what we can expect, once he is physically absent from our world. The Fact of the Holy Trinity means that the eternal presence, the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each Person explaining and binding us to the other (and to each other), will be with us to the end of time.

The following lines of this Hymn of the Resurrection, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, would be a good prayer to say, and to sing in our hearts today:

I glorify the power of the Father,
I magnify the power of the Son,
And I sing a hymn of praise to the power of the Holy Spirit;
One Godhead,
Trinity indivisible, uncreated,
equal in essence and reigning forever.


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Christopher Sikkema


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