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Trinity Sunday

Readings

Old Testament

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand

   and marked off the heavens with a span,

enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure,

   and weighed the mountains in scales

   and the hills in a balance?

Who has directed the spirit of the Lord,

   or as his counsellor has instructed him?

Whom did he consult for his enlightenment,

   and who taught him the path of justice?

Who taught him knowledge,

   and showed him the way of understanding?

Even the nations are like a drop from a bucket,

   and are accounted as dust on the scales;

   see, he takes up the isles like fine dust.

Lebanon would not provide fuel enough,

   nor are its animals enough for a burnt-offering.

All the nations are as nothing before him;

   they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

Why do you say, O Jacob,

   and speak, O Israel,

‘My way is hidden from the Lord,

   and my right is disregarded by my God’?

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

   the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

   his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

   and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,

   and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,

   they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

   they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:12–17, 27–31

Psalm

1  O Lord our governor, •

   how glorious is your name in all the world!

2  Your majesty above the heavens is praised •

   out of the mouths of babes at the breast.

3  You have founded a stronghold against your foes, •

   that you might still the enemy and the avenger.

4  When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, •

   the moon and the stars that you have ordained,

5  What is man, that you should be mindful of him; •

   the son of man, that you should seek him out?

6  You have made him little lower than the angels •

   and crown him with glory and honour.

7  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands •

   and put all things under his feet,

8  All sheep and oxen, •

   even the wild beasts of the field,

9  The birds of the air, the fish of the sea •

   and whatsoever moves in the paths of the sea.

10  O Lord our governor, •

   how glorious is your name in all the world!

Psalm 8

Epistle

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

2 Corinthians 13:11–13

Gospel

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Matthew 28:16–20

Sermon on Trinity Sunday

If you read your magazine, you know what red letter day we celebrate today. Today is Trinity Sunday, the festival the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church celebrates today, the week after its birthday of Pentecost. The Trinity is the foundation for the anglican communion and all the other confessing churches. Our creed specifies just what the significance of our belief is, in terms of a particular manifestation of the divine – we confess that God appears in and to the world as the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, having been given to the world by God the Father, and abides in the world in the Holy Spirit.

We remind ourselves of this fact throughout our worship by repeating the formulaic phrase, “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” in various configurations, as in the gloria at the end of the psalms we recite, or in the endings of so many hymns where we remember the glory, the power and the majesty of God in the persons of the Trinity.

This is the bedrock of our understanding of the God who is with us! We sum up all our feelings, thoughts and devotion in that expression of Trinitarian thought.

Don’t we get rather hot under the collar when one of our bishops begins to investigate the statement of our Trinitarian principles? What else can we do when that fellow parses the phrases like a linguist, and then breaks apart the formula like a mathematician in order to prove it to his satisfaction? Being upset, I am afraid, does not help, because we may never listen to the other fellow and hear what he is saying to us. We ought to be calmly assertive and engage in conversation about the essence of God’s manifestation in our world with that bishop and our fellow worshippers. Paul’s words for today, I think, could put us back on track.

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

His final word is for us to “Fare well.” Paul exhorts us to “put things in order.” How can we do that if we are so excited that we forget to listen to anyone? When we “listen to another person’s appeal,” we can “agree with one another.” He tells us, “Live in peace.” How can we agree, if we do not listen. How can we live in peace if we do not hear what the other person is saying? Paul has issued us a three-fold exhortation to action, hasn’t he? This persuasion assures us that “the God of love and peace will be with us.” Paul wants us to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Then he gives us his final greeting and blessing.

All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

This is the earliest of Trinitarian expressions from Paul.

What to do? All of this sage advice and the Church and the country are still disconcerted. This weekend, I think we need to calm down as a society, let alone as the Church, in order to get on with Paul’s project for us. We are in the midst of a great change here and now, aren’t we? Don’t we need to agree with one another and put things in order?

What a time it has been over the past few weeks! Terror has come to all of our streets, and to what end? Again, I think we should listen to Paul’s appeal for agreement – if only we would agree to disagree – to live in peace, but most importantly we need to put things in order. Just what that order is needs to be agreed. Paul is recommending a virtuous circle – discuss to the point of agreement, living in peace, putting things in order – this cycle of improvement is never-ending. Paul’s world was also one filled with terror just like ours, so his project is apt for today. Don’t we all want to live in the peace and love?

I would liken this virtuous circle of working towards God’s love and peace to the Trinity. I am not the first to do so. St Augustine did it a long time ago in his book on the Trinity. – Rest assured, I will not rehearse all the arguments in Augustine’s life-long project which runs to about six hundred of pages. – Following the early fathers of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and taking Augustine as an example, we find that there is a thread within the tradition that speaks of the final goal for human being as the reality of the image of God. We all know that Adam and Eve did not quite make the grade, but the hope is that each one of us will do so – in other words, that we should live in that virtuous circle of hope, love and peace. “Christian Trinitarian spirituality is a continual rhythm of receiving love and giving love.”

[Augustine] reminds his readers that to be mindful of God in this way and to image the Trinity who is Love is a lifelong process and the dynamic vocation of every human creature. The image will be perfected in the future, transformed through the Spirit. “When this image therefore has been renewed by this transformation, and thus made perfect, then we shall be like to God, since we shall see him not through a mirror, but just as he is, which the Apostle calls face to face”(1 Cor. 13.12). [Mary T. Clark De Trinitate]

Augustine’s vision of the God of love is a radical rethinking of this love. “Love is a lifelong process and the dynamic vocation of every human creature” – process and vocation at the same time. We often talk of process, but in terms of perfecting health and safety paperwork, not of perfecting love. And  have you heard anyone talk of vocation as a goal except here in church? Even in church we don’t speak of love as a vocation, as the calling out of the essence of a person in active αγαπη?

“The originality of Augustine is mainly found … in the centrality he gave to love in Trinitarian life, and to love as renewing human likeness to the Trinity.” This ancient patristic notion of the image of God as the essence of humanity has been lost to the current generations. Modernity has no concept of any ideal essence of the human being. Rather we all think human being is frail and denatured, never to recover innocence and goodness, because of experience in the world.

This rather poor expectation of ourselves is based on a misreading of Augustine and Paul. They did not appraise mankind as irredeemable, but they hoped for the salvation of mankind through the redemption of the image of God within each and every one of us. Augustine saw the Trinity played out in our love for one another. The Father and the Son are the lover and the beloved, the Holy Spirit the loving relationship established between them. Why can’t we do this in our own lives – to imitate this love within the Godhead in our own lives? Trinity is our essence – it must become our manifestation through our personal and our christian love.

Amen

This sermon is from Stilman Davis. It is copyrighted. You are welcome to use it, but put some extra money in the plate if you do.

Sermons are spoken. They whistle in the wind and enter your ears to echo for some time between them. However, sermons are destined to go on into the distance after they have resonated with you.