Trinity Sunday: So What?

Sermon for May 26, 2013
Trinity Sunday, Year C
Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31; Canticle 13; Romans 5: 1-5; John 16; 12-15
The Rev. Margot D. Critchfield

Today we are celebrating Trinity Sunday, and if I were sitting where you are this morning, instead of standing where I am, I’m pretty sure my response to that particular bit of breaking news would be something like, “Yeah, so what? Why should I care?” I’d be wondering what relevance an abstract and churchy concept like the doctrine of the Trinity could possibly have to the cares and complications my very real, daily life.

So, if I’m even a little bit close to describing what some of you are thinking, let me start by assuring you that questions like these are not at all irreverent or unreasonable.  In fact they’re really quite faithful. Because one of the primary reasons we come here is to wrestle with how our lives and our faith intersect and how we can strengthen the connections between them.  With the doctrine of the Trinity, this is no easy matter.

My mentor always says that it’s impossible to explain the doctrine of the Trinity without committing a heresy. I have no doubt that is true; as far as I know it’s impossible to explain the doctrine of the Trinity, period, heresy or not.  Mind you, it’s not for lack of trying:  For those of you who like that kind of thing, I’ve got a lot of great books, by some really smart people, who have tried over the centuries to describe the ineffable with the language of the concrete.

So I’m not even going to try to explain how the God we worship can be one God in three persons, each of whom is distinct, yet each of whom is wholly and entirely God; I’m not going to try to explain how each of these persons has distinct properties, yet is co-equal and co-eternal with the other — the eternal three in One and One in three, engaged in a perichoretic dance of dynamic and reciprocal relationship, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Nope, I’m not going there.  The doctrine of the Trinity, like the very God it seeks to explain and illumine, is an inexplicable mystery.  May it remain so always!

But inexplicable does not mean irrelevant. For one thing, the Christian understanding of God as Trinitarian is what distinguishes us from our brothers and sisters at the Unitarian Church on the Town Common, at the synagogue in Hingham, and at the mosque in Quincy.  In this age when interfaith dialogue has the potential to unlock the doors to mutuality, peace, and understanding in our world, that’s an important distinction to be aware of and to appreciate.

But even more relevant in our daily lives is what the Trinity tells us about God’s generosity.  God loves us each so individually and wants to be in relationship with us so intimately, that He generously gives Himself to us in multiple ways of understanding and experience:  God the Father ( Mother/ Creator); God the Son (Jesus/Christ) and God the Holy Spirit ( Holy Ghost/ Breath of God).

Sometimes we may pray to God, other times to Jesus, still other times to the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes one may seem more accessible and easier to relate to than another. So much depends on where we are in our life, our religious upbringing, and our understanding of scripture. Perhaps we pray to the Father, follow Christ in our daily lives, and depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance or inspiration.

As Jews, the earliest Christians had always experienced God as transcendent.  Then God put on flesh and bones in the person of Jesus, and suddenly they knew God differently and more intimately.  After Pentecost, these early believers knew God even more intimately—recognized God’s Spirit shimmering everywhere, even within themselves, in the reality of the Holy Spirit.

God was beyond them, with them, and within them.  So too, God is beyond us, with us, and within us.

A magnificent piece of music, a sky saturated with stars, or a breathtaking work of art might awaken us to the awesome beauty of an utterly transcendent God—God the Creator, the Source of All That Is, who “saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”

Meditating on gospel stories about Jesus, reading the Sermon on the Mount, serving or ministering to others, sharing in the bread and wine of Eucharist—these might renew in us a lively sense of God the Son, the compassionate reformer, the wounded Healer and Reconciler.

And with every breath we take, in every intuitive gleaning to which we are attentive, in the electric energy that dances in the air whenever two or more people authentically connect, and in the abundant grace of the “holy coincidences” we experience in daily life, we might meet God the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes I relate to God as the One who created me, to Jesus as God teaching me how I was created to live, and to the Holy Spirit as God empowering me to live that way, bit by bit.  Sometimes I pray to God, sometimes to Jesus, sometimes to the Holy Spirit.  But I am always praying to the One and the same God, even as I experience them differently.  And I figure God’s good with that, as long as I’m praying!

There’s no right way or wrong way to be in relationship with God.  There’s just this open invitation from the One God who’s very nature it is to be generously accessible…the One God who is with us every moment of our lives, loving us into being, beckoning us to follow, and offering us the wisdom, guidance and inspiration we need to confront the cares and complications of our daily lives.  Surely that is as relevant as it gets. Surely that is worth caring about.  Surely that is precisely what connects our faith and our life.  And that, my friends, is why we’re celebrating Trinity Sunday!  Amen.


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