What?

Sermons

Preached by The Reverend Paul D. Allick on Trinity Sunday (Sunday, June 11, 2017)

Trinity Sunday 2008: What?

Genesis 1:1-2:4a; 2 Corinth 13:11-13; Matt. 28:16-20

The Reverend Paul D. Allick, Church of the Advent, June 11, 2017

 

As we contemplate the Holy Trinity this morning, I’d like to share with you this passage from a deuterocanonical source. Some think it may have been redacted from later transcripts of Matthew. It begins in a familiar way.

 

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
 

His disciples answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah or one of the prophets.”

 

Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”

 

Peter answered, “You are the Logos, the second person of the Holy Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple.”

 

Jesus answered unto Peter, “What?”

 

Not every teaching of our faith can be fully defined by us. To be a person of faith is to accept a certain amount of mystery.

 

Here is how I understand the Holy Trinity at this moment in the eternal life God has given me.

 

In God there is no “them” there is only “us.” The feeling behind those words is converse. “Them” implies other, those who are different or wrong. “Us” implies connectedness and cooperation. “Us” feels encouraging. “Them” feels distrustful.

 

At the creation, God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” Who is God addressing? There have been many theories but for Christians it is confirmation that God has always existed as the Holy Trinity, the three in one.

 

In our collect this morning we remembered that God has given us the grace to worship the Unity. God is relational. God is a perfect relationship. God’s being is a “We” or an “Us.” Three persons in such unity that there is no longer a distinction; they are of one substance.

 

In a culture focused on the individual this is hard to understand. We think only in terms of the “I” and the “Me.” Think of the phrases “Personal Salvation” and “Personal Savior.” This is a very Western concept of Christianity.

 

As Jesus gives the Great Commission he does not say, go out and baptize only in my name; go out and make me famous. Jesus gives the commission to baptize in name of the Unity: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

As Paul ends his letter to the Church in Corinth he entreats them to, “put things in order, agree with one another, live in peace.” And then he signs off in the name of the hallowed relationship: the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.

 

Living our spirituality as an individual and relating to God as an individual is easy. Living our spirituality within the relationship of community and relating to God as a relationship is a challenge. It is the reason many people stay away from the Church.

 

Relationships call us out of ourselves. A community based in individualism leads to dissension and stuck-ness. When we read the Epistles we see that it has been a danger for the Church from the very beginning.

 

I like to pray this way; I like this music; I like the chairs to be over in that corner; I want us to spend our money this way.

 

To live in community is to live with constant negotiation. Maybe this is the meaning of the Trinity: a harmonious relationship that has perfected how to live in true peace. That sounds like the kingdom come!

 

In the perfect relationship, guilt, resentment, and irritation would evaporate and forgiveness, a clear conscience, and tolerance would emerge.

Trinity Sunday is a day to consider the Creeds. In them we see how the Church settled on the concept of God as Triune. Getting there was grueling to say the least. Every fiber of the community’s relationship was tested.    

 

In the year 325 the emperor Constantine called together all the bishops. He hosted them at a lake side retreat in Nicaea. He wanted them to work out the question: is Christ of the same substance of God or did God create Christ?

 

This debate began in Alexandria long before the Council was called and continued for nearly a hundred years. The debate was marked by bitter theological debate, physical violence and repeated exiles.

 

The debate ended (sort of, it still goes on) with what we call the Nicene Creed which was actually settled at Constantinople in 381. The Church had to act as an “us” and not a “me”. The Church had to stop seeing “them”. And what came out of this great struggle really didn’t completely satisfy everyone. In fact what came about was a whole new concept: yes, Christ and Holy Spirit could indeed be the same substance as God. Yes, God could be a relationship instead of an individual.

 

With “me” a little bit is possible; with “us” anything is possible.