1 SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY TRINITY Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20 (These appear after the homily.) Father, you sent your Word to bring us truth and your Spirit to make us holy. Through them, we come to know the mystery of your life. Help us to worship you, one God in three Persons, by proclaiming and living our faith in you. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen. W e celebrate today one of those great mysteries of our Christian tradition. It s a mystery that tries to put us in touch with the fullness of God. All of the doctrines that we have in the Church, such as this one that teaches us about God as a Trinitarian God, have the role, it seems to me, of trying to put us in touch with the way of life. Too often, doctrine remains static, fixed, something simply to believe in, to contemplate, to wonder about, without taking it to its next most logical step, that this doctrine, this understanding of God, is to lead us to a way of life, something we should be involved in, something we should be doing. So what I d like to do this morning is simply imagine how we should read this great doctrine, how we should understand it so that it might in a sense change the way we spend our time, the way we live our life. First of all, what we sense in this great teaching is that God has revealed himself in stages. First, we were told that there is this great and powerful God, greater than all the other gods. This God was a marvelous God insofar as he, in all of his greatness, leaned down from his place and longed to call a people together as a community, call them into a place of freedom from slavery. This marvelous God was the God that the Israelites believed in and trusted in. In that first reading, from
2 Deuteronomy, we get an image of how wonderful it is that human beings were able to stand in the presence of this awesome God and not be destroyed by his greatness. That was the fantasy, to be in touch with anything as great as God would simply destroy us. We would not be able to endure his greatness. But as the story in the Old Testament unfolds, we recognize that this God, as great as he is, is somehow able to touch the lives of individual people, to touch the lives of a community of people and to guide them and to lead them. And so the challenge is to pay attention to this God, to follow his direction, to do what he says. If we follow his Law, we will find prosperity in life. That was the first stage of God revealing to his people who he is. You can sense in it there s still a feeling of distance between God and his people. God is the Law-giver, the director, and the people are the followers. But then comes the age of Jesus, the time that we as Christians spend special time with, special attention on. And what we sense in this age is that this God did more than just simply give a command, a direction, but rather he entered into the world in a special way, a more intimate way. It s like this time was a period when people were able to get to know the personality of this God, as it resided in the figure of Jesus. This God as Jesus was intimately involved in the lives of his people. And one of the things that seems so interesting to me is that this figure Jesus was constantly speaking of his people in ways that gave them enormous dignity and value. It s almost as if he was narrowing the gap between God and his people not by making God less, but somehow by making human beings more, bestowing on them greater dignity, greater value, greater worth; that they were eternal beings, destined to be one with God forever, and that this dignity and worth was something that Jesus longed for people to be aware of, to know. Then came the final age, the age of the Spirit. When God reveals himself in a sense as a Spirit that can truly enter into each individual soul and animate and guide and direct that person, it s like now God becomes even more intimate, more close more terrifying [chuckles] in some ways, because he enters into our life and becomes the animating force, the Spirit that guides us, that keeps us balanced. That image of the fullness of God is the image that we are focusing on this Trinity Sunday: God revealing himself as Father, Creator, the one who manages all things, is the source of all things; God the Son, who is the one who enters into our world so that we might see more fully who God really is, and to hear from him words that are clearer than simply the Law clearer in the sense of describing for us who we are; and then God the Spirit, who comes to guide and work intimately inside each of us. Now what I sense in this Trinitarian formula is a process, a very intriguing process that I believe we as Christians, as human beings, go through over and over and over again. It somehow begins with our recognition of something that is greater than ourselves, some great force or power, some great truth that we sense 2
3 and see. When we sense that truth and recognize it, we need to submit to it, and then we are opening ourselves to this truth; we long for it to touch us. But so often when a great truth comes into our awareness, what we sometimes do is have no real, full understanding of it, and all we can really do is submit to it. We can follow it in a sense slavishly; we can do what it tells us to do but without a great deal of understanding. So after this initial insight comes, what follows is a process, a more intimate process of spending time with that truth, with that understanding, with that awareness. And then it somehow begins to become a part of us. We understand it; we know it. That process of it becoming part of us is an interesting one because one of the things that s so dangerous at that period of time when we re making truths our own, is that we tend to fall into a trap, without even realizing it sometimes, of being a little too autonomous, a little too separate from the source of these ideas. Maybe we even begin to subtlely believe that these are our ideas. And that the wisdom and the power that is all around us is somehow our possession, and we can use it any way we want. We become often inflated, too full of ourselves. That s when the next, final stage of this process is necessary and comes into play. And that is when the Spirit comes in to guide us, to balance us. It s hard, it seems to me, to be able to continually keep a balance between what is God s work in my life and what is my work, what is God s truth revealed to me and what is it that I have discovered on my own and come to on my own and honestly and legitimately claim to be my insight. We re dealing with that tension between these two great sources: the source that is in God and the source that God has placed within us that we call ourselves, and when we re dealing with that very intricate balance, what we re desperately in need of is Spirit. We need this guiding force that is beyond us that continually guides us and directs us and keeps us somehow in the right balance. That is the age, I think, of what we call the Spirit; it is the age of the Church; the age in which we are asked to immerse ourselves. So the challenge then, it seems to me, during this time of reflection on the great mystery of the Trinity is not simply to get caught up in how can it be that there is one God with three Persons; how is it that we can believe in a God who is Father, Son, Spirit; how does it work? There is nothing wrong with contemplating that kind of mystery, but it would be ill-advised to simply stay with that kind of reflection on objective truth and not somehow glean from it something that really makes a difference in my daily life. Why did God reveal himself in this way unless it was that this is somehow the way in which human beings grow and change and learn? First to see God as the source of all things, to somehow wrestle with that great truth; and then to allow that truth to become real to us and dealing with it on a day-today basis, working with it, like we worked with the figure Jesus; and then as we integrate that truth into the way we work in our daily lives, we recognize the need for that Spirit to keep us balanced. 3
4 Over and over again, it seems to me, we go through this process. So the challenge has always been to have a faith that is absolutely strong and vital. Jesus said some very interesting things when he teaches us we should be absolutely certain of the things that we believe, with no doubt. I believe that that s one of the greatest impediments to living the Christian life, is that we sort of believe in it, we sort of figure it out, we sort of want to live it. No, we have to give ourselves over to it completely. So when Jesus in this gospel passage is gathering his disciples together and saying that he wants us all to go out and baptize people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and he gives us authority to do this, what he s saying is he wants us to go out there and immerse people in this process, to name them as members of this process to get them to be a people who are working out this Trinitarian formula in their daily life. We are to live, in some way, in the Father and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. We re to live in the process of God revealing himself in these stages not only as who he is but as he reveals to us in these same stages all the truths that he longs for us to understand. Trusting in that truth implicitly is the beginning. Working with that truth in a daily way, enabling us to somehow become intimate with that truth and somehow figure out how it does impact our daily life, and then eagerly longing for the Spirit to continually guide us, so that we stay balanced. I m amazed at how hard it is to keep that balance. I wish that I could expect more of a balance in my own life, and I suppose you feel the same way. But the nature of it all, it seems to me, is that we go in and out of balance as part of the whole process. So we ought never to be discouraged when we are somehow confused about what we believe; we shouldn t be too worried at times if we re not really integrating all the things as well as we should. We ought not to worry too much if we re not open to the guidance of the Spirit. It s simply when we recognize these things, we do that wonderful balancing act where we simply return to the source of what we know we need to be in touch with. The process is like a cycle that we go through over and over again, moving us from a place of doubt to a place of greater faith. That process is certainly something, as we look at salvation history, that was going on throughout the stories. So our challenge then is simply to be a people of great faith, faith in the process that God is calling us to live. I worry so often about people who come to religion and look for life and all they see are dead rules, a theology that doesn t move them. I don t believe that s the fault of religion; it may more be the fault of the listener, the one who comes, because I often wonder what people are really looking to religion for. If they re looking for it to really change their life, if they re looking for it to bring them to a completely new place, if they re that loose, that open, that radically free, then religion has a chance to do its work, then this Trinitarian God has a chance to really change us, to move us. But if we don t want that, if we come to it looking some- 4
5 how for affirmation of what we already want life to be, what we sense it ought to be, or some fixed notion of what others think it ought to be and we want it to be that way also, then we re not going to find the life that s potentially in this great tradition. So we might pray together on this feast of the Trinity, celebrating the fullness of who God is, and simply ask that God open us to all that God longs to accomplish within us. Radical transformation, openness to the truth, a willingness to wrestle with that truth, and constantly be guided by the Spirit to live it. Father, we give you praise for inviting us into a process of growth and change. We thank you for the way in which you continually lead us in this process. Help us to follow you with great confidence, that what you promise will truly be ours, and we ask this in Jesus name. Amen. I want to thank you for listening to or reading this program on my website and remind you that your support is so important to me in terms of being able to continue this time we have together. And if you go on the home page, you ll find a tab for contributions, and there you can, using your credit or debit card, make a one-time contribution or a recurring contribution; there s even a place on the website to sponsor a program, so it can be dedicated to someone you d like to honor. So again, thank you, thank you for your support, and may God bless you. Deuteronomy 4: 32-34, For ask now about former ages, long before your own, ever since the day that God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of heaven to the other: has anything so great as this ever happened or has its like ever been heard of? 33 Has any people ever heard the voice of a god speaking out of a fire, as you have heard, and lived? 34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by terrifying displays of power, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? 39 So acknowledge today and take to heart that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. 40 Keep his statutes and his commandments, which I am commanding you today for your own well-being and that of your descendants after you, so that you may long remain in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for all time. 5
6 Romans 8: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, Abba! Father! 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. Matthew 28: Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. 6
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