Today is Trinity Sunday. Today we reflect on the doctrine that is the great mystery of our faith, the doctrine about the very nature of God.
I want to start with the doctrine itself. But what interests me is the way the Trinity shapes our Christian lives, our standing invitation to live “trinitarianly.” (Full disclosure: I made up that word!)
The Bible doesn’t define the doctrine of the Trinity for us, at least not with real clarity. What we get instead are passages like our readings for this morning.
In our Gospel reading, the one speaking, Jesus, is God incarnate. Jesus acknowledges his heavenly Father as the source of all that Jesus has. And Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will declare to us what Jesus has from the Father as the Spirit guides us into all truth. The passage is a little confusing. But we have Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the three persons of the Trinity.
We see the same thing in our passage from Romans. Paul tells us that we have peace with God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. And, Paul adds, God’s love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Again Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Based on passages like these, and there are a lot more, the Church defined the doctrine of the Trinity as it comes down to us, to virtually all Christians, today. You know this. God is one nature in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Now, it is good for us to know what the doctrine of the Trinity is. But for most people, the doctrine of the Trinity seems hard to understand, it seems abstract and not all that relevant to our lives as Christians. We want to know God better, but how does the doctrine of the Trinity help us to do that? How can we live trinitarianly?
In fact, we do live trinitarianly, even if we don’t normally use that word or think of our lives that way.
Start with our worship this morning. In a few minutes, we will share Holy Eucharist. As one of the key parts of the consecration, we will ask God the Father “to send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant.”
I think of this prayer as the moment when the Holy Spirit brings God down to us. Thanks to the grace of the Father, the Holy Spirit makes Christ present to us in the sacrament.
Then we pray that God “unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, [through Christ], being sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (369).
The Holy Spirit, who first makes Christ present to us, then unites us to Christ, making us acceptable to God the Father. The Holy Spirit unites us with Christ and so with God. This is the Holy Spirit, who brings God down to us also lifting us up to God.
Here's the point. In the Eucharist, we relate to the one God in three persons, the Holy Spirit bringing Christ to us as an act of the Father’s grace and also uniting us to Christ and through Christ to the Father. When we share communion, we are worshipping trinitarianly.
The same is true every time we pray.
In the passage from Romans that was assigned for last Sunday, Paul tells us that “when we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is [the Holy] Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (8:15-17).
So, every time we pray to God the Father, like we do in the Lord’s Prayer among others, the Holy Spirit is in us, praying with us, uniting us to Christ as “joint heirs” of the Father. Christians often pray to the Father in the name of Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit. But even if we don’t say those words, Paul tells us, we pray trinitarianly.
The same is true for the rest of our lives, too.
Think about a time when you got it right, when you acted with love, generosity, compassion, forgiveness. In my experience, it is always a mixed bag. I never get it entirely right. But every once in a while, I have a good moment.
I think about my last time at Church without walls, a month ago. Bishop Beckwith was with us that Sunday, and he had preached. I had thought he might say a few words at our Church without walls service, too, but he wanted to participate, not lead. Inevitably, I had arrived a few minutes late. As always, our little congregation was lively.
But as I tried to do my thing, and as we went back and forth, I felt the Spirit moving. It seemed like the Spirit was joining us together somehow, more or less like what happens here on Sunday mornings. I felt a kind of love for the people gathered in the Parish Cupboard that day, but it went beyond my feelings. We were gathered in Christ’s name, and the Spirit brought us together as the body of Christ. And as the body of Christ, we experienced, however imperfectly, God’s grace and God’s forgiveness. We were together trinitarianly.
On another occasion, as I was driving home, I got caught at a light with a homeless man holding a sign right next to me. I have mentioned this particular traffic light in sermons before. It is a regular blessing and bane in my life. The light is long, and on this particular day I had just missed it.
As is often the case when I get caught at this light, I was tired and not much interested in talking. I rolled down my window to give the man a little money, and it turns out he was interested in talking. My guess is, he had been standing there for a while, bored, and without time for much more than a very quick greeting and thanks to the people who interacted with him at all.
This man and I only had time for a short conversation while I sat there, but we connected. I don’t want to exaggerate the connection. We are not now best friends. I don’t even know his name.
But for that minute, the Spirit moved between us, linking us as brothers in Christ, joint-heirs of God. God’s love didn’t exactly pour into my heart, as Paul puts it, but God’s love did trickle in. And as I started to drive away, the man blessed me. There was Spirit, and Christ, and God the Father. We had had a trinitarian interaction.
We can have that kind of trinitarian interaction, we can live trinitarianly, anytime. All we have to do is be open to the Spirit which is always in us and around us, always uniting us to Christ and to each other, always reconciling us to God our Father.
I invite you this week to pay attention to the trinitarian moments in your own life. I invite you to start each day by asking God to open your eyes and your hearts to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Then watch for the Holy Spirit through the day. And that night, thank God for whatever happened. Because living trinitarianly is a great gift that draws us more deeply into the mystery of our God.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 For a full statement of the doctrine, you can look at the “Creed of Saint Athanasius” in the back of the Prayerbook, pages 864-865.
6/17/2022 08:33:11 am
I took your "challenge" to heart and started paying closer attention to trinitarian moments. I counted no fewer than 6 straightforward examples of this in today's morning prayer. Now for the rest of the day.
6/28/2022 09:53:48 am
I am reading this late, but do plan to watch for trinitarian moments. I also want to become aware of moments that should be trinitarian, but that are not because I let being too full of myself get in the way.
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Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan