Two weeks ago, from this very spot, Deacon Terry promised that the doctrine of the Trinity would be made clear today. I am happy to say that we will keep his promise. All you need to do is talk to him after this service, and he’ll explain the whole thing.
That’s a joke, of course. But it does reflect how I have historically understood Trinity Sunday. I have always thought of Trinity Sunday as devoted to doctrine, to ideas that we hold in our heads. And I have understood the preacher’s task on Trinity Sunday as explaining, or at least trying to explain, the doctrine of the Trinity. That’s why I have always tried to get Terry to preach on Trinity Sunday.
But this year it finally hit me. Trinity Sunday is not really about the doctrine of the Trinity. Trinity Sunday is not about ideas in our heads. Trinity Sunday is about the Trinity itself. Today is about God, about the God we know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
That’s why we celebrate Trinity Sunday the week after Pentecost.
We’ve been focusing on the different persons of the Trinity.
So, two weeks ago, we finished the seven weeks of the Easter season. Easter is all about the resurrection of the Son of God and the Son’s ascension to the right hand of the Father.
Last week we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, the person who unites Father and Son so perfectly that all three persons share one divine nature.
When the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples on that first Pentecost morning, two thousand years ago, the Spirit united the disciples with God and with each other, and the Spirit empowered Peter and the rest to begin doing what the risen Christ had told them to do, to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Now, having celebrated the Son in the Easter season and the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, today we celebrate the Trinity as a whole: God the Father, source of all things; God the Son eternally begotten of the Father and sitting at the Father’s right hand; and the Holy Spirit, proceeding from Father and Son, perfectly united with Father and Son, and actively uniting us as the body of Christ and, through Christ, with the Father.
Our celebration of the Trinity is therefore also a celebration of unity. The perfect union of the three persons in the godhead, and also the emerging union, the union in process, of us with each other and of all of us with God.
In our divided and alienated and broken world, we need to hear that message, the Christian message of union, which is the meaning of Trinity Sunday. As Christian people in particular, we need to not only hear that message of union; we need to put it into practice in our lives. As Paul says, we are called to a “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18), a ministry of uniting.
I think about my own experience of union.
My most relevant relationship is with Carrie. A little over thirty years ago, we became “one flesh” (Gen 2:24) in the eyes of God. But, I realize this may shock some of you, our union as one flesh was extremely imperfect on August 1 1992. All too often, I was all about me. I prioritized my individual wants and needs over Carrie’s and over our relationship.
I still do that, of course. But over time, I have gotten better. I have gotten used to thinking not just about me, but about us. I have come to see that Carrie really is part of me, part of who I am, and I am a part of her. We remain two different people, but we are also a couple, a unit.
Our marital union remains a work in progress. But our union is a real thing. And someday, not in this lifetime but in the kingdom of God, our union will be perfect. Two persons perfectly united as one flesh.
The same is true for us as Church. We come together in worship, and the Holy Spirit swirls around, and we are united with each other as Christ’s body.
But our union with each other is imperfect. We all sometimes act in selfish and sinful ways, compromising our unity and so undermining the work of the Holy Spirit.
But we keep working away at it. And we pray, in our Prayers of the People, “that our divisions may cease, and that all may be one as you [Christ] and the Father are one.” And the Holy Spirit keeps swirling around and pulling us together, and, despite regular setbacks, our union grows stronger.
Like my marriage, our union as Church here at Saint David’s is a work in progress. And it’s real. And it will finally be perfect in God’s kingdom.
I think about our nation. One of our national mottos is “e pluribus unum,” “out of many, we are one.”
But it doesn’t always feel like we are truly one, that our States are truly United. I take perverse comfort in the fact that division is not a new problem for our country. Right from the beginning, our founders worked hard to establish a “more perfect union” because the actual union was in fact pretty divided.
Unity remains an aspiration at least as much as a reality. But, our divisions notwithstanding, I still like to think that the overwhelming majority of our citizens recognize that we are one people, stuck with each other and committed to a common set of ideals. I like to think that union still runs deeper than division in our national life.
And we can keep going, keep expanding, because God’s kingdom is bigger than any nation. Every human being, and the rest of creation, too, are called “very good” by God. All of us, and all things, are embraced in God’s all-encompassing love, all created by God, all holding together in Christ (Col 1:17), all being reconciled to God through the blood of the cross (Col 1:20).
It is easy to see division, brokenness, misunderstanding and hostility, all around us, in our lives, in our relationships, and in the world.
But on Trinity Sunday, we remember that God is one, perfect union of three persons, that union is God’s will and God’s mission, that union is therefore our destiny.
I encourage you to spend some time this week looking for signs of union around you, at whatever level.
Even more, I encourage you to commit yourself to working for union.
Think about someone from whom you feel divided. It could be someone as close as a family member or someone as distant as a national or international political leader.
Pray for that person. And pray that you might experience a bit more unity in your relationship with that person, even if it is just a shift in how you feel about him or her.
Because God calls us to unity in love. God the Father invites us to experience the unity of divine love in Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit. And the triune God is busily making sure that we accept that divine invitation.
Thanks be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan