Accepting The Mystery: A Sermon for Trinity Sunday

The Lectionary Readings for Trinity Sunday 2021 are found here.

One of the things I most enjoy about doing supply is that I get to worship and connect with lots of parishes as a beautiful reminder that we are all a part of something so much bigger than ourselves. And I really like getting to be at the same place for a couple of Sundays in a row because I get to work in the continuous flow of the good news with y’all.

As you know, last week was Pentecost, the day we celebrate the new birth of Jesus’ Church and today we celebrate the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s impossible to talk abut one of these without referencing the other. Pentecost is our inauguration as The Church and the Trinity is the foundation of our communion and community as Jesus’ Followers.

Attempting to explain the Trinity has caused a lot of grief and conflict throughout the history of Jesus’ Church. Much ink and much blood has been spilled. Our human brains have a difficult time grasping this concept of one-yet-three-yet-one.

One of the more common metaphors is the Trinity is an egg: shell, yolk, and white. And while the egg is a good symbol for life, as a metaphor for the Trinity it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. An egg can be separated as all bakers know and as we all learned from Humpty Dumpty, you can’t put it back together again. So, the egg is out. And so is the apple, water, clovers, and any other comparison you can find with Google.

Another comparison I’ve heard is the various roles each of us has in our family units: I am a daughter, mother, and sister all at the same time yet I’m one person. This is close, but my roles aren’t distinct enough to truly reflect the Trinity. And it doesn’t at all take into account Trinity as our ultimate model for community. If I start talking about the daughter me, the mother me, and the sister me as working together to accomplish things, I have a bigger issue than trying to understand the biggest mystery of all time and y’all would need to call a psychiatrist not a theologian to straighten things out.

When I was in seminary, during a late-night mid-semester study session, we came up with a Boston Cream Donut analogy: cream filling, tender pastry, and chocolate glaze. Yeah. By morning we had realized the error of our ways and swore we’d never speak of it again. I’m counting on y’all’s discretion as well.

The greatest lesson I’ve received about the Trinity came from a conversation I had with a Greek Orthodox priest. While in Toronto, I discovered this beautiful Orthodox-church-that-was-once-a-synagogue as part of an ecumenical assignment in my liturgy class and when I could find the time (not often enough), I’d go and just sit in their worship space and pray. I could feel the blessing of years of prayer and worship in this space like a warm safety blanket wrapped around me as I sat. One day the priest came over and asked if he could sit with me and we began to talk. I asked him about the many beautiful icons in the space and in reading one to me that represented the Trinity he said that he didn’t understand why the western church insisted on explaining the Trinity.

The Trinity is a mystery, he told me, a gift that helps to keep us oriented in our relationship with God. Accepting the mystery of the Trinity reminds us that although we are created in the image of God, God is God and we are not.

When we convince ourselves that we can explain the Trinity what we are really doing, whether we realize it or not, is shrinking God down so that we can fit God into our human understanding and contain the very power that created us.

Like our friend Nicodemus in today’s gospel reading, when we try to fit God into our human brain, we miss out on so many gifts.

Nicodemus thought he had it all figured out. He rightly tells Jesus that only God could do the mysterious things Jesus did so he knew that Jesus was from God. “Well said, Nick!” says Jesus and then he tries to take Nick to the next level, which ironically isn’t better knowledge but requires letting go of our need to explain the holy happenings of God in human terms.

Accepting that Jesus is from God isn’t a piece of knowledge we put in a book and set on a shelf, it is the wisdom that reveals who we are and how we are to live.

Jesus says, “Unless we are born from above, we can’t see God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.”

Nick is so sure of his own understanding that he misses what Jesus says. Instead of ‘born from above’ he only hears ‘born’. Instead of letting what Jesus says give him a bigger worldview, he tries to shrink Jesus down to his narrow view.

“How can an adult be born?”

And so Jesus tries again, “Not physical birth but spiritual birth, by baptism, a new life in God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, the life I teach and show and live. Keep your eyes on me and you’ll discover this new birth, the life you are created to live.”

This is the life given by God the Father, revealed by God the Son, and empowered by God the Spirit. The Trinity.

This mystery provides understanding of who and whose we are and teaches us our ultimate purpose: to be in communion with God and to live in community with each other.

The Trinity shows us how we are to pattern our life together: united in love, distinct yet inseparable, all necessary.

Our life together is based on and grounded in God’s love for each of us and our differences are necessary as we talked about last week: it takes each of our gifts and talents and treasures woven together to make the Kingdom complete like a beautiful tapestry.

Our culture and society tell us that our differences are to be used to divide and separate us: Instead of letting your way of seeing the world expand my view, I must preserve my view and tell you yours is impossibly wrong.

But when we let the Unity of the Trinity hold us together, our way of seeing, our worldview, widens to see everyone as beloved children of God.

With a proper acceptance of the mystery of the Trinity we come to know that we are a part of something so much bigger than ourselves. Letting go of our need to fit God into our understanding doesn’t make us less significant but enables us to see our infinite value in God’s Kingdom.

And the more we open ourselves up to each other, the more our understanding of this world grows and together with the Triune God we discover what it is to be a part of the prayer “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

And so, let me end our time together with the words of Paul as he closes his second letter to the church in Corinth:

“And that’s about it, friends. Be cheerful. Keep things in good repair. Keep your spirits up. Think in harmony. Be agreeable. Do all that, and the God of love and peace will be with you for sure. … and may the amazing grace of Jesus Christ, the extravagant love, of God, and the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” Amen.

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