2 Corinthians 13:11-13
13:11 Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.
13:13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.
28:17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.
28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
28:19 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,
28:20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
In the Name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
The Church encourages us to pause, before too hastily progressing onward into the lengthy, green, post-pentecost, “ordinary time” (actually not trivializing but meaning numbered time, or ordered time), season; to catch our breathe, after the intense festival-half of the Church year culminates; with the principal feast (or solemnity) of the Holy Trinity. But unlike all the previous feasts we have just past through from Advent to Pentecost each observing events in the life of our Lord, this later evolved addition, Trinity Sunday seems, a bit awkwardly out of joint, celebrating a complex, controversial, theological doctrine. But what if, the feast of the Most Holy & Life-Giving Trinity, instead, actually celebrated relationship & as the traditional collect for this day hints invites us into doxology.
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of thy Divine Majesty to worship the Unity: We beseech thee, that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.
How does one describe the indescribable? The Church has sought to, at least somewhat, describe the indescribable through the creeds. As these were forged in periods of defining controversy in the life of the Church they are by nature adversarial. They define the content of faith by necessary negation. That is why it is perhaps, the creeds so make some folk bristle & are so abrasively irritating to some? The creeds or rather their content seem to be the lightening rod for much of the complaint I pastorally hear. Why is our modern default position one of resistance, is a good reflective question to ask ourselves.
What words are adequate to the task of speaking about God? The witness of scripture & the testimony of Christian mystics is that there are none, we simply stand in stunned awe before the sacred mystery.
But the last word is after all only God’s, who other appropriately, than God’s own Self-revelation. What does God then tell us about God’s own self? We recently heard, “the only Son, God Himself, who is close to the Father’s heart, He has made God known” (John 1:18). These very much sound like creedal language. That is because at their best the creeds are no more than echoing God’s own self identifying testimony, they are mimicking, or “same saying” (homologia), confessing the words that the Spirit (John 14:26) is putting into our mouths about God. But optimally the confession of faith is actually invitation into communion. Less talking about God & more importantly invitation into communion. ” The Father and I are one…so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. ‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’” (John 10:30; 17:22-26). God’s intertwined interwoven persons self identification is about relationship & therefore invitation into deepening communion.
“We adore the mysteries of the Godhead. That is better than to investigate them.” said Philip Melanchthon, one of the 16th century evangelical theologian reformers. What if instead of the creeds being definitive we allowed them to be invitations into the intimate communion of relationship.
We do this quite intuitively liturgically, without much even noticing. Each Liturgy begins, “In the name of the Father, (+) and of the Son, and of the Holy(ing) Spirit” or, “Blessed be the kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and unto ages of ages” or, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” (as per today’s epistle 2 Corinthians 13:13). The priest invokes God’s name inviting Divine presence, identifying Who is called upon. But simultaneously the Divine Name is invoked upon us present. We make the physical sign of the cross upon ourselves owning & claiming embracing the Presence. Similiarly at the conclusion of worship the priest blesses the community with the the Divine Name before the Faithful are resent out back into mission in the world (Matthew 28:16-20), “The Lord bless you & keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord look upon you with favour and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24ff) or, “the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be upon you now and always”. These book end consistent Trinitarian worship that is repeated in the Gloria in Excelsis, in how I commence & conclude every sermon (just as today’s), (daring to claim in Whose Name this prophet speaks), in the “Gloria patri” doxologies now oft lost in modern liturgies, as we join our voices in the angelic Sanctus & the invocations of the eucharistic prayer & oft interwoven throughout. Trinitarian is how we experience God scripturally & consequently in worship.
Trinity is a mystery which cannot be fathomed by unaided human reason but may be experienced intimately in worship. This feast of the Trinity is invitation into deeper communion.
A parishioner responded to last Sunday’s sermon: “It was one day last November, when I had the feeling that I would like to go to church. But where? A few months earlier, I had gone to a concert at St. Bart’s and picked up a brochure about the church – with the quote: “Full of faith or full of doubt – you are welcome ” I figured “full of doubt” described me – I wasn’t sure what I believed or if I believed – or even where this sudden impulse to go to church came from. But I went…”
If we heard any theme oft repeated throughout the gospel readings of the recent paschaltide it was that, that earliest faith community of disciples were full of doubt. On that first paschal morning Peter & the beloved disciple had to go see for themselves when the first (female) witness (Mary Magdalene) news of the emptied tomb was so inconceivable (John 20:1-10); Then, next, we heard of Thomas’ determined disbelief (John 20:25,27); Then, of the devastatingly complete loss of hope of the Emmaus-ward companions (Luke 24:21-24); After that, we heard the Risen Lord’s invitation, that even in face of his imminent departure; “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1). “But some doubted” is likewise the status of disciples in today’s gospel.
That the Church communally confesses what some individually might struggle with as doubtful is the same creative tension which today’s gospel expresses. While the rising Lord commissions the worshipping community to go forth perpetuating His Divine mission sacramentally evangelizing in the Triune Name, there is yet room for the doubtful too (28:17). This is further substantiated by the very sacrament referred to; it is the practice of the catholic churches to practice inclusive baptism. That is we baptize even, illustratively, infants, those unable to articulate the faith. We baptize trusting the promise & Promiser, to fulfill, to fill with faith in due time & through due creative process. Just as any christian, from learned theologian to simple person of faith may not entirely ever comprehend the depths of the mysteries of describing the indescribable, yet together & in worship we may each & all be immersed in the One who calls into intimate personal relationship with Himself.
Full of doubt is our common modern default position too. Being full of faith, faith/ful isn’t easy. But the good news of today’s feast invites us “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). In those moments of challenging doubt, “remember”, relationship, we are not alone, “I am with you (plural)”. “Always”, even and especially in those moments we can least believe it. In this particular time of tumult, dissension & divisiveness. “To the end of the age” or, as it all comes unravelled in upheaval, or, “as it was (the unending cyclical hymn of doxa) in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever” as the ancient doxology had it. And doxology is a fitting conclusion and all we finally have left. “Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory δόξα (doxa), which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” -The Risen Lord prays. And “by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of thy Divine Majesty to worship the Unity: We beseech thee, that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith, and evermore defend us” we, the Church, echo, same say, in our prayer. AMEN
And both appropriate beginning and ending…The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
In the Name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
the Reverend Brian Heinrich