June 12, 2022 – Holy Trinity

Prayer of the Day

Almighty Creator and ever-living God: we worship your glory, eternal Three-in-One, and we praise your power, majestic One-in-Three. Keep us steadfast in this faith, defend us in all adversity, and bring us at last into your presence, where you live in endless joy and love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen.

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

1Does not wisdom call,
  and does not understanding raise her voice?
2On the heights, beside the way,
  at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3beside the gates in front of the town,
  at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
4“To you, O people, I call,
  and my cry is to all that live.

22The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
  the first of his acts of long ago.
23Ages ago I was set up,
  at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24When there were no depths I was brought forth,
  when there were no springs abounding with water.
25Before the mountains had been shaped,
  before the hills, I was brought forth—
26when he had not yet made earth and fields,
  or the world’s first bits of soil.
27When he established the heavens, I was there,
  when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28when he made firm the skies above,
  when he established the fountains of the deep,
29when he assigned to the sea its limit,
  so that the waters might not transgress his command,
 when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
  30then I was beside him, like a master worker;
 and I was daily his delight,
  rejoicing before him always,
31rejoicing in his inhabited world
  and delighting in the human race.”

Psalm 8

1| Lord our Lord,
  how majestic is your name in | all the earth!—
2you whose glory is chanted above the heavens out of the mouths of in- | fants and children;
  you have set up a fortress against your enemies, to silence the foe | and avenger. 

3When I consider your heavens, the work | of your fingers,
  the moon and the stars you have set | in their courses,
4what are mere mortals that you should be mind- | ful of them,
  human beings that you should | care for them? 
5Yet you have made them little less | than divine;
  with glory and hon- | or you crown them.
6You have made them rule over the works | of your hands;
  you have put all things un- | der their feet:
7all | flocks and cattle,
  even the wild beasts | of the field,
8the birds of the air, the fish | of the sea,
  and whatever passes along the paths | of the sea.
9| Lord our Lord,
  how majestic is your name in | all the earth! 

Romans 5:1-5

1Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

John 16:12-15

[Jesus said,] 12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

“Hospitality of Abraham”, icon by Andrei Rublev.

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

The Holy Trinity, the center of this Sunday’s celebration, is, I believe, one of the most counter-cultural Christian beliefs. To begin with, we live in what is often called “the information age.” Whether it is true or false, no one can deny that there is an abundance of information.

Amid all this information, however, the concepts of theories, ambiguity, caveats, nuances, and hypotheses are not favored. They take up too much time for a sound bite or tweet and they take up too much room on my internet browser’s newsfeed. There is very little room for either supernatural or the unexplainable. And the Holy Trinity truly is both supernatural and unexplainable. It is mystery—perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of our faith.  

Somehow this mystery has not deterred Christians from naming institutions after the Trinity for years—colleges, seminaries, nursing homes, hospitals, and of course churches. I have never looked up the statistics, but I am quite sure that if we catalogued names of Lutheran congregations in this country, Trinity would come out on top or be a close second to Good Shepherd. 

Today’s celebration is counter cultural for another reason—it is about mutuality and interdependence. I watched a video this week of physician and author Gabor Mate speaking about the “toxic culture of materialism.” In the toxic culture of materialism, materials, and especially the possession of material things, is far more important than connection, love, or spiritual values. 

Mate went on to remind his audience that human beings, we, need relationships, all different kinds of relationships: relationships with the natural world, relationships with other human beings, relationships with meaningful and creative work that contributes to the good of the cosmos, and life-giving relationship with our own selves. We are naturally wired for empathy, compassion and connection but there are many barriers to us practicing those things today.

We, gathered in this space and time, have a clear mandate to love one another as Jesus loves us. And we worship a God who exemplifies community, mutual relationships, and a loving symbiosis. The community within the Trinity speaks to our lives here and now.  

Let us not take the Trinity for granted. Think how radical it was to those early Christians and also new Christians today. The God we worship is not a pantheon of gods like those we read about it Greek and Roman mythology—a roster of gods who are in a power struggle, who often use humans as pawns for their own benefit—Zeus, Athena, Helena, Apollo. 

One writer put it this way: Then, along came the Christians. “Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” What’s this? Still a Unity of Being, but also a Trinity of Persons? The concept was…confusing to those who had dispensed with multiple deities, who had fully embraced the notion of one God, who wanted to keep things plain and simple. Why complicate things? And what does it mean anyway? 

The truth of it all originates in the language of Jesus. In our passage from John today, Jesus was talking with his followers about their futures, when he would no longer walk beside them on earth: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. For all that the Father has is mine.” In another place Jesus declares, “Do you not know that the Father is in me and I in the Father?” Still elsewhere he prays that his disciples may be one “even as the Father and I are one.” This is not the language of form and function. This is the language of relationship, the language of mutual devotion. 

A twelfth-century scholar, Richard of St. Vincent, reflected on this. He spoke of God in terms of shared love, a community in which that love is expansive and generous. It is love that cannot be self-contained. It overflows from Parent to Child to Spirit and back again. These notions are captured so well in the long Athanasian Creed, which I have pondered all week. It captures the relationships within the Trinity so well and so poetically. Here’s just a portion of it:

“We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor diving the divine being. For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another. But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty. What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit. Uncreated is the Father, uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit. The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite,” and on it goes. 

I used to read this creed in our old Lutheran Book of Worship, or green hymnal. I always liked it because the Holy Spirit got more equal footing in this creed than in the Nicene Creed, which we will read today and in which the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. I am not sure why this beautiful creed did not make it into the ELW, our newer cranberry hymnals. It could be its length. It could also be the male father language, which is quite dominant. That’s a fair critique. We do well to remember that both the Bible and all three of our primary creeds were written in patriarchal cultures, cultures in which when men and male language dominated everything else. 

At the same time, there is enough in both scripture and tradition for us to know that the first person in the Trinity is beyond gender. In one of our Communion hymns, the mystic Julian of Norwich wrote, “Mothering God, you gave us birth.” Holy Wisdom, personified in our text from Proverbs, is almost always feminine. The list of female imagery, especially as mother, for God in scripture is actually quite lengthy. What does this mean for those of us worshiping in 2022? So, it’s okay, even good, to change the words occasionally, in our heads or out loud, from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to Mother, Son, and Holy Spirit. What is essential to keep is the equal standing and the relationality captured in the Athanasian Creed and in the Trinity itself. “We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor diving the divine being. For the Mother is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.”

We might also find it both fun and helpful to think beyond gendered words. One of the best ways to do this, because it is so theological appropriate and simultaneously poetic, is to speak of the Trinity as Lover, Beloved, and Love. We speak of the Father who loves, the son who was beloved by the father and Spirit, the Spirit who is love. They are, as the Athanasian Creed professes, coeternal in majesty: Lover, Beloved, and Love.

Some have said that the love of God, the love that IS God, is like a divine Dance, as we will sing today, a dynamic and graceful and deeply intimate movement. In this movement, the God who is “I AM” is not alone, never alone, for the very essence of God is relationship. 

This is far different from those mythological deities of old who were always fighting with one another, rivals and annoyances of one another. This is also far different than much in our materialistic culture today, in which material things, especially the possession of them, matters far more than connection or love. In contrast, what we see in the Trinity is a dance of Persons who are mutually affirming, mutually caring. For the very essence of God is relationship, community, unconditional love.

“Come, join the dance of Trinity, before all worlds begun—the interweaving of the Three, the Father, Spirit, Son.  The universe of space and time did not arise by chance, but as the Three, in love and hope, made room within the dance.”  Love and hope—they are at the heart of the Trinity, and not just within the Trinity.  We are invited into the dance as well.  A dance is not something stagnant.  There is movement and joy.

Yes, for people who trust this Triune God, who choose to be followers of this God, there are real life implications. Yes, it might mean being in a room with people who are different, people who have done awful things, people we have hurt and those who have hurt us. Yes, it can take discipline to learn new steps to the dance, new paradigms, and new ways of seeing. And most scary, at least for me, is that we are not always in control. Are we ever in control? In this dance, we are ultimately free, free to love, free to be loved, and free to invite others to the dance.

“Come, speak a loud of Trinity, as wind and tongues of flame set people free at Pentecost to tell the Savior’s name.  We know the yoke of sin and death, our necks have worn it smooth; to tell the world of weight and woe that we are free to move!”

Prayers of Intercession (From Sundays and Seasons)

United in Christ and guided by the Spirit, we pray for the church, the creation, and all in need.

A brief silence.

One God, giver of life, you established peace through your Son and gave your church the hope of sharing in your glory. Enliven us by your Spirit to speak and act in love for the sake of the world. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Creator of all, you rejoice in creation and have given humankind responsibility for the works of your hands. Instill in everyone your Spirit of care for the earth, especially in areas threatened by ecological devastation (areas may be named). God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Loving Redeemer, you delight in the human race. Move the hearts of world leaders to seek wisdom, speak truth, and care for all endangered by poverty, prejudice, or violence. Further the work of international collaboration and peacemaking. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Abiding Comforter, you call out to all who live. Restore severed relationships and protect children who lack trustworthy caregivers. Grant hope to those who are experiencing fear, pain, or grief (especially). God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Holy Three, you are community and you create community. Build up ministries that support those who are isolated or lonely. Give endurance as we nurture vital relationships in our congregation and beyond. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Holy God, we remember your saints for their strong faith and witness, even unto death. Console grieving families. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

God of every time and place, in Jesus’ name and filled with your Holy Spirit, we entrust these spoken prayers and those in our hearts into your holy keeping.

Amen.

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