Thursday, June 08, 2017

Reflections on Trinity Sunday, Year A: Of the Godhead and Writer's Workshops

This Sunday, I am preaching at our Diocesan Cathedral. Trinity Cathedral celebrates its dedicatory day with a festival of observances, with the Bishop celebrating and offering the Rites of Initiation, with a special luncheon and with a celebratory flower show. There is a lot going on in our diocesan family, and at the Church that so warmly welcomes our wider community to the embrace of a loving God.

It's my first opportunity to preach to a diocesan community. I have spoken at our Convention, have made reports to the wider body of the Diocese and I lead one of our Convocations as a Dean (hence the invitation to preach at the Cathedral). It is the first time I will preach, though, and I am excited for the opportunity. It is a blessing and a privilege to be able to enjoy this moment, and for the further blessing to invite my own parish to make pilgrimage to our diocesan home place.

That said, preaching at Trinity Cathedral on Trinity Sunday means forging a sermon that does the day and the community some good manner of justice. It's true that this is a Sunday that clergy tend not to look forward to preaching, in general. Why? Because we are confronted with a day and a set of proper readings that celebrate a doctrine that attempts to describe (while avoiding heresy), the nature of the Godhead.

Fine, you say....why not just hand out the illustration above with one of those small boxes of crayons that family restaurants hand out to children and call it a day? Why not just pull out those notes from your systematic theology course in seminary and quote your professor and proclaim it good? Why not go to the back of the prayer book and trot out the Athanasian Creed? Or, better yet, why not come up with a robust metaphor for the Trinity, something that is three-in-one-and-one-in-three? (Yes, we still talk about the infamous "Pop-Tart" sermon I am ashamed to admit I preached, back in the day).

Yeah, I think you are getting the point.

The challenge of preaching to the Trinity falls somewhere between trying to describe a color you have never really seen to a person whose sight has been clouded long enough that they have forgotten it. Or, to pursue another metaphor, preaching the Trinity is like trying to describe middle age to a child. It's not that is can't be done, but it is true that in order to convey the idea there has to be allowance made for radically differing perspectives. If connection is not made, then confusion is RIGHT there.

...and how about this Flemish depiction of the Trinity? Does it calm you? Does it disconcert? Now, consider using THAT as an illustration for your sermon! 

Thus and so, I sit this morning with computer on lap and with morning coffee in hand. What shall I say about the Trinity? What can be said that might offer clarity to this (always, blessedly) confused child of God that I am?

This: that the truth of the Trinity of God cannot be found in the solution of argument. It cannot be forged by human conviction of a concept. It is not a human construct, nor an idea.

It is our best way of embracing God as God reveals Godself to us. It is the deep summation of a memoir of a relationship between God and God's creation. It is an experience of our relating to God, who comes to us in a Christ, who speaks of the beloved parent, Abba/Father and who promises the arrival of the Holy Spirit. It is a commission from that savior/teacher who sends us all out to baptize and to make disciples of all nations in the name of a God we proclaim as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is a tension to embrace, and a relationship to celebrate.

Much the same as we prepare for at the Cathedral on Sunday. We will gather, the sum of all parts, and celebrate a relationship that is because we are made to experience it.

For now, we are off soon to Princeton Theological Seminary's Writer's Workshop. Who knows, perhaps there I will learn how to offer a clearer vision of the doctrine, more fully formed to write and speak by writers and speakers better than I. 


  1. Thanks for this reflection. It is refreshing to think of the Trinity as other than a doctrine we have to figure out or argue for. Thanks for emphasizing the relational aspects of this concept. It is comforting to think of the Trinity as "our best way of embracing God as God reveals Godself to us." We don't have to get it right. We just have to keep open to God as God tries to relate to our finite minds the infinite truths and beauty of God's own being and doing in the world, in our relationships and in our hearts.

    1. Thank you, my friend. You have given me something to pray on, and a ponder the Trinity as a comfort. After so many years in ministry, with too many books and sermons under my belt, I am blessed to have a new perspective on the Trinity as a comfortable revelation of a God who loves us. Bless you and see you tomorrow!