June 5, 2023

June 4, 2023, Holy Trinity

June 4, 2023, Holy Trinity

GOSPEL:  Matthew 28:16-20

After his resurrection, Jesus summons his remaining disciples and commissions them to baptize and teach all nations in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”



The Holy Trinity is a relationship that became a doctrine.  Some of the biggest in-house arguments of the Church in the last 2000 years were fought over how exactly the Father relates to the Son and how they both relate to the holy spirit.  It is not a doctrine that shows up in scripture, but rather a relationship we can only view through our limited lens.  Trying to describe God with human language has always been a tricky one, perhaps as tricky as our relationships with our siblings in Christ.

And yet we are made for relationship. We were made for partnership and community.  God goes to great lengths to try to show us the best ways to live together, because relationships can be tricky.  God gave us Ten Commandments, the best ways for us to live together and, God gave us lots of chances. God gave us the prophets to remind us of God’s ways and set an example.   But because of sin, we will always need the relationship advice column.  But in Jesus, God offers forgiveness, for the purpose of turning around and forgiving our neighbor, spouse, or co-worker.

Paul reminds the Corinthians of a few relationship tips in the last lines of his letter – “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. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”

Jesus meets his disciples on the mountain top, where he had directed them to go after his resurrection, and even his disciples aren’t exactly of one mind.  When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted.  Jesus seems not to mind, but instead gives them a mission and starts with reminding them about his authority.  He doesn’t start off by demanding their correct belief or to cast aside their doubts but instead to act, because he has given them authority to do so.

But what sort of authority is this?   In Matthew, Jesus’ authority is associated with his healing and forgiveness.  Freeing people.  This is the difference between acting authoritatively and acting with authority.  It is not demanding submission or seeking to subjugate – but empowering and liberating.   The goal of Christian discipleship is not to conquer the world for Christ’s sake, but to liberate the world for Christ’s sake.  The power of the Holy Spirit is how – working among us, calling us together, sending us out, sparking and kindling faith and love.  Despite our doubts.  To expand the kingdom and show love and forgiveness to all.

The words we speak in the creeds, whether it be the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed, are about more than just correct doctrine.    In our church, the creed is often introduced with words like, “Let us confess our faith using the words of the Apostles’ Creed,” but in the Orthodox church, before the creed is sung, the priest introduces it with these words:

“Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess the Holy Trinity, one in essence and undivided. Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess the Holy Trinity.”

The creeds are not to be blindly followed but are our best attempt at using human language to describe the divine.  And remember to love one another in doing so.  These statements of belief can be hard to wrap our heads around without some level of doubt mixed in with our faith.

The ancient doctrine of the Trinity arose out of early Christian reflection on scripture, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. For his earliest followers, encountering Jesus was somehow encountering God directly — and at the same time, Jesus spoke of God as both distinct from him (as when he prayed to God, or spoke of God as the One who sent him) and yet nevertheless “one” with him. There was both a “two-ness” and a “oneness” in play, and so Christians sought out ways to express this mystery with poetry and precision.

Likewise, early disciples experienced encounters with the Spirit as encounters with God directly — and at the same time, Jesus spoke of the Spirit as a guiding, challenging presence distinct both from him and from the One to whom he prayed. And so arose, over time, the church’s doctrine of the Trinity, the idea that God is properly conceived as both Three and One. Not three Gods — for that would miss God’s oneness.

Did you ever notice the part in the creation story, where God talks to Godself?  Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.   Who is God talking to?   Why is God talking in the third person?

Let us make people, not just one person, but people living in relationship, though different and diverse, they’ll be like us.

One humankind.  The image of the divine.  Intentional Diversity represents God.

As Jesus commands his disciples to make disciples, he invokes an intentional diversity of all nations.  As Jesus initial ministry spread beyond just the Jewish people to include gentiles, now it is made clear that all gentiles are included in that.  God’s expansive mission to love and liberate all people is for all people, slave and free, men and women, and everyone in between. The sins of racism, sexism, and homophobia have no place in this mission, neither does Christian nationalism.  These are things that not only lead us away from God but lead us away from intentional diversity and love of neighbor.

“We are made in the image of a triune God. Full humanity, we might say, is never in the singular, never merely I” or me”; it’s always in the plural, always us” and we.” [1]

And all God’s people say amen.

Pastor Erin

[1] https://www.saltproject.org/progressive-christian-blog/2020/6/1/relationships-are-who-we-are-salts-lectionary-commentary-for-trinity-sunday


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