He recalled the husband, who said when he became a father, he better understood the Trinity. When he and his wife had their son, they had evidence of their love for each other. There was the lover, the beloved, and the love, each distinct and yet one.
**********I enjoy the playful description of Daniel Durken of the Trinity. The Father played creator and was overjoyed that the world turned out so attractively. The Son played redeemer and put everything right again in the wounded world by stretching out His arms on a cross. The Spirit played sanctifier. He made room in the heart of each of us for the Trinity. "Today," says Durken, "the Trinity invites us to keep playing with them this delightful game of life and love." And why not? We have nothing to lose but our chains.
"To try to deny the Trinity endangers your salvation, to try to comprehend the Trinity endangers your sanity." Martin Luther
***********Tertullian on the Trinity
Tertullian, one of the theologians of the early church, explained the Trinity in a metaphor. God the Father he described as "a deep root, the Son as the shoot that breaks forth into the world, and the Spirit as that which spreads beauty and fragrance." Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com
____________________________Faith and Knowledge
Faith and knowledge are two different things. Faith makes us into obedient servants, but knowledge only makes us trivia experts. It's as if Jesus is saying, "Hold your questions to the end. Right now your primary task is loyalty and obedience." Kenneth W. Collins, The Great Commission
**************Our faith: It is a relationship of Trust and commitment.
“Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.” (Augustine.)
***********Our experience of God leads us to an understanding of God. Theology seeks to understand the truth God has revealed to and through the experience of his people. Definition of Theology: Faith seeking understanding.
1. Experience is how we ENCOUNTER God2. Theology is what we KNOW of God
3. Spirituality is how we LOVE God
************Dr. Henry Morris: The universal testimony: A good illustration of the Trinity comes from world-renowned scientist Dr. Henry Morris. He notes that the entire universe is Trinitarian by design. The universe consists of three things: matter, space, and time. Take away any one of those three and the universe would cease to exist. But each one of those is itself a trinity.
Matter = mass + energy + motion.
Space = length + height + breadth.
Time = past + present + future
Thus the whole universe witnesses to the character of the God who made it (cf. Psalm 19:1).
Michel DeVerteuilThis Sunday the liturgy invites us to celebrate the feast of the Trinity. In our church we tend to look at the Trinity as a doctrine. It is something we are meant to hold and believe; we learn about it with our minds and with our reason. But we add the proviso that we cannot understand it. “Understanding” is viewed as the important thing; if we can’t understand it we are not making much progress with it.
This is not, however, the best way to approach the doctrine of the Trinity. What we need to do is to retrace the journey made by the church. We enter into the spirituality of Jesus through the practice of lectio divina. Gradually we find that we experience the Trinity as a “mystery”. This is the liturgical sense of the word. It is something we celebrate because we know it makes us better human beings, as we follow ever more closely in the footsteps of Jesus.
If we base ourselves on the gospel texts we come to the Trinity as something we experience. Our model is Jesus himself: the Trinity for him was what he lived, it explains how he experienced himself, how he related with his Father and with the Spirit, with others and with the earth itself. The church, reflecting on his experience, was later – and only gradually – able to formulate the church doctrine of the Trinity. The gospel reading for this Year B is an excellent starting point for this journey.
Jesus saw that authority in the world was something that was “given” to him. It was a “gift” he had received from the Father. It was given to him by someone in Heaven, his Father who dwells in heaven. It was not a truth that he was able to discover for himself, nor one that he came to experience from his own decisions. It was always something he had “received.”
As Son he was able to exercise this gift. He had the authority to do this. He practiced the reality of the Trinity with personal power. He exercised this authority for himself and from his own observation. Having received it from outside himself, he put it into practice in the way he related with people.
Jesus therefore did not have to hold on to his authority. He took the decisions for himself, or it was decided for him in the name of the Father. In either case, he practiced it by handing over his authority to the care of his disciples. Since the authority was something “given” to him, he was able to give it over with no personal regrets.
Jesus lived his “Trinitarian spirituality” especially from the time he felt able to depart from the world. He had always been humble in how he handled his authority; now he could be totally confident in handing on to others everything he had accomplished. This was why he could say with full freedom that he could hand everything over to the Holy Spirit.
“All authority is given to me,” he told his disciples once he had decided to leave his mission in their hands. They could “go therefore” wherever they wanted, trusting that wherever they went, he would be alongside them, adding to what they believed in whatever he wanted for them to achieve.
We too, then, must be conscious of our authority as “given”. It is never possessed by us. We too can exercise it confidently and humbly and then willingly pass it on to others when the time comes. Evil qualities like jealousy or possessiveness or a fear of letting go are symptoms that the Trinity is not real for us. It means that we take authority as ours and not as “given”.
The things we can feel free to hand on to others include all forms of authority, especially that of our faith in Jesus. We must therefore take “baptizing in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” in a very wide sense. It does not merely refer to our church baptism; it includes the entire work of the church, the process of inviting people to experience authority as Jesus did.
We take the time to celebrate the many people who have shared this “baptism” with us. We pray that they too will have the grace to approach “all nations” with this wide and tolerant “Trinitarian Spirit.”
Lord, we thank you for the various ways in which you reveal your presence to us:
there are times when we experience you as Father
through teachers, community leaders, members of our family, spiritual guides
to whom you have given authority in heaven and on earth,
so that we feel empowered spiritually
and can assume responsibility in our workplaces and in public life.
At other times we experience you as Son,
through the great people you send us as companions.
They do not talk down to us.
When we fail in some great enterprise and have to start again,
like the eleven disciples setting out disconsolately to return to Galilee,
they come up and speak to us as fellow pilgrims
who have themselves been defeated,
so that they can tell us now to go out confidently
and share our wisdom with all the nations.
At other times again, you are deep within us, like our breath,
so discreet that we do not even advert to your presence;
but you are the source of life and energy, always with us,
so that even when we feel lost and discouraged we can say,
yes, you will be there till the end of that time.
Thank you that we have been baptized
in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, people in authority often cling to those in their charge.
We tend to do it as parents, teachers, ministers in the church, political leaders.
Help us to be more like Jesus when he met the apostles in Galilee,
free enough to know that our work is not limited to the here and now,
that if we have helped others in any way we can tell them to go,
because wherever they are we will be with them.
When we understand this, we are truly baptised in the name of Trinity.
“If there is any lover of God living on this earth who is continually kept from falling, I do not know about it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown, that in falling and in rising we are always preciously kept in the same love.” Julian of Norwich
Lord, we pray for those who are feeling discouraged at this moment
because they have committed some sin that has them feeling ashamed.
Remind them that you are with them always,
yes, even to the end of this time.
Lord, we pray for all of us who are called to exercise leadership
– in public life, in your church, in our homes and neighbourhoods,
on the world stage.
Help us to imitate Jesus; to be conscious, like he was,
that all authority in heaven and on earth is given to us for a time,
after which we commission those we have worked with
to go out into the world.
We are not afraid to move on
because we trust that whatever values they have learned from us
are like commands we have given them
which they will observe and will hand on in their turn,
so that we will be with them always, yes, to the end of time.
“Unity is taught by Moses; the prophets proclaim duality; in the gospels we meet the Trinity.” St Epiphanus
Lord, you have created out human family in your image and likeness,
baptized us in the name of the Blessed Trinity.
As individuals and as cultures you have made us all different
so that each of us has been given a unique share in your universal authority
in heaven and on earth.
We exercise this authority, not as a personal possession,
but as a gift we have received from someone else in the family
and then shared with others,
so that even though we are here for a few short years and then move on,
wherever in the world your great command of love is observed
we are all present and will continue to be until the end of time.
Introduction to the Celebration
This feast is unique in that the focus of our celebration is not an aspect of the history of salvation, but reflection on the nature of God as we believe it has been revealed to us as Christians. Thus every Sunday is the Sunday of the Trinity, every feast, every action has a trinitarian dimension, and should any prayer be uttered or homily preached which does not include that core of faith – at least tacitly with a conclusion such as ‘through Christ our Lord’ – then we are apostates, and have ceased to be Christians and become some sort of vague deists or unitarians who value the ‘message of Jesus’. At the outset of the celebration it is worth reflecting that today’s focus is the very essence of Christian identity. We begin every liturgy by stating that we are acting ‘In the name of the Father …’ and that is a declaration of our basic faith, not just an opening formula. Our aim in today’s liturgy should be to become more sensitive to the trinitarian cues that run right through our religion.
1. Go back through the second reading and note how Paul’s relationship with Jesus — Jesus is Lord — leads him to adopt a way of speaking of God as Father which Jesus had taught his followers. Moreover, Jesus had spoken of sending the Spirit and so the Spirit too is spoken of as ‘Lord’.
2. Paul is adopting a formula already in use within the churches, it is a formula that speaks of the relationship we Christians have with God: we live and move and have our being in God the Father, God the Son our Lord Jesus Christ, and God the Spirit.
3. We do not accept ‘the trinity’ within our minds in the way we accept other religious notions such as ‘God loves us.’ The mystery of the Father, Son and Spirit is the mystery of God and as such cannot be comprehended by a created mind. Rather, we accept this as part of the gracious revelation of God and respond in the way of Jesus: him we address as Lord; with him we call on the Father; from him we accept the Spirit.
These are the closing verses of the gospel of Matthew and they illustrate very well the growing faith of the early church in what Jesus has revealed. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus witness to the activity of God the Father through him, and now at the end of the gospel we see Jesus not leaving his disciples but promising to be with them until the end of time as they fulfil their mission of making disciples of all nations by baptising them and teaching them to observe his commands. This text is ideal for today as it is a reminder that faith in the Trinity brings with it a mission to let the whole world hear the good news about God.]
It is a striking fact that in the ancient world those civilisations that were great in terms of conquest, building, literature and philosophy have left us little or nothing of their religious beliefs. On the other hand, a people who were considered of no particular significance from a small stretch of land in the eastern Mediterranean have passed on to us their enduring concept of God. This is not a god of pagan superstition nor even of the philosophers. This is Yahweh, the God of Israel, who became known to the people through the experience of their own history and who subsequently revealed himself in Jesus of Nazareth. Today we are not celebrating a mystery we are never destined to understand; rather we are contemplating the God in whose image we are made and whose name is Love.
From Father James Gilhooley
The story is told of a priest sitting in an airport waiting for his flight. A fellow killing time struck up a conversation. Said he, "Father, I believe only what I can understand. So, I can't buy your Trinity. Perhaps you can explain it to me." The priest reluctantly put down The New York Times. "Do you see the sun out there?" "Yup." "OK, it's 80 million miles away from us right now. The rays coming through the window," said the priest, "are coming from the sun. The delightful heat we are enjoying on our bodies right now come from a combination of the sun and its rays. Do you understand that?" The fellow answered, "Sure, padre." "The Trinity," the priest went on, "is like that. God the Father is that blazing sun. The Son is the rays He sends down to us. Then both combine to send us the Holy Spirit who is the heat. If you understand the workings of the sun, its rays, and heat, why do you have difficulty believing the Trinity?" The man said something about catching a flight and was off.
From Fr. Tony Kadavil1:
The mystery of the most Holy Trinity is a basic doctrine of faith in Christianity, understandable not with our heads but with our hearts. It teaches us that there are three distinct persons in one God, sharing the same divine nature. Our mind cannot grasp this doctrine which teaches that 1+ 1+ 1 = 1 and not 3. But we believe in this mystery because Jesus who is God taught it clearly, the evangelists recorded it, the Fathers of the Church tried to explain it and the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople defined it as a dogma of Christian faith.
Importance in Christian life:
1) All prayers in the Church begin in the name of the Holy Trinity and end glorifying the Trinity.
2) All sacraments are administered (we are baptized, confirmed, anointed, our sins are forgiven and our marriage blessed) in the name of the Holy Trinity.
3) Church bells can ring thrice daily, to remind us to pray to the Holy Trinity.
4) We bless ourselves, and the priest blesses us, in the name of the Holy Trinity.
There are only vague and hidden references to the Trinity in the Old Testament. But the New Testament gives clear teachings on the Holy Trinity.
1) At the annunciation, God the Father sends His angel to Mary, God the Holy Spirit overshadows her and God the Son becomes incarnate in her womb.
2) At the baptism of Jesus, when the Son receives baptism from John the Baptist, the Father’s voice is heard and the Holy Spirit appears as a dove.
3) At the ascension, Jesus gives the missionary command to his disciples to baptize those who believe, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In John, chapters 15-18, we have a detailed account of Jesus’ teaching of the role of each person of the Holy Trinity. 1) God the Father creates and provides for His creatures. 2) God the Son redeems us and reconciles us with God. 3) God the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, strengthens us, teaches us and guides us to God.
"But that is impossible, my dear child:”
There is a very old and much repeated story about St. Augustine, one of the intellectual giants of the Church. He was walking by the seashore one day, attempting to conceive of an intelligible explanation for the mystery of the Trinity. As he walked along, he saw a small boy on the beach, pouring seawater with a shell into a small hole in the sand. "What are you doing, my child?" asked Augustine. "I am trying to empty the sea into this hole," the boy answered with an innocent smile. "But that is impossible, my dear child,” said Augustine. The boy stood up, looked straight into the eyes of Augustine and replied, “What you are trying to do - trying to comprehend the immensity of God with your small head - is even more impossible.” Then he vanished. It was an angel sent by God to teach Augustine a lesson. Later, Augustine wrote: "You see the Trinity if you see love." According to him the Father is the lover, the Son is the loved one and the Holy Spirit is the personification of the very act of loving. This means that we can understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity more readily with the heart than with our feeble mind. Evagrius of Pontus, a Greek monk of the 4th century who came from what is now Turkey in Asia and later lived out his vocation in Egypt, said: "God cannot be grasped by the mind. If God could be grasped, God would not be God."
2: Explanations by Ss. Patrick, Cyril, John Maria Vianney:
The shamrock a kind of clover is a leguminous herb that grows in marshy places in Ireland. St Patrick, the missionary patron saint of Ireland, used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. The story goes that one day his friends asked Patrick to explain the mystery of the Trinity. He looked at the ground and saw shamrocks growing amongst the grass at his feet. He picked one up and showed it to his friends, saying “Look at this beautiful little shamrock. Do you think it has one leaf or three?" Patrick's friends couldn't answer--the shamrock looked like one leaf but it clearly had three parts. Patrick reassured them, "The mystery of this shamrock is like the mystery of the Trinity; there are three parts but they are all part of one." Christians around the world continue to puzzle about the mystery of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit - one God in Three Divine Persons. They use symbols based on the triangle pattern or plants like the shamrock to help them with this kind of “three-in-one thinking.”
3. St. Cyril, the teacher of the Slavs, tried to explain the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. He said, "Do you see in the heavens the brilliant sphere of the sun and how, from it, light is begotten and warmth proceeds? God the Father is like the sphere of the sun, without beginning or end. From Him is eternally begotten God the Son, like light from the sun; just as there comes warmth together with light from the sun, God the Holy Spirit proceeds. Each one is distinguished separately: the sphere of the sun and the light and the warmth — these are not three suns, but one sun in the heavens. So also, in the Holy Trinity: there are three Persons but God is One and indivisible."
4. St. John Maria Vianney used to explain Holy Trinity using lighted candles and roses on the altar and water in the cruets. “The flame has color, warmth and shape. But these are expressions of one flame. Similarly the rose has color, fragrance and shape. But these are expressions of one reality, namely, rose. Water, steam and ice are three distinct expressions of one reality. In the same way one God revealed Himself to us as Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
5: Trinitarian design for medieval cathedrals: When the architect and engineer Aldo Spirito was commissioned to design a cathedral for the Archdiocese of Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, he used a number of architectural elements to reinforce, as in the tradition of the medieval cathedrals, the truths of our faith. Among those elements is the fact that the basic structure is triangular, so as to state dramatically the fundamental truth of Christian faith: God has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
*************From Fr. Jude Botelho:
In today's first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, Moses offers us a vision of God who goes all the way back to creation and then across history. Moses had led the people to the Promised Land and in his last words to the people, he speaks of God's fidelity and love. Other people had their gods but there is only one true God, the God who is creator, the God who revealed himself to his people; the God of Israel, who had bound himself to the chosen people. Moses reminds them of what a privilege it is to have this God revealing himself to them right through their journey to the Promised Land. Moses' advice to them was that they remember that their Lord is God and there is no other and that they show their fidelity by keeping his commandments.
Can I see God?
Once there was a king who at the end of his life was beset by melancholy because he had not seen God. He called his wise men and priests and stated, "How I would dearly love to see God before I die." A kind shepherd who lived in the hills approached the king and said: "Allow me to help your majesty." The king followed the shepherd into the hills and rubbed his eyes in anticipation of what he hoped to see. But the shepherd said to him: "Majesty if you want to see God, it's your heart you have to purify, not your eyes. At last, the shepherd stopped on a hill top and pointing to the sun said: "Look up!" The king tried but the glare dazzled him. "Do you want to blind me?" he said. The shepherd replied "but, my lord, this is only a small reflection, a tiny spark of His radiant light. How can you expect to look at God with your weak and imperfect eyes? You must begin to search for him with eyes other than your physical eyes." The king said: "Where does God live?" The shepherd pointed to above them where wild birds were flying. "Look at these birds," he said. "See how they are surrounded by air. In the same way we are surrounded by God. Just be still. Open your eyes and look. Open your ears and listen. You can't miss him." The king stopped and looked and listened. As he did so a peaceful expression came on his sad face. The shepherd added: "There is something else your majesty ought to know." What's that?" asked the eager king. Then the shepherd showed him a well. Growing impatient, the king asked: "Who lives down there?" "God does" replied the shepherd. "Can I see him?" "Sure just take a look." "But all I see is me!" "Now your majesty knows where God lives. He lives in you." The king returned to his palace the wiser. No one knew if he had seen God but they could tell something had happened to his heart. This was evident from the kindly way he dealt with even the least of his servants, people who prior to this he hardly knew existed.
Flor McCarthy in 'Sunday and Holy day Liturgies'
The Gospel gives us the final commendation of Jesus as he is about to leave his disciples and return to his Father. Just as he had one mission on earth to reveal that God is our Father, so also every disciple is given this same mission. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations." Jesus is authorizing every one of his followers, to invite everyone to enter into a relationship with God and become part of his family through baptism. The essence of our religion is not laws and precepts and doctrine but a personal relationship with God, which is made possible through Jesus Christ and gifted to us in and through the Holy Spirit. Just as the chosen people journeyed to the Promised Land, our faith too is a journey to God. Ordinarily when we are planning our journey we have to depend on our own resources. If on the other hand we are sent on behalf of our company or country or state or nation we don't have to do anything because everything is taken care of by the authority of those who sent us. On this our faith journey in life, we are not on a do-it-yourself programme; we do not go on our own steam, but are sent on this journey on God's behalf, in His name and what is best, we are not alone. "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of time."
Sent in His name
"A nephew of mine went on a world trek a few years ago. He felt the time was right and, if he didn't move now, he might not get the opportunity again. He traveled lightly with the usual rucksack, and several extras hanging on it. The one thing that impressed me however was the number of papers he carried on his person. He had the usual passport, ID, driver's license, etc. He had visas from several embassies, and he had quite a collection of letters from people he knew, that he hoped to use as introductions to people they knew, in the different countries he intended to visit. It was important for him to have some contact, wherever he went; to have someone who could verify his legal status wherever he went. He wasn't on a mission, a contract or an assignment, so he needed to surround himself with all the supports he could muster. As a Christian, I am commissioned to go anywhere in the world, to carry a message, and to rely on divine immunity."
Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel Truth'
Attracting rather than promoting
At an international Conference on Evangelization, people from different countries were presenting their preferred methods in their missionary work. Some spoke of food, others spoke of housing, while others spoke of health and medicine. Between them, there was a wonderful spirit of generosity and of missionary zeal. One of the surprise packages presented came from a group of Christians in the Far East. Of course, they saw the need for food, for health, for housing, and they tried what they could to provide that. The most important thing for them, however, was, once they had selected an area in which they wished to implant the Christian message, the first thing they did was to send a Christian family to live there. Their first line of evangelization was always the witness value of Christian living. It has always been the Catholic tradition that its strongest message was the witness of its members, in their daily living. This, of course, could be disputed, but there is no doubt about it, Christianity is more attracting than promoting.
Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel truth'
Belief in God
The following prayer was found on the body of a young soldier, killed in action during World War I. 'Look, God, I've never spoken to you before, but now I just want to say 'hello'. They told me you didn't exist, and like a fool I believed them. But last night I looked up at the sky from a shell hole. When I saw the beauty of the stars, and thought how big the universe is, I knew they were telling me a lie. I wonder if you will shake hands with me when we meet. Somehow I feel you will understand all my failures. Strange how I had to come to this horrible place to get to know you. What was I doing before this? There isn't much more to say, but I am sure glad I got to know you today. I feel zero hour will soon be here. This is going to be a horrible fight. Who knows but I may come to your house tonight. I'm crying! Fancy me crying! I never thought this would happen to me. I have to go now. Strange, since I met you, I'm no longer afraid to die.'
Flor McCarthy in 'Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies'
A window into the beyond
A man was confined to a prison cell. His only view of the outside world was through a small window high up on the wall. At first he hated his confinement, and despised the miserable view he had of the outside world, which was the only world he believed in. But time passed, and that little window became his friend. True, it offered only tiny morsels of life - a wisp of cloud, a free flying bird, a passing plane, a falling leaf, a raindrop, a snowflake. But he realized that this was not such a bad thing. It forced him to concentrate on the particular, and to make much of little. He was amazed at discovering how much life there can be in a small sample. 'Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder' (Patrick Kavanagh). Thus, the little window helped him to appreciate the things of heaven as well as the things of earth.
Flor McCarthy in 'Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies'
Understanding one another
John and Josephine have just celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary. Since their four children have left home and married, they have spent seventeen years on their own, a time they describe as "a new growing towards each other." When they were asked why they still enjoyed each other's company, Josephine replied: "We've always had a healthy respect for each other's differences. And we're still growing to know each other better. I just wish that we could have communicated with each other years ago the way we do now. But perhaps our easiness with each other now could only come about because of all the struggles we went through." The longer we are acquainted with people, the more we grow to realize how little we know them. Family and friends continue to surprise us, reminding us that they are always more than our understanding of them. We can all give instant impressions of people after knowing them only for a week, but if we're honest with ourselves we have to admit that our clarity is born of ignorance. We can have epic conversations about a new acquaintance, but the lengthy talk is mostly guesswork, makeshift images built from a few clues. Unless we settle for stereotypes, understanding other people is a lifetime's task. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when it comes to understanding God we can become paralyzed by the sheer magnitude of the mystery.
Denis McBride in 'Seasons of the Word'
May we know the family of God by living for others and for God!
A preacher proudly boasted that he does not preach doctrinal sermons. They are boring he asserts and people do not understand or relate to them. Further, he claimed, I am a preacher and not a theologian. I get down do the practical issues and simply preach Christ crucified.
His thinking is faulty at several points. First, he is wrong when he says that he is not a theologian. The fact is that everyone to a certain extent is a theologian. Theology is nothing more than what you think about God. Well, shouts one person, I don't believe In God. That then is your theology. I would also take issue with him when he claims that he does not preach theology but gets down to practical issues. In my thinking there is no difference in good theology and good practice. Good, solid theology gets down to the very core of our existence.
Finally, I would disagree with him when he says that we should only preach Christ crucified. I know that is what the Apostle Paul said but this preacher doesn't mean what Paul meant. He is saying that he only preaches about the cross and saving the sinner. I submit to you that the cross is not central in Paul's theology; rather, it is Christ. It has always puzzled me why some ministers preach the message of salvation to people who have been sitting in the pews all their life when they need so much more of Christ's teaching on life's other issues. There are many strings on a guitar. To make beautiful music all of them must be played and not just one. That is why in the United Methodist Church we honor the lectionary and the seasons of the church year. That insures a witness to the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ. How can one go through the season of Advent and not touch upon the doctrine of the incarnation. How can one go through Lent without touching upon the doctrine of the resurrection? Likewise, how can we embark upon the season of Pentecost, as we did last week, without mentioning the doctrine of the Trinity?
Today is Trinity Sunday...
___________________________The soul has its seasons. "There is a time to be born, a time to die."
The Bible has its seasons. The biblical New Year begins at the appearance of the first "new moon" of spring, when nature comes to life.
The West has its seasons. The New Year begins in the depths of the winter, which is often when the new comes, in the midst of winter, the soul most often coming to life in the wintry seasons of life.
The church has its seasons.
In the church our "seasons" are not determined by climate changes or a vernal equinox. Instead of fall, winter, spring, and summer, the church calendar recognizes seven "seasons:"
Kingdomtide (unique to Wesleyans and Presbyterians)
Unlike those other "four seasons" that neatly divvy up the year into four equal parts, the church seasons are all of different lengths. Advent is only four Sundays long. Lent is observed for six Sundays. Epiphany and Eastertide both extend over seven Sundays. The week of Holy Week gets its own "season." But by far the majority of the church calendar year is designated as the "Sundays after Pentecost" - depending on what church calendar you are using, up to twenty-seven Sundays in all, with this week being the first of those many "Pentecost Sundays."
The reason for such a lop-sided division of the "seasons" in the church is explained in part by this week's gospel text. Matthew 28:16-20 is identified as the "Commissioning of the Disciples" text. It is a hotly contested text, to say the least. The phrase "The Great Commission" doesn't appear in the Bible, and wasn't widely used until the early 20th century, when the phrase and the text became wed-locked forever.
In these few verses Matthew manages to encapsulate the whole of his gospel story...
___________________________Understanding the Trinity
This is Trinity Sunday. God in three persons--Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Do we fully understand this wonderful doctrine? No, but some of us will fight for it.
You may remember that ancient story about St. Augustine. One day he took a break from writing about the Trinity to take a walk along the seashore. There he came across a child with a little pail, intently scooping up a pail full of water out of the ocean, then walking up the beach and dumping it out into the sand, then going back down to scoop out another pail of water to pour into the sand, etc.
Augustine asked the child what he was doing, and the child explained that he was "emptying the sea out into the sand."
When the Bishop tried to gently point out the absurd impossibility of this task, the child replied, "Ah, but I'll drain the sea before you understand the Trinity."
There's truth to that child's comment. We don't understand the Trinity, but we're ready to go to war to defend it. Well, maybe not anymore. But there was a time when battles were fought over church doctrine, and even today churches are being split over whose interpretation of the Word is correct. And it's tragic.
King Duncan, Collected Sermons. www.Sermons.com
____________________________________The Image of the Father
Thomas Troeger, a Presbyterian pastor and gifted preacher, tells a story of an experience he had once. He wrote:
"One day several years ago I was in a department store buying myself a new shirt when a complete stranger walked up to me and said, 'You must be Henry Troeger's son.'
"I looked at this person and I said, 'I don't believe I have ever seen you.'
"He said, 'Oh, no, you have never met me at all, but a long time ago I worked with your father. I was a close colleague of his and when I saw you across the aisle of the store, I said to myself, `I'd know that face anywhere.' You are the very image of your father.'
"For several weeks after that, I would sometimes be going down the street, and maybe come around a corner, and catch my reflection in a store window. I started to see myself with the eyes of someone else. It is not like looking into the mirror in the morning. I would come around the corner, catch that reflection and I would think, 'That's Henry Troeger.' All of a sudden I would be seeing how I bore the image of my father."
And so it is with us.
Each one of us is created with the image of God indelibly imprinted on our souls, so that, in some miraculous and inexplicable way, the diverse expressions of God that are you and you and you and me all come together to illustrate the mystery, to live together in community as we do our best to display for the world all the possibilities that the divine imprint on all of us could mean.
Amy Butler, A Curious Community
Unfortunately, most of us act like the out-of shape, overweight man who decided to take up tennis. He took lessons from a pro. He read several self-help books which advised him to "think positively" and "develop a winning attitude."
A friend asked him how his tennis was going. With a positive, winning attitude in his voice, the man replied, "When my opponent hits the ball to me, my brain immediately barks out a command to my body: 'Race up to the net.' Then, it says, 'Slam a blistering shot to a far corner of the court. Then immediately jump back into position and return the next volley to the other far corner of the court.' And then my body says, 'Who, me?'"
I'd be willing to bet, if we could go back in time, that the first words out of the mouths of all the Disciples after Jesus spoke these words were the same: "Who, me?" You have to remember that the events of this passage actually took place before Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But the question is still pertinent. "Who, me?"
Billy D. Strayhorn, Go!
I rather like the story Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick once related from his own childhood days. His father had said to his mother, upon leaving the house one Saturday in the morning hours: "Tell Harry that he can cut the grass today, if he feels like it."
Then, halfway down the walk, his father turned once more to add: "And tell Harry that he had better feel like it."
Well, in its own rather humorous way, there is something essential about life wrapped up in that. For there is a difference between knowing we are supposed to do something, and 'feeling like" doing it. There is a difference between a sense of obligation and a sense of generosity. There is a difference between obedience and desire. And the one of those weighs us down, while the other lifts us up.
Christianity says to us, you do not know God, if you know Him only as a sense of authority over your life. Furthermore, you do not know God, if you merely believe intellectually that God is a God who cares and loves.
You do not know God somehow at all, unless the same spirit of His authority and His love captivates you from within, so that you live knowing the spirit of it for yourself. You do not know God, unless all this that we have been saying about Him becomes for you your own way of life and not an obligation imposed on you by the Church, or by the fear of death, or by anything else.
Paul van Dine, Not the Nature, But the Character of God - Trinity!, Cathedral Publishers.
______________________Safely through the Storm
Max Lucado tells the story about the time he was sailing with his son and a church friend of the coast of Miami. They were having a leisurely cruise and the weather was perfect. But out of nowhere a storm appeared. The sky darkened, the rained started and the ocean became violent. Max was terrified and looked at his friend Milt for help.
Milt was deliberate and decisive. He told the men exactly where to sit and gave them specific instructions. Last he said, "just hang on." They did what he said. Why? Because Milt was the only skilled sailor on board and knew exactly what to do in a storm. Until then Max could have boasted about his merit badge in sailing that he had received in the boy scouts. But, that was no comparison to a real storm on the high seas. He had no choice but to trust in Milt's directions...
*************From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:
1) The universal testimony: A good illustration of the Trinity comes from world- renowned scientist Dr. Henry Morris. He notes that the entire universe is Trinitarian by design. The universe consists of three things: matter, space, and time. Take away any one of those three and the universe would cease to exist. But each one of those is itself a trinity. Matter = mass + energy + motion. Space = length + height + breadth. Time = past + present + future. Thus the whole universe witnesses to the character of the God who made it (cf. Psalm 19:1).
2) “You ask me a riddle?” The late Cardinal Cushing tells of an occasion when he was administering last rites to a man who had collapsed in a general store. Following his usual custom, he knelt by the man and asked, "Do you believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit?" The Cardinal said the man roused a little bit, opened an eye, looked at him and said, "Here I am, dying, and you ask me a riddle." Call them riddles. Call them mysteries. There are things about life and faith we do not understand. I am not going to suggest that you resign your effort to understand.
3) “The undertaker.” There is an old story about a henpecked husband who went to a psychologist. He was tired of being dominated by his wife. The psychologist told him, “You do not have to accept your wife’s bullying. You need to go home right now and let her know that you’re your own boss.” The husband decided to take the doctor’s advice. He went home and slammed the door on the way in. He confronted his wife and said, “From now on you’ll do what I say. Get my supper, then go upstairs and lay out my clothes. After I eat, I’m going out with the boys while you stay home. By the way, do you know who is going to tie my tie for me?” “I sure do,” said his wife calmly, “the undertaker.” Some marriages are filled with conflict. So are some offices. Unfortunately some churches are filled with conflict as well. The feast of the Holy Trinity challenges us to cultivate the Trinitarian relationship of love and unity in our families and offices and parishes.
4) Human mystery confronting divine mystery: The story is told that Franklin D. Roosevelt and one of his close friends, Bernard Baruch, talked late into the night one evening at the White House. At last, President Roosevelt suggested that they go out into the Rose Garden and look at the stars before going to bed. They went out and looked into the sky for several minutes, peering at a nebula with thousands of stars. Then the President said, "All right, I think we feel small enough now to go in and go to sleep." The wonder of the power and wisdom of God puts things in perspective for us humans. It was not an accident, but the result of a Divine Plan; planets, stars, plants, birds, fish, and animals were all created by God. And the climax of God's creation was humanity. How complex and mind-boggling is our physical construction! Chemically, the body is unequalled for complexity. Each one of its 30 trillion cells is a mini chemical factory that performs about 10,000 chemical functions. With its 206 bones, 639 muscles, 4 million pain sensors in the skin, 750 million air sacs in the lungs, 16 million nerve cells and 30 trillion cells in total, the human body is remarkably designed for life. And the brain! The human brain and nervous system is the most complex arrangement of matter anywhere in the universe. One scientist estimated that our brain, on the average, processes over 10,000 thoughts and concepts each day. Bill Bryson in his book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, says it is a miracle that we even exist. Trillions of atoms come together for approximately 650,000 hours (the average span of human life), and then begin to silently disassemble and go off to other things. There never was something like us before and there never will be something like us again. But for 650,000 hours the miracle that is uniquely us exists. One could spend years just dealing with the marvelous intricacies and majesty of God's creation. We are, as the Psalmist states "fearfully and wonderfully made." No wonder we cannot understand the mystery of a Triune God.
5) Holy Trinity prayer: When the bishop’s ship stopped at a remote island for a day, he decided to use the days as profitably as possible. He strolled along the seashore and came across three fishermen mending their nets. In Pidgin English they explained to him that centuries ago they were Christianized by missionaries. "We, Christians!" they said, proudly pointing to themselves. The bishop was impressed. Did they know the Lord’s Prayer? They had never heard of it. The bishop was shocked. How could these men claim to be Christians when they did not know something as elementary as the Lord’s Prayer? "What do you say, then, when you pray?" the bishop asked. "We lift eyes in heaven. We pray,
‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.’" The bishop was appalled at the primitive, downright heretical nature of their prayer. So he spent the whole day teaching them to say the Lord’s Prayer and he succeeded although the fishermen were poor learners.
Months later the bishop’s ship happened to pass by those islands and the bishop, as he paced the deck saying his evening prayers, recalled with pleasure the fact that on that distant island were three fishermen who were now able to pray correctly, thanks to his patient efforts. While he was lost in thought he happened to look up and noticed a spot of light in the east. The light kept approaching the ship and, as the bishop gazed in wonder, he saw three figures walking on the surface of the water towards the boat. The captain stopped the boat and all the sailors leaned over the rails to see this amazing sight. When they were within speaking distance, the bishop recognized his three friends, the fishermen. "Bishop!" they exclaimed, "we are so glad meet you! We heard your boat go past island and came in a hurry, hurry to meet you." "What do you want?" asked the bishop filled with wonder seeing them walking on water as Jesus did. "Bishop," they said, "we so sorry. We forgot that lovely prayer you taught us. We remember only this much: ‘Our Father in heaven, holy be your name, your kingdom come’ . . .the rest we forgot. Please teach us whole prayer again." The bishop felt humbled. "Go back to your homes, my good men," he said, "and each time you pray, say your Holy Trinity prayer, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us!’" (Fr. Anthony de Mello S.J., The Song of the Bird).
6) “Bad things always come in threes.” An old adage warns, “Bad things always come in threes.” Have you found this true in your own experience? That bad things (and good things) like to happen in community, in bunches? You say: we invent this connection by suddenly realizing that we got a flat tire on the same day that a computer glitch devoured our hard drive, shortly after our last contact lens just slid down the drain. I say: there seems to be something significant about the power of three. Today the Church celebrates the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—on this “Trinity Sunday” affirming the truth good things also come in threes. We recognize God as power (the Father), God as person (the Son), and God as presence (the Holy Spirit).
7) “But the machine can't ask me about my arthritis.” The true story is told of a woman named Mamie who made frequent trips to the branch post office. One day she confronted a long line of people who were waiting for service from the postal clerk. Mamie only needed stamps, so a helpful observer asked her, "Why don't you just use the stamp machine? You can get all the stamps you need and you won't have to wait in line." Mamie said, "I know, but the machine can't ask me about my arthritis." That's part of the wisdom of Christ's coming to our earth to live among us as described in today’s gospel (John 3: 16-18). He could relate to us in all of our daily needs. As we try to walk in Jesus' steps, we might do well to pray the ancient Irish poem set to an Irish ballad tune, which says,
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word; I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
8) Aggressively selfish child: A report some years ago, allegedly by the Minnesota Crime Commission, painted a dark picture of human nature indeed, particularly with regard to small children. I quote: “Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it – his bottle, his mother’s attention, his playmate’s toy, his uncle’s watch. Deny him these once, and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness, which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He is, in fact dirty. He has no morals, no knowledge, no skills. This means that all children not just certain children are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in the self- centered world of his infancy, given free rein to his impulsive actions to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up a criminal a thief, a killer, or a rapist.” [Cited in R. Scott Richards, Myths the World Taught Me (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991), p. 39.] It is to transform this self-centered human nature into a selfless, God-centered one that the second person of the Holy Trinity took human form as described in today’s gospel.
9) A dumb debate on God: The following hypothetical debate for the mute and the deaf scholars is a warning to our pastors who think that they have explained Holy Trinity well to their flock on Trinity Sunday. The Jews and the Catholics are having a debate about God and decide that they will each send one representative to prove that their side is right. The only rule is that words are not allowed. They decide on their representatives. The Vatican decides to send their best brain– Cardinal Ratzinger, the head of the Congregation on Faith and Morals while the Jews pick one of their best rabbis to represent them. As a sign of respect the Jews allow the debate to be held at the local cathedral. The time for the debate comes and the rabbi walks into the cathedral and up to the cardinal. The cardinal waves his hand towards the sky. The rabbi responds by slamming his fist into his palm. The cardinal holds up three fingers. The rabbi responds by holding up his middle finger. The cardinal then pulls out bread and wine. The rabbi then reaches into a bag and pulls out two fish. At this point the cardinal holds up his hands and walks away.
After the debate the cardinal heads back to the Vatican to talk it over with the pope and the other cardinals. "Man, those Jews have it all figured out. First I said to him, 'God is everywhere,' and he responded, 'God is right here.' I was taken aback. So I held up three fingers representing the Holy Trinity, and he responded, 'We all worship the same one God.' I didn't know what to do so I showed him bread and wine representing the sacrifice of Jesus, and he responded with two fish, representing that Jesus provides.
The Rabbi headed back to the synagogue to tell the others his version what had happened. "Man, you wouldn't believe those Catholics. The moment I walked in this guy with a weird hat gestures at me 'No Jews Allowed.' I said 'I'm staying right here.' Then he said, 'You have three minutes.' I said, ‘Get lost.' Then he pulled out his lunch, so I showed him mine."
10) Why Isn't the Holy Ghost Included? A woman wrote to Reader’s Digest. She wanted to tell about an experience that she had when she took a young girl from India to church with her. It was the eleven-year-old girl’s first exposure to a Christian worship service. The young lady’s parents were traveling on business and had left her in the care of their American friends. The little Hindu girl decided on her own to go with the family to church one Sunday. After the service was over, they went out to lunch. The little girl had some questions. She wondered, "I don’t understand why the West Coast isn’t included, too?" Her Christian friends were puzzled and asked, "What do you mean?" She responded, "You know. I kept hearing the people say, ‘In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the whole East Coast.’"
11) God Is Everywhere: A pastor was trying to explain to a little Sunday school child that God is calling people everywhere in the world to believe in him. "God is much bigger than we imagine him to be and God can use all of us in lots of different ways to do his work everywhere," the pastor said. "God is everywhere!" "Everywhere?" asked the little boy. "Everywhere!" said the pastor. The boy went home and told his mother, "God is everywhere! The pastor said so." "Yes, I know," said the mother. "You mean he is even in the cupboard?" "Yes," said the mother. "In the refrigerator -- even when we close the door and the light goes out?" "Yes," said the mother. "Even in the sugar bowl?" the lad asked as he took the lid off. "Yes," said the mother, "even in the sugar bowl." The boy slammed down the lid and said, "Now I've got him."
12) “What Jesus said, “Who do men say that I am?” And his disciples answered and said, “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elias, or other of the old prophets.” And Jesus answered and said, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Logos of the Father, the Son whom the Father loved from eternity and Whom the Holy Spirit, the eternal personification of the love between the Father and the Son, begot on the Virgin Mary.” And Jesus answering, said, "What?"
13) "I'm surprised at you:" An English teacher of a 21-sophomore high school class put a small chalk dot on the blackboard. He then asked the class what it was. A few seconds passed and then someone said, "That is a chalk dot on the blackboard." The rest of the class seemed relieved that the obvious had been stated, and no one else had anything to say. "I'm surprised at you," the teacher told the class. "I did the same exercise yesterday with a group of kindergartners and they thought of 50 different things the chalk mark could be: an owl's eye, a cigar butt, the top of a telephone pole, a star, a pebble, a squashed bug, a rotten egg, a bird's eye, and so on." The older students had learned how to find a right answer, but had lost the ability to look for more than one right answer. The Holy Spirit helps us, in his wonderful Wisdom, to see more than we might have seen by ourselves. The Spirit's vision allows us wonderful options for expansion and new possibilities. It is the Spirit's Wisdom that reveals the Word to us. It is the Wisdom of the Spirit which shows us our sin, which guides us, which instructs us, which leads us in the way everlasting.
14) Trinitarian design for medieval cathedrals: When the architect and engineer Aldo Spirito was commissioned to design a cathedral for the Archdiocese of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, West Africa, he used a number of architectural elements to reinforce, as in the tradition of the medieval cathedrals, the truths of our faith. Among those elements is the fact that the basic structure is triangular, so as to state dramatically the fundamental truth of Christian faith: God has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee; Holy, Holy, holy, merciful and mighty, God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.