The Feast of the Holy Trinity; Year C (5/26/2013)

Lessons:Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 Psalm 8 (2) Romans 5:1-5 St. John 16:12-15

Prayer of the Day: God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe and the beginning of time you are the triune God: Author of creation, eternal Word of salvation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom. Guide us to all truth by your Spirit, that we may proclaim all that Christ has revealed and rejoice in the glory he shares with us. Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

16:12 [Jesus said,] “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When 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. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

St. John 16:12-15. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity

The Feast of the Holy Trinity is one of the older festivals in the Christian Church calendar. Celebrated in some places as early as the tenth century, it was officially added to the calendar by Pope John XXII in the fourteenth century, and set to take place the week after the Feast of Pentecost. It was originally designed as an opportunity to honor the mystery of the Trinity, but in the intervening years countless preachers (including yours truly) have fallen to the temptation, instead, to “explain” the Trinity. Sadly, when that happens, God’s people most often witness a convoluted lecture, instead of an invitation to experience the depths of the mystery of God.

Celtic Trinity Icon

In an attempt to avert that danger, I commend to you an icon of the Holy Trinity which was painted around 1410 by Andrei Rublev. It avoids the stereotypical images of the Holy Trinity (grey-bearded father, blue-eyed son, ghost-like spirit), instead depicting the three angels who visited Abraham and Sarah at the Oak of Mamre (Genesis 18:1-15). This story features themes of promise, relationship, spiritual insight, hospitality, doubt & belief, hope… and invites us to explore how the presence of the Triune God bears these gifts into our lives. Of this icon, Father Henri Nouwen writes:

"The more we look at this holy image with the eyes of faith, the more we come to realize that it is painted not as a lovely decoration for a convent church, nor as a helpful explanation of a difficult doctrine, but as a holy place to enter and stay within. As we place ourselves in front of the icon in prayer, we come to experience a gentle invitation to participate in the intimate conversation that is taking place among the three divine angels and to join them around the table. The movement from the Father toward the Son and the movement of both Son and Spirit toward the Father become a movement in which the one who prays is lifted up and held secure…” [Quoted from: Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with Icons. Ave Maria Press, 1987, p 20.]

In this weekend’s Gospel, we continue our series of readings from St. John’s Maundy Thursday  narrative (the last night of Jesus’ life). Speaking to his disciples after the meal, Jesus refers to the Spirit who guides us into all truth, who speaks on behalf of the Father and the Son, who declares the things that are to come, who glorifies the Son, and who takes what the Father and Son share in common and declares it to us. Here we have not a technical description of natures and beings and persons, but an illustration of the intimate relationships between the three persons of the Trinity; an intimate relationship that the Holy Spirit invites us to share.

This week’s celebration intends to draw us into that relationship. As you worship with God’s people on Sunday, may your hearts be stirred, and may you experience the majesty and mystery of our Triune God.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does Jesus want for his followers as he speaks, following the Maundy Thursday meal?
  2. What does Jesus mean when he says, “All that the Father has is mine?”
  3. How do the verbs guide, speak, declare and glorify shape our understanding of the Spirit?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How has my life been enriched through my experience of God, the Creator?
  2. How has my life been blessed through my experience of God, the Savior?
  3. How has my life been deepened through my experience of God, the Spirit?