Devotional Message: The Feast of the Holy Trinity; Year C (6/16/2019)

Revised Common Lectionary Texts

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Psalm 8

Romans 5:1-5

St. John 16:12-15

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.

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 Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: Relational Trinity

There is a lot of talk, these days, about the idea that “relationships” lie at the very heart of God’s nature. Execute a Google search for “relationships within the Trinity” and you will get some 38,700,000 results, including this paragraph from Father Richard Rohr, who presented at the Rocky Mountain Synod Assembly this May:

In the fourth and fifth centuries, Augustine (354–430) described Trinity as God in three substances united as one. By the next century, God is one substance who happens to have three relationships. Aquinas (1225–1274) comes along in the thirteenth century saying that God is one substance, but the relationships constitute the very nature of that substance, subsistent relationship. Now we are prepared to say that God is not, nor does God need to be, “substance” in the Aristotelian sense of something independent of all else. God is relationship itself.
https://cac.org/god-is-relationship-2019-05-09

God does not need to be substance, something independent of all else, but God is relationship itself. A radical declaration, to be sure. But one that challenges us to take a look at how we celebrate The Feast of the Holy Trinity. Too often preachers (myself included) have taken the opportunity on this day to preach a sermon that is more of a lecture, intended to stretch the listener’s mind as to what the theological term “Trinity” actually means. Found nowhere in the Bible, it is a creation of the church, most likely first put to use by Theophilus, Patriarch of Antioch, writing in the late second century or Tertullian, a Latin theologian who wrote in the early third century. 

In the Gospel lesson appointed for this weekend, Jesus is speaking to his disciples during their last meal together. He says, in essence, “All that the Father has is mine. I have more to say than you can bear. The Spirit will take what is mine, and declare it to you. It will guide you into all truth.” Not much here about substance in the Aristotelian sense of something independent of all else. Instead, as Jesus teaches his followers about the “Three Persons of the Trinity,” he refers to the relationships they have with one another, the unity of purpose they share, the love they have for those who believe, and the desire they have to lead them forward in faithfulness.

This weekend we will pray thus with the church, “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.” We pray with the realization that God is not some grandfatherly figure, seated on a marble throne, located somewhere up above the clouds. But instead that God is with us, among us, and for us, leading us more deeply into the life of faith, and drawing us more passionately into love for our neighbor.

Our God, whose very essence has to do with the relationship between Creator, Savior and Sustainer, seeks a living and growing relationship with each of us. May that relationship inspire us, lead us, and empower us to live together (together!) in this world as faithful followers of the God we have come to know in Jesus Christ.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. How might the disciples of Jesus have understood his relationship with God the Father?

  2. What role does the Holy Spirit come to play in the life of the early church? (Curious? Read the Book of Acts…)

  3. How will the promised Spirit be a source of strength and comfort for them after the departure of Jesus?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. What Bible passages have informed me about the “one-ness” of God? The “three-ness” of God?

  2. How might relationships of the Godhead help me better experience relationships I have in the church today?

  3. What would change in my life if I grew in my relationship with my God and with my neighbor?