The Rev Bingham Powell
Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8;
2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
Today is Trinity Sunday, the last in a long line of Feast Days. There are seven Principal Feasts in the Church calendar, and, including today, we have now celebrated six of them. Things are about to calm down as we settled into the lazy days of summer and the long Season after Pentecost. But we’re not there yet. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It is time to celebrate. Time to celebrate the Trinity.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself right now: Why do I want to celebrate the Trinity? At best it’s an abstract theological concept, at worst it comes across as utter nonsense, one of those six impossible things to ponder before breakfast, as the Queen tells Alice. How can three equal one and one equal three? I completely understand that. That is what I used to think. For most of my life, I thought that understanding the Trinity meant understanding how three could equal one, and how one could equal three. And that didn't really seem like something worthy of celebration. All of that changed one summer when I was in seminary.
I went to England to do an internship at an English Parish in a town called Skipton in the Yorkshire Dales, and the name of that parish was Holy Trinity. Each day, a small group of us gathered for Morning and Evening Prayer in one of the side chapels. In that chapel was an icon of the Holy Trinity by Andrei Rublev. You can see a picture of that icon on the front of your bulletin. As we prayed each day in front of this icon, I began to understand and appreciate the Trinity. Not as a puzzle to solve, but a mystery to enjoy. I stopped trying to understand the how of the Trinity, and started trying to understand the why of it.
As I stared at that icon every day, I noticed longing in the faces of the three angels as they looked at each other. I began to understand the Trinity was not an impossible math equation, but a profound statement of love and relationship. In God’s very being is a relationship of three persons who deeply love each other. And that is something worthy of celebrating. On this Feast of the Holy Trinity, we are celebrating this love and this relationship, which are the very nature of God.
Who is God? God is love. God is relationship. We see that loving relationship of God from the beginnings of creation as God creates and calls everything good, through the biblical story as God works with the people. We see God's love in a rainbow and a promise. We see God's love in a covenant and in an exodus. We see God's love in healing and feeding. We see God's love in the birth of a child in a manger. We see God's love in preaching and teaching. We see God's love in a sacrifice and an empty tomb. We see God's love in the calling together of this holy community called the Church, the Body of Christ. We see God's love in the restoration of a new heaven and a new earth in the fullness of time. We talk about God's love a lot here at St. Mary's because it is so critical to who God is, and of how we experience God in this world. A God who loves us in all of our flaws and in all of our glory.
And that love for us flows out of this love that the each member of the Trinity has for the other members of the Trinity. The love of God isn’t reserved for God’s self, but it it is so great it overflows into something more. It overflows into us, it overflows onto us. In our first reading this morning, we heard the beautiful first account of Creation – “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep…” In our weekly Itty Bitty Bible study for some of youngest parishioners, we use a children’s Bible written by Desmond Tutu called The Children of God Storybook Bible. In it, Desmond Tutu retells this opening of the creation story by saying, “In the very beginning, God’s love bubbled over when there was nothing else. God’s love bubbled over… What a beautiful interpretation of the creation story, an interpretation that flows from this very idea of the Trinity, that God is intrinsically this loving relationship, and there is so much love that it cannot be contained in itself. The love has to spill over, overflow into creation. And we and all of creation are the result of that love.
We are also invited into that love. As I continued to pray in front of this icon during that month, I started to notice the empty space at the table in the front, a spot at the table for another. The three individuals are all looking at each other, but their bodies are positioned towards that empty spot, almost as if they are inviting you to join them. We, who are made in God's image as we heard in the Genesis reading, are invited to the open space at the table, invited into God's loving relationship. Our very being as creature's made in the One Triune God's image is loving relationship, too. Relationship with God and relationship with each other. We sometimes like to think that we are strong individuals who do not need others. It's part of our ethos as Americans, especially as Westerners, to be self-sufficient. But a trinitarian understanding of God challenges that. Being made in God's relational being means that we do need each other. It is who we are. Relationships, friendships, community are critical to fulfilling that relational sense of our nature. It's easy to think of relationships as extra bonuses in life, but really the Trinity teaches us that they are the main thing: Community, Communion, connecting with each other and with God.
Finally, as the month was wrapping up in England, I noticed one other detail: the chalice at the center of the table. In a few minutes, we will also place a chalice on the table here. We will bless it and share it, entering into communion with God and one another as we partake of the bread and the wine together. The Holy and Undivided Trinity, One God - the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Lover, the Beloved, and Love itself - invites us to the table to share in this holy meal together, to live this life of loving relationship. Amen.