Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ - Year A
Exodus 34: 4b-6, 8-9
2 Cor 13: 11-13
John 3: 16-18
Bishop Untener’s Homily
How Do You Preach on the Trinity?
Since the 14th century the Church has celebrated, once a year, Trinity Sunday, to remind us of this great truth of our faith.
Sometimes it can seem as complicated as one of Einstein’s equations, and even then, you can’t get the equation to balance. There’s the story of the young priest, fresh from his theological studies, who, on Trinity Sunday tried to explain all the doctrinal intricacies, and he went on and on, getting more and more tangled in the complex distinctions of theologians. After the homily an elderly woman leaned over and said to the person next to her: “You know, I’ve always believed in the Trinity... until now…”
Instead of trying to reason our way through the Trinity, we do much better to try to appreciate how the Trinity affects us, and how it helps us relate more closely to God. I’m going to point out two ways in which this great truth - the Trinity - affects us and helps us.
Observation #1 on the Trinity
First, the Trinity helps us realize how personal God is, and how loving God is. God is not a blind force, a blank, staring, monotonous power out there somewhere. Nor is God some solitary, lonely, isolated, stern, rigid, austere, being... Nor is God like a person who is above anyone else - and knows it - a person without equal, thinking only of himself, haughty, arrogant, aloof, pompous. God is not an isolated person. God is three persons, all three of them equal. Which means that God is, at the core, something like a family, which involves mutual love, relationships, and interaction.
Now this gives us a great insight into God. We can’t comprehend how there can be one God who is three persons. But we can understand something about what God is like because of this.
Because God is a living, loving, relational God, this God goes outward, beyond the divine sphere. God, if I can put it this way, spilled over into creation, and created human beings in God’s own image. God didn’t do this for sport. God did this out of love, so that God could love us and we could love God, and God could enjoy this relationship. At the Last Supper table, Jesus said to his disciples: "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. In today’s Gospel we heard Jesus say: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
So, the doctrine of the Trinity teaches us what kind of God we’ve got a loving, living, personal, relational God, who is like a family, and whose love spills over to include us as part of the family.
Observation #2 on the Trinity
That’s one way in which this great truth - the Trinity - affects us and helps us relate to God. The second way is this. I wonder if you and I don’t sell short God’s presence to us. In trying to talk about this living, loving, relational God, we speak of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Well... God the Father sent the Son, and then when the Son died, rose and ascended to heaven, the Son sent the Holy Spirit upon us. I wonder if we don’t, unconsciously think of the Spirit as sort of the third string God. God the Father is way up there, and Jesus has gone to sit at the right hand of God... and so we get one of God’s high-ranking ambassadors: the Spirit. Now, we know enough to get it right on a religion test that the Spirit is God. But I wonder if we don’t sell short the presence of the Spirit within us.
The truth is, our doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that you can’t have one Person of the Trinity without the other two Persons being present as well. You can’t have one without the other two.
At the Last Supper table, Phillip said to Jesus, “Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said, “To have seen me is to have seen the Father... I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” Then Jesus told them that he was going away, and they would see him no more, but he would send the Spirit, and would be with them through the Spirit. So, if you have Jesus you have the Father, and if you have the Spirit, you have Jesus.
I think we need to be more aware that the whole, great God, is with us through Jesus, and through the Spirit. At Communion, for example, I don’t simply receive Jesus. I receive the whole, great God. When I am going through a regular day, and realize that the Spirit is within me, it is the whole, great God who is within me wherever I am.
In just a few moments I will baptize Caleb Timothy McCoy. And I shall baptize him “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” When we make the Sign of the Cross upon ourselves (which, perhaps we should do now and then during a given day - it’s a way of pronouncing a blessing upon ourselves), we bless ourselves “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” When we pray the fundamental prayers of the Church, we pray to God the Father, “through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives with you in the unity of the Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen”
We need to think in those grand terms as we go through any given day. It’s not ‘just’ the Spirit who is with me. You can’t have one without the other. It is the ‘whole, great God’ who is with me.
On this Trinity Sunday, we celebrate this wonderful truth. It is the whole, great God who is with me, within me, every second of every day. When I go to sleep, and when I wake up. It’s the ‘whole God.’ Not a delegate. Not a ‘third string’ God. It’s all of God, the fullness of God, the whole God.
Trust me. To think that way, makes a great, great difference. Try thinking that way now and then as you go through the rest of this day. Try thinking that way the rest of your life. And trust me. It will make a great, great difference.
Originally given on May 26, 2002