Saturday, June 6, 2009

Trinity nuclear option: you can use my notes.

No, it is not the great be-all-and-end-all Trinity sermon. But if you are feeling dry and still don't have a sermon, or if you are a faithful worshipper dreading your priest's annual evasion of WHO GOD IS, by all means, skim these notes and I pray that the Father will bless you, through the merits of the Son, with insight in the power of the Holy Spirit.


Trinity Sunday

Fr. Tim Fountain

I can tell that some of you are offering our June Prayer Focus:
Father, give the Holy Spirit to our congregation. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. (Based on Jesus’ promise in Luke 11:13)
I can tell, because I have had additional strength this week. Our Wednesday Bible study, which looked at today’s Trinity Sunday lessons, ran almost 90 minutes and could have kept going. Keep up the prayers – the Holy Spirit is being poured out on us as you pray to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit.

"Trinity" is the title we use for God as He is revealed in the New Testament and for the mystery of God which is still to be revealed. Trinity is not a Biblical word, but it expresses what we know of God while also confessing the truth that God is beyond our perfect understanding.

The traditional explanation of the Trinity is that God exists as "three persons in one substance" – One God, who lives and is known as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This gives us greater intimacy with God, since we have His name, but also a holy mystery, since any attempt to explain how One God exists in three persons goes haywire due to the limits of our human thought and language.

Because of the mystery, we draw nearer to the Trinity by participation in worship, prayer and discipleship than we do in classes, although good teaching is essential to our relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. My teaching today is to show you how we get closer to God, the Holy Trinity, through three means: what we say, how we pray and what guides our way.

We come to know the Trinity by what we say in worship.

A. To fully participate in the liturgy, we are required to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as Jesus commands in Matthew 28:19.
B. We begin worship – we approach God – by blessing His Holy Name: "Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
C. Look at the Nicene Creed in the middle of the service. (I know you want to because that usually means the sermon is over.) Notice how it is laid out as one statement in three sections – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. By faith we confess one God in three persons.
D. At the end of the liturgy, we are sent into the world with a blessing in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
E. The churchy word "orthodox" comes from the Greek words ortho (straight or correct) and doxa (opinion or statement). Our worship is designed to place our whole self – body, soul and spirit – in the "correct statement" of who God is. As the ancient Creed of St. Athanasius puts it, "The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal." The right language of worship puts us in touch with this holy mystery.
F. In today’s first lesson, we see Isaiah at worship in the Temple. Once his whole being is rightly positioned, in awe of God, with sin confessed and mercy received, God is revealed to him perfectly, as both singular and plural: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" (See the same in Genesis 1:26, p. 1 in the pew Bibles). With this right awareness of God, Isaiah is sent out as God’s own representative. We come to know God and are transformed when we rightly worship God’s own revealed identity – The Trinity.


We come to know the Trinity by how we pray.

A. Book of Common Prayer, p. 856: "Christian prayer is response to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit."
B. Most of the "Collects" in our Prayer Book follow this model.
C. The blessing of the bread and wine on the altar follows this pattern, in a prayer which I say on our behalf (which is why you all say "Amen" at the end). 8 a.m., p. 335, bottom two paragraphs: We beseech the Father, through the merits of Jesus Christ the Son, in the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit; 10 a.m., p. 363, we offer our gifts to the Father, through the Son, in the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.
D. This pattern of prayer rightly orients us toward the perfect place of the eternal God we seek (the Father), through God’s action to open the way (the Son), in God’s invisible power that guides our progress (the Holy Spirit).
E. In our lesson from Paul’s letter to the Romans, we discover that we are free to speak to the Father on the most intimate of terms, as "Abba", an Aramaic term of childlike familiarity, like "daddy." We can do this through the Son, Jesus, who makes us his brothers and sisters – "joint heirs"; in the power of the Holy Spirit to guide and transform us as we pray.


We come to know the Trinity by what guides our way of life.

A. As with our prayer, we orient our actions toward the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
B. When Nicodemus praises Jesus’ actions (his teaching and powerful deeds or "signs"), Jesus replies that these come from living toward the Father ("seeing the kingdom of God"), through believing in the Son who comes to save the world, in the power of the Holy Spirit who gives "second birth."
C. Jesus’ teaching about the "hard way and narrow gate" (Matthew 7:14) reminds us that our life must have guiding direction and focus – we must examine our lives for how well they are offered to our Father in heaven rather than to Satan, the "father of lies" (John 8:44). How much of our life is an offering to God, versus how much is an offering to lesser distractions. Is your conscience at war with your actions? Are you enjoying good things without remembering to be thankful? Do you make loving and sacrificial choices that put others first? These are just some of the daily ways to see if we are living "to the Father."
D. Our "way" toward the Father is through the Son. As I preached at The Ascension, only Jesus Christ brings our human nature to completion and perfection, able to inherit paradise. This is why we pray in his name, share his Body and Blood, study his teachings, try to follow his example and, most of all, lift Him up to the Father as our offering when our actions have been evil.
E. We can live to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are baptized into new birth or "birth from above" by the Spirit’s power; we are helped by the Spirit to "put to death the deeds of the flesh" and follow the way of Jesus; we are transformed by the Spirit into "fellow heirs" with Christ, adopted children of the Heavenly Father.


Please take your Prayer Books and turn to (8 a.m.) p. 326 / (10 a.m.) p. 358…
With our hearts and minds opened to our Father’s love, let us go to him through the way of faith opened by the Son and, in the power of the Holy Spirit who is with us, affirm our faith in the one substance and three persons of The Holy Trinity as we say, WE BELIEVE IN ONE GOD...

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