Delivered by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton – June 7, 2020
The holy gospel according to St. Matthew, the 28th chapter.
Glory to you, O Lord.
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.
17 When they saw Jesus, they worshiped him;
but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and said to them,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit,
20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
How are you? How is it with your soul? We live in uncertain times. In these difficult and unprecedented times. These have become catch phrases, but they are true. The world has been disrupted. We are finding ways to stay connected even while we shelter in place. I am impressed by the creative ways congregations are providing digital worship. We know we are reaching people who would otherwise not feel comfortable to enter our congregations. I am grateful for the resourcefulness of pastors and deacons who use new ways to connect with parishioners and the surrounding community. We continue to study scripture, worship, feed the hungry, and serve the neighbor. In fact, the church has not been closed these past months. We are showing up.
I long, as I am sure you do, to gather together in in-person worship; to share a meal, Holy Communion and potlucks, to greet each other face-to-face, to have children running around through coffee hours and church gatherings. That day will come. We have provided recommended guidelines for returning to in-person worship. These can be adapted to your context. We want people to be safe. I have heard the slogan, “Faith not Fear.” This is a false dichotomy. The faithful response is to care for the vulnerable, those at risk.
Today is Trinity Sunday. We have already passed so many important days in our church year, the end of Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost. All celebrations that are part of the story of God’s merciful and gracious will to redeem the world. Wandering in the wilderness for forty days, the commandment to love, the gift of Holy Communion, the unbelievable sacrifice of the crucifixion, the victory of Easter. Last Sunday, we celebrated the Holy Spirit showing up, blowing open windows and doors and sending the gospel out through the apostles in clear, ringing proclamation.
And now, today, the church sets aside time to consider how God has shown up, still shows up, will continue to show up as the Trinity. It is an unusual holy day. We are guaranteed that there will not be Netflix series or greeting cards to mark the day. It’s a difficult concept. Theologians have wrestled with this mystery for centuries. Hoping to gain further insight I googled “Martin Luther Trinity” I thought I had found a promising lead when “Martin Luther wrestling versus Trinity” popped up! I was disappointed when it turned out to be a story about boy’s high school wrestling between the high schools, Martin Luther and Trinity. As believers tried to make sense of a Triune God major heresies shot up: Modalism, Arianism, Nestorianism, Patripassianism, Adoptionism. Yikes! But this is how God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is at work in the world and this is how the church has experienced God.
In the beautiful song of creation in the first chapter of Genesis we hear, “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, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Martin Luther put it this way, “So also the Christian Church agrees that in this description there is indicated the mystery of the Holy The Father created through the Son, whom Moses calls the Word, and over this creative work brooded the Holy Spirit.” Later God says, “Let us make humankind in our image.” This is the glorious relationship within God that spills out into all creation. God is not a lone ranger and all of God shows up delighting in creation, caring for the creation, weeping for the creation, redeeming the creation.
I confess that I do not fully understand or have language to describe the mystery of the Holy Trinity, probably won’t until I complete my baptismal journey and stand in the presence of God. I can’t explain the how, but I can testify to the great Lutheran question, “What does this mean?” God is relationship. Within God and flowing from God. Creation is God’s decision NOT to look after God’s self, but focuses God’s energies on the creation. God is the one who does not grasp. As we hear in Philippians, “Let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Likewise, the Spirit is poured out on all.
And again, what does this mean? God is relationship, within God, with the creation, with humankind, and among humankind. And since we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit baptized into the Trinity, we are also part of this powerful, dynamic, living, giving, loving relationship. With God, in God, with creation, with each other. We are, inextricably woven together. No one is alone, no one is beyond the fierce, tender love of God. And God is not far off. God is present in creation, in each of us and all of us. God is flesh and blood made visible in Jesus of Nazareth and in every human being. God is Spirit, closer than our own breath, breathing life in and through us.
We are months into the pandemic. As we tentatively emerge from sheltering-in-place, divisions are emerging. Is it too soon? Is it too late? How do I balance my rights and freedoms against caring for my neighbor? What risks are acceptable? What am I willing to sacrifice for the greater good? When will this be over?
The Triune God into whom we are baptized, calls us, molds us, loves us into divine relationship. We are free. We no longer live to ourselves or in ourselves. We live to God and each other because God, all of God, lives in us.
At the end of his second letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul announces a promise, “the God of love and peace will be with you.” This full court press, all in, expansive, intimate, relational, Triune God will be with you. This is the promise. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit is with us all.