Trinity Sunday, 2019 Sermon
In the name of the One Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.
Good morning Saint John’s Church! And Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads in the church this morning, and all men who play a paternal role in someone’s life.
I’d like to begin my thoughts this morning by sharing with you that this day has been a long-awaited day in my life as a priest in the Church of God, and I suspect that for some of you as well. From the very first interview I had with the Vestry of Saint John’s Church, I felt a deep connection, a connection I attribute to God’s Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that we all celebrated last week on Pentecost Sunday, as we rejoiced in the birth of the Church born in Palestine.
Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday, the fullness of God expressed in the divine unity of Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. The Holy Trinity often puts Christians in a conundrum when trying to explain this doctrine that is uniquely Christian, and developed in the 4th century by the Cappadocian Fathers; and the truth of the matter is that it remains in the realm of mystery, where all the deepest truths reside. Trying to use the limited capacity of our Left brains to rationally explain a phenomenon that has no rational explanation is futile, for it never makes any real logical sense, but then again, that which we often call God, also remains beyond our grasp and human understanding. To put it in the words of Saint Augustine of Hippo: “If you say that you know God, that which you say you know, is not God at all” for the Transcendent always remains beyond our reach.
The Holy Trinity is outside our human comprehension, and from my own personal experience, it is best approached using the intuitive abilities of the Right side of the brain, the hemisphere of the brain responsible for all creative energy, that connects us to the Heart. It is in the heart that we begin to relate to the Sacred Three, and we begin to penetrate a Mystery that invites us into its unity.
Franciscan priest and scholar, Richard Rohr, describes the Holy Trinity as: “an Infinite Dynamic Flow… …an Infinite outpouring, and an Infinite receiving” that invites us into full participation with God. The Holy Trinity is relational, and in our connection to this Divine Mystery, it is as if we, the Church, born on Pentecost, become the Fourth person in this Divine Unity. At the end of the day, it is all about a relational unity, where one element flows into the other, all are equal, and we too become part of the unity, through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Of all the Abrahamic faiths, it is only the Christian faith that professes God as a Divine Trinity, this is not to say that we have it all figured out better than our Jewish, or Muslim, sisters and brothers; this is simply to state that in our tradition, the relational aspects of the one God, binds us into its unity, and reminds us that we’re all interconnected.
Having different theological perspectives strengthens the celebration of our different faiths, and the beautiful richness each tradition contains; and for us, as we move forward, after the celebration of Pentecost, it is about how we live into this Trinitarian Unity, that binds us to God, and binds us to one another, in the service and love of God’s Kingdom.
In this morning’s Gospel from John we are told that when the Spirit of Truth comes, we will be guided by that Spirit “into all Truth.” And just what is that Truth?
Ultimately that Truth is the Love that binds us to one another through the gift and mercy of God’s Spirit. Paul reminds us this morning, in his Epistle to the Romans that: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” We have that Spirit, and it is the fuel that will move Saint John’s Church into the future ever creating, ever unfolding the Kingdom of God in our midst. How this unfolds is ultimately in the hands of God, our part is to be open to that grace, that emanates from God, the endless fountain of grace, that allows us to put our own willfulness aside, in surrendering to the will of the Eternal, from where all true freedom is birthed. The paradox in all this, is that we are not being asked to give-up our uniqueness before the eyes of God, we’re being invited to be our authentic selves, just as the three manifestations of the Holy Trinity express their unique and authentic character as Creator (Father/Mother), Redeemer (Son), and Sustainer (Holy Spirit).
So, today we begin a new chapter in the life of this parish, and for myself as your priestly servant. Together we’ve been called to build on the legacy of over 275 years, as we face an ever challenging, and ever changing 21st century post-modern world. Together we’re being challenged to bind ourselves into the “strong name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three;” together as we propel the mission of this church forward, we will continue to define how Saint John’s Church brings to life its mission statement “to live the love of God, with hearts open to all, strengthened by joyful worship, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and dedicated to serving Christ in the world.”
Paul tells us in his Letter to the Romans: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.” This Spirit of Truth, manifest in the blessed Trinity, is the conduit that will guide this church community forward. This Spirit of Truth is the source of Wisdom dancing in the verses from the Book of Proverbs we heard this morning. It is our task as a church community to open ourselves to the Spirit of Truth, that sublime force leading us into authentic living, not only as individuals, but as a continuing community of faith with a strong presence in the city of Stamford. Saint John’s Church has a centuries old and celebrated narrative in this place, it has withstood the test of time, it is present, it is alive, and it seeks to serve the ever-expanding Kingdom of God in our midst. I am deeply honored to have been called to be your spiritual leader at this time, working with the Vestry, Fr. Sandy, the staff, and all of you, and I trust in the movement of the Spirit in this place, and where the Spirit of Truth will lead us.
Some of you know that I am a passionate photographer and sometimes poet, and connected to the Book of Proverbs, I have a poem I would like to share with you this morning on the subject of Wisdom. It is a poem I titled “Sophia of My Soul” - Sophia being the Greek word for Wisdom, and it goes like this…
How beautiful to rest in wisdom,
How beautiful the repose born of such sublime Eternity.
What liberty when one is freed of ignorance,
And the voluntary sentence of self-deception.
Sophia of my soul,
Beautiful lady of the light and night,
Striking brightness that brings inner peace,
Why deny your entry into my bed chamber?
Why resist the caress of your knowing?
Why refuse your seductive gaze calling me to freedom?
The door opens very slowly,
And little by little I see your nakedness;
Little by little I embrace my nakedness,
Realizing the futility of trying to hide.
Sophia of my soul,
I surrender to your seduction,
Break the resistance,
And dismantle the chains that keep me a prisoner.
Sophia of my soul,
Come rest in me,
Tear down my stubbornness,
And fill my being with the aroma of your light;
Your glow of knowing and understanding,
Your enveloping haze where neither falsehoods nor arrogance will enter.
Sophia of my soul,
Come and make your sanctuary in me,
Sophia of my soul …
The Spirit of Truth is leading us to wisdom, and it calls us all to come naked before its presence. We are called into the presence of the Holy stripped of anything and everything that prevents our union to it; we are called as individuals, and as a community of faith. We take comfort in knowing that it does not depend on our own strength, but the grace of God’s Holy Spirit guiding our steps. We take comfort in the words of Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, which we sang this morning, that once again remind us, it does not depend on our own strength:
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
Last Sunday, I celebrated my last two Sunday Eucharists as the Rector of Saint George’s Church, in Flushing, N.Y. I celebrated the morning English Eucharist, and the afternoon Spanish Eucharist, and those were followed by a farewell celebration in the afternoon with participation from all three language ministries: English, Mandarin, and Spanish. It was an incredible outpouring of LOVE, tears and joy. I was both burdened by the grief of saying good-bye, and also the excitement and joy of the start of a new ministry as a priest in the Church of God, here at Saint John’s Church. In the morning Eucharist at Saint George’s we sang the words of Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, words sung again this morning, and those words have lifted and carried me on Eagles wings to this place, and this time, and I trust that they will carry all of us forward.
My official title here at Saint John’s Church is Provisional Priest In Charge, PPIC, and I’ve sensed that some are uneasy with this title. Please don’t believe for a moment that you are an orphaned parish without a spiritual leader; DON’T LET THE ABSENCE OF “RECTOR” IN MY TITLE FOOL YOU. The depth of my relationship with you is not expressed in titles such as “Provisional Priest In Charge,” these words are only a matter of semantics. The depth of my relationship with you - as your spiritual leader at this present time - is defined by our mutual connection to Spirit, God’s Holy Spirit, the Blessed Trinity, and our mutual surrendering to God’s Holy will, in the mission of this parish.
We begin a journey today on eagle’s wings, soaring towards the heavens; grounded in faith. Faith that the Spirit will take us where we need to go, in the coming years ahead, as we mutually surrender to God’s will, and make real God’s Kingdom in our midst, right here, and right now, in this beautiful historic SAINT JOHN’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH. Saint John’s is a robust church, a generous church, a historical presence in the city of Stamford that I pray and I trust will continue evolving into the future as a reflection of the face of God, in the midst of a changing world that is hungry for Spirit.
Fr. Jim Wheeler has retired as your Rector, and I’m sure he is dearly missed. His work and ministry in this place have touched your lives, and it is my prayer that my ministry here, along with the Vestry, and staff of Saint John’s Church, and the missional ministries of L’Eglise D L’Epiphanie, and la Iglesia Betania, will also touch your lives as we move by grace into the future. My wife Rose and I are excited to be here, we’ve been looking forward to this day, and we’re very much looking forward to the journey ahead.
Praise be to God for this wonderful new beginning, and praise be to God for the presence of Saint John’s Church in Stamford, Connecticut. AMEN
Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
2 At the highest point along the way,
where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
3 beside the gate leading into the city,
at the entrance, she cries aloud:
4 “To you, O people, I call out;
I raise my voice to all mankind.
“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,[c][d]
before his deeds of old;
23 I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
when there were no springs overflowing with water;
25 before the mountains were settled in place,
before the hills, I was given birth,
26 before he made the world or its fields
or any of the dust of the earth.
27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
29 when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
30 Then I was constantly[e] at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
31 rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.
5 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access[b] to this grace in which we stand; and we[c] boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we[d] also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”