Saturday, June 18, 2011

Trinity Sunday

This week I will not be preaching a sermon at St. Benedict's because we will be visited by our Diocesan Bishop, who is also our Archbishop, the Most Rev. Mark D. Haverland. If you want a sermon for Trinity Sunday (as I know that some laymen charged with leading Morning Prayer in the absence of clergy use either these, or the Sermons for Lay Readers that features the work of Rev. Canon John Hollister), my offerings for Trinity Sunday may be found here and here. Certainly, no one can go wrong using Fr. Wells' excellent Bulletin Insert directly below. 

But, I do want to say something about Trinity Sunday for our readers. Put very simply, when God revealed the doctrine of the Trinity in Scripture, He did not do so by inspiring a writer to explain it. Neither did He do so by raising up someone to teach it in philosophical terms. Neither did this revelation come by "Doctrinal Development" as merely the product of consensus (and no doctrine ever did or could come that way). It was not revealed as an intellectual proposition, or as an abstract formula.

The simple fact is, the revelation of the Trinity came to us by Divine action (and you really must read Fr. Wells' insert in the post directly below). To begin with, it is indicated in the Biblical account of creation, and then it became a very clear revelation in the Biblical account of our salvation. And, when I say Biblical account, I mean the Scriptures are the record of God's revelation; in this case, the written record of His actions. It is in the Divine action of God coming into the world by the Incarnation and then on Pentecost, that this revelation was given.

As I wrote in the sermon from 2009:

"The formula for baptism is 'In the Name of The Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit).' The revelation of this Name, indeed, this One Name, is the end result in Matthew's Gospel, of all that Jesus did and said. Now, we know God. The revelation of this One Name of The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, could not be given to us before the Incarnation of the Word; the Name could not be revealed before Christ's atoning death in which he took away the sins of the world; the Name could not be revealed until after he defeated death itself and rose from the grave. The Name could be revealed only after we see the full picture of the Son, in his complete victory for our sakes over sin and death, having cast out the prince of this world in his Passion and Resurrection. And, it had to be revealed right then, just before the Ascension and the ten days when the disciples were about to stand on that bridge between the coming of the first Comforter and the coming of the other Comforter; that is, between the coming of Christ our Advocate (παράκλητος, paraklētos I John 2:1), and the coming of "the other Comforter" (same word, παράκλητος, paraklētos, John 14:16,17), the Spirit of Truth.

"God the Father has been perfectly (Heb. 1:1f) revealed by the Son; and the Father and the Son are known only through the Holy Spirit (John 15:26). Therefore, the revelation of the Divine Name is also the revelation of our salvation, for the revelation of the One Divine Name of The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit came only out of the mouth of Jesus Christ after he had accomplished all things, and was ready to go back to the Father in order to send the other Paraklētos. The new life, into which we are born again in baptism, is eternal life; that eternal life is to know the God of this revelation intimately.

"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world can not receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. ..And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 14:16,17; 17:3) 

"Eternal life is to know the Spirit of Truth, for he alone reveals the Son. It is to know the Son, for he alone reveals the Father. It is to know the Father. Our salvation and eternal life is to know the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."

The revelation of the Trinity could not have been invented by human imagination. Indeed, it humbles human intellect. Can we even begin to ponder it? The name given by the Risen Lord was revealed on His lips; but this was not simply a teaching for the human mind to ponder. The words spoken by the Risen Christ ("baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost") did not come in a vacuum, as words isolated from experience. 

Those words came on that bridge between God's two great revelations thus far, the Incarnation and Pentecost - or between (if I may dare say it) the two Incarnations of the Word made flesh, and the Church made into the Body of Christ (the final revelation will be when Christ returns on the Last Day). The Name was revealed in the context of Divine action, specifically the redemption and salvation of all who are in Christ, and their mission to spread that salvation in the world.

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