Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 – Before the oceans and mountains were born, Wisdom was set in place.
Psalm 8– When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established, what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.
Romans 5:1-5– Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
John 16:12-15 – When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth… He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine.
Hymns: Come, Join the Dance of Trinity, 412 ELW, and Holy God, We Praise Your Name, 414 ELW. Eternal Father, Strong to Save, ELW 756. God, Whose Almighty Word; Holy, Holy, Holy. We Believe, by The Newsboys: http://youtu.be/E00j5xGeDm8. David Scherer (Agape) has a creed, as do Lost and Found, Jay Beech, The David Crowder Band (Believe) and Hillsong (This I Believe).
Looking ahead at the RCL epistle readings
The next few Sundays, the second lesson is from Galatians. Links to posts on the Galatians texts can be found below. Paul’s statements about freedom in Galatians 5 fall conveniently on the Sunday before July 4, Independence Day.
June and July in Galatians: The law was our custodian (an adolescent babysitter) until faith came:
- June 23 2019, Galatians 3:23-29 (June 19 is Juneteenth)
- June 30, 2019, Galatians 5:1, 13-25 (July 4 is Independence Day)
- July 7, 2019, Galatians 6:[1-6] 7-16 (July 4 is Independence Day)
July 14-August 4 in Colossians: Then we get a taste of Colossians, which I’ll summarize in Matthew Fox’ words: The Coming of the Cosmic Christ.
August 11-September 1 in Hebrews: Moving toward the “Great Cloud of Witnesses” texts from Hebrews 11-13.
September through the end of October in 1 and 2 Timothy: Continuing on, we get Philemon, then carefully chosen 1 and 2 Timothy texts the rest of the year.
Gospels-at-a-Glance (5 months)
After Trinity Sunday (June 16, 2019) we begin a steady march through Luke. We’ve heard the Birth Narrative and the Passion Narrative. Now we start June 23 with Luke 7 and pace ourselves chapter-by-chapter through Luke 18 in October:
June 23 in Luke 8 and June 30 Luke 9: Sinful woman with alabaster jar forgiven, healing of the Geresene demoniac, Jesus rejected by Samaritan village (cost of discipleship). Sending of the 70.
July in Luke 10-11: Good Samaritan, Mary and Martha, Jesus’ teaching on prayer (and the Lord’s Prayer), Parable of the Rich Fool.
August in Luke 12-14: Where your treasure is there will your heart be also, I have not come to bring peace but sword, healing of a crippled woman on the Sabbath. Jesus heals again on the Sabbath and lectures on the Law, Renounce family and possessions.
September in Luke 14-16: Then Jesus heals on the Sabbath, Parable of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, Parable of the Shrewd Manager, Parable of Rich Man and Lazarus.
October and November in Luke 17-18: All Saints is the Lukan Beatitudes from Luke 6. Parable of the Mustard Seed (undeserving slaves).Then the Parable of the Judge and the Widow (pray and don’t lose heart), the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee (warning against hypocrisy).
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
En consecuencia, ya que hemos sido justificados mediante la fe, tenemos paz con Dios por medio de nuestro Señor Jesucristo.2 También por medio de él, y mediante la fe, tenemos acceso a esta gracia en la cual nos mantenemos firmes. Así que nos regocijamos en la esperanza de alcanzar la gloria de Dios.3 Y no sólo en esto, sino también en nuestros sufrimientos, porque sabemos que el sufrimiento produce perseverancia;4 la perseverancia, entereza de carácter; la entereza de carácter, esperanza.5 Y esta esperanza no nos defrauda, porque Dios ha derramado su amor en nuestro corazón por el Espíritu Santo que nos ha dado.
It is not difficult to see why the framers of the lectionary chose this passage for Trinity Sunday. While the word “Trinity” is never mentioned in the Bible, it is implicitly there, and so became the way the church understood divinity, as revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Paul’s theology here in Romans, and in other places seems clear enough: We have peace with God, because Jesus Christ has given us access to faith. So we boast in this hope, and also in suffering (which, seen in the cross, now becomes our lot), that leads to hope, because the Holy Spirit has poured God’s love in our hearts.
Once Christians began to contemplate the God who creates, redeems and makes us holy, one God in three persons, they began to notice it in other places. They wondered about the three divine messengers Abraham encountered at the Oaks of Mamre. The personification of Holy Wisdom (like in the first lesson from Proverbs 8) in the Scriptures came to be understood as the Holy Spirit. The Trinity was not a new idea; it had been there all along. They noticed that you have God, Word and Spirit in the first Genesis creation account. Jesus became identified with the Word in John’s gospel.
Understanding Jesus as The Word, took on significant importance as the Word, the Divine Logos, had special significance in Greco-Roman culture. Heraclitus had used it as a philosophical term to describe knowledge and the order of the universe 500 years before Christ. The Stoic philosophers identified the Word/Logos as the divine animating principle pervading the universe. In Roman theology, the Logos was the first emanation of the Pleroma (the fullness of all divine powers). For Greek Christians, identifying Jesus with the Divine Logos communicated something substantial in pagan society. That communication had cosmic implications. For Jewish Christians, identifying Jesus with the Word of God spoken at creation, the creative force of the universe, also had cosmic implications. Even the Jewish philosopher Philo (20-50 A.D.) had incorporated the concept of the Logos into his philosophy.
Romans 5 is not a treatise on the Trinity. Paul is not really preaching about the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity appears to emerge unconsciously as he is talking about the implications of justification. Paul has spent the first chapters of Romans talking about the human condition. He paints a picture of a humanity that is trapped in the power of sin. Paul condemns paganism. Humans worship creation rather than creator. Paul condemns temple prostitution. He points out that our rejection of God leads to wickedness and ultimately suffering. No one is righteous. All are guilty. Therefore, you have no high moral ground from which to judge others (Romans 2:1, Matthew 7:1). No one can judge. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Furthermore, I would contend that Paul is addressing primarily Jewish Christians in Romans 2-4. In chapters 5-8 he addresses Gentile Christians. This is a very conscious structure in his letter, based on his thesis/propositio/theme verse, if you will:
Therefore, I am not ashamed of the gospel,
for it is the power of God unto salvation of everyone who believes, the Jew first and also the Greek. For the righteousness of God has been revealed from faith to faith, just it is written,
“The righteous by faith shall live.”
So, Paul, true to his statement in chapter 1, deals with the Jew first and then the Greek as his letter unfolds. The Law cannot save, he warns Jewish Christians. This is a critical point, since Pharisees are making significant ground in the Christian community, to Paul’s disappointment.
In chapter 5, our text for today, Paul has moved to the Gentile Christians. Paul begins this section with the word, “Therefore.” In the Bible, whenever you see the word “therefore,” you need to ask what it’s there for. Paul has expanded on his chapter 1 thesis in chapter 3. We are justified by faith, therefore, this has significant implications. New Testament professor turned parish pastor Mary Hinkle Shore says Romans 1-4 is the “What?” In Romans 5 Paul turns to “Now What?” If we are justified by faith, and if the Law cannot make us righteous (3:20-28), then salvation must be available to all, apart from the Law.
Even we who are still caught in the web of sin are now at peace with God, simply by faith. This is Paul’s E=mc2. It is the calculus of faith. We have a shortcut to God that simply involved trusting (and I would argue Paul means also following) Christ. Paul talks about being “in Christ,” (6:3, 8:1, 16:7) in Romans and other letters. Being “in Christ,” we participate in his suffering and death. If we die with him, we will also rise with him. Salvation is not about purity, being good enough or keeping the law. It’s about faith. Trust. Relationship.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Once again, the Trinity is here implicitly in Jesus’ farewell address to his disciples, as recorded by John 80 years later.
Jesus has more to say, but the disciples cannot bear it now. The Spirit will have more to say. The church cannot rely solely on Jesus’ words and teachings. We must also depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will glorify Jesus, not contradict him. The Spirit will enlighten and clarify Jesus.
In Working Preacher, Gilberto Ruiz of St. Anselm University, points out that in John 14 Jesus has already said he is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is the truth. In this passage, the Spirit is the “Spirit of truth.” The Spirit will guide you into all truth. Jesus is the Way. The Spirit is the Guide. The words have the same root in Greek (hodos). John wants us to know that Jesus and the Spirit are hand-in-glove.
So how do you preach all this? Much depends on your community. How immersed are they biblically? Theologically? What’s going on in your community right now? What do they need to hear? Where do they need to be on the continuum of challenge and comfort?
Preaching the doctrine of the Trinity can be pretty dry. Preaching about a spiritually life-giving relationship with God can be riveting. What does it mean to put our faith in God, through Christ and allow the Spirit to pour love into our hearts? And for the younger folks who are struggling with older patriarchal ideas about God, can we invite them to see God as creator, as revealed in Christ and as ever-present, blowing through their lives with the wind of the Spirit? Can we invite them to move past concepts of God rooted in archaic cosmologies and encounter the living God in this postmodern context?
Are we grounded in Jesus’ teaching? Are we also open to listening to the Spirit, for new and deeper expressions of faith for our generation?
Perhaps one message of Trinity Sunday is that God is multifaceted – bigger than you thought. Deeper, wider, higher, lower. Invite them to encounter the God revealed in creation of the incomprehensible cosmos. Introduce them to the God that Jesus invites us to discover divinity in the eyes of the hungry, wandering, sick and imprisoned. Invite them to see the God who speaks to us in prayer, dreams and visions? Through the Spirit. No, this is not modalism. This is good news: proclaiming the three persons of the Trinity as a diverse, multifaceted God who lives in community and calls us to do the same.
What’s in your heart?
One last thought, with another possible angle. Paul talks about the Holy Spirit pouring the love of God into our hearts. For Paul, the Holy Spirit pours love into our hearts. Has this been your experience?
To commit something to memory is to learn it “by heart.” To lose heart is to lose hope. When we say we want to “get to the heart of the matter,” it means we want to get to the very core. To know someone’s heart is to know their intentions. What’s in your heart?
In the Bible, your heart is the very core of your being. Jesus said the greatest commandment was to “love the Lord with all your heart…” (Luke 10:27) To be “heartless” is to lack compassion. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)