Searching for the Trinity on Trinity Sunday

Every few months, Episcopal priests on Facebook feel the need to get uppity about something.  Recently, we’ve had a newfound interest in Prayer Book revision to get snarky about, but one perennial favorite is the topic of Trinity Sunday.  There are those who will suggest that one might not need to preach the doctrine of the Trinity on Trinity Sunday, while others will get very emphatic in saying that one must preach the Day.  I honestly don’t have an opinion on the matter.  If you can preach the doctrine of the Trinity without steering your congregation into heresy, then by all means, please do so, and share your wisdom widely.  If that is not possible for you, either because of a lack of time, a lack of enthusiasm, or clarity of understanding, please steer clear of this notoriously difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain in 12 minutes topic, and preach the texts.

There are a brave few who will attempt to do both this Trinity Sunday.  These preachers will take the bait of the Revised Common Lectionary and assume, probably unwisely, that the men (let’s face it, it had to be a bunch of dudes) who threw darts in that smoke filled room to set the RCL had benevolent motives.  They will dig into each text, searching for the kernel of doctrinal truth about the Trinity for Trinity Sunday.  As they search for the Trinity on Trinity Sunday, they will notice that Psalm 8 is simply a response to the Genesis lesson.  Canticle 13 simply names the Trinity, as do the lessons from 2 Corinthians and Matthew.  While it is important to notice that the Triune name of God has been in use since the early part of the second half of the first century.  Unfortunately, one cannot extrapolate much about the doctrine beyond that.

Which leaves us with the first Creation story from Genesis.  This is the story with which we are most familiar.  It has the cadence we have come to look for, “there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.”  It affirms again and again that God sees creation as good, and only when everything had been set into place, does God declare it very good.  It is also the only place in the lessons for Trinity Sunday, Year A, that we might find some insights into the nature of the Trinity.  While it is doubtful that poet who wrote Genesis 1 had the doctrine in mind, the first three verses can be informative for our understanding of God to see how the three co-eternal Persons are at work even as the one nature is to create.

God, the name we often conflate with the Father, is the creative force behind it all.  The Spirit, called the “wind from God,” hovers over the face of the deep, waiting to take her place as guide in the hearts of humankind, and to teach them what it means to “have dominion.”  And then, God speaks, and God’s creative Word goes about the work of bringing the Father’s ideas into being.  Even now, I’m teetering on the edge of Modalism, so I’ll stop here.


No! Not Modalism!

My point is, preaching the Trinity is difficult.  Let’s cut each other some slack.  Let’s pray that we don’t lead our congregations down a path toward heresy.  And let’s invite God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to guide us as we search for the Trinity on Trinity Sunday.

One thought on “Searching for the Trinity on Trinity Sunday

  1. Several years ago I realized that the way I prayed gave me an insight into my understanding of the Trinity. It is both comforting and awesomely powerful to know that I have a connection to God on three specific levels. I can pray with gratitude and wonder; pray about the details of living in this world; ask for guidance and strength and discernment. I noticed that the language of my prayers changes as I connect to God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit. I don’t have to understand how this works. It just does. Thanks be to God-Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer-anything I need.

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