What if I don’t want to preach the Trinity?

If my Facebook page is any indication of the sentiment of the wider church, the format proposed by my homiletics professors, that we should attack the themes of feast days first and the texts second, doesn’t have much of a foothold in contemporary preaching.  I can’t say that I’m 100% sold on the idea, but it is the academy after all: a place intentionally set aside for experimentation with new ways of doing things.  So, for the next three weeks, I’ll do my best to pretend to try to think about preaching the feasts based on their inherent theological themes.

Well, at least I will after today.  Today, I’m wondering, what if I don’t want to preach the Trinity?  What if I don’t feel particularly compelled to read the Trinity into Genesis 1?  What if I’m not sold on the passing reference to the Trinity in 2 Corinthians?  What if I don’t really believe that Jesus made such a clear trinitarian reference in his Great Commission?  Then what?

It seems obvious to me that if you don’t want to preach the Trinity on  Trinity Sunday and you are a lectionary based preacher, then you have to preach the resurrection encounter from Matthew 28.  Earlier, the Angel of the Lord had told the women who found the empty tomb that Jesus had gone on to Galilee and that his disciples should meet him there.  Our lesson for Sunday opens with the craziest detail, the disciples ACTUALLY go to Galilee; to the mountain that Jesus had told them about.  It is worth noting that in Matthew’s account there is no Emmaus Road story, no encounter with Jesus in the upper room after Easter supper, no race to the tomb between Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved.  In Matthew’s version, the disciples simply do what their told, even though, and this, I think, is key, “some doubted.”

Believing in the resurrection is difficult.  So difficult, in fact, that even some of Jesus’ closest companions aren’t sure about it.  But Jesus loves them just the same, and he encourages them, even in their doubt, to go and share the story.  Believing in the Trinity is even harder.  It seems like a doctrine pushed backwards onto scripture.  Three in one and one in three is hard to comprehend.  Pictures like this one

don’t make it any easier, but the lesson we get from Matthew 28 this week is simple.  Tell the Good News, even as you struggle to believe it yourself.

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Grace. Love. Communion.

As I suggested in yesterday’s post, the Lectionary texts for Trinity Sunday aren’t exactly rich and/or full.  I’m a fan of the Genesis text for the reasons I explained, but it must also be noted that the Epistle and Gospel lesson are really, really short.  Thankfully, I’m taking a class here at Sewanee in which the professors are suggesting that the texts take a back seat on feast days like Trinity Sunday, and that the preacher should instead focus on a (notice that this means one) theological theme that the feast day raises and then see how the Biblical texts might inform that conversation.

For example, on Trinity Sunday, a theme might be: “How Christians engage with the Trinity.”  Plenty of examples of parachoresis exist, and I’ll let someone else do the liturgical dance number for that.  Instead, I’d jump to the lesson from 2nd Corinthians and explore how Paul’s closing words to the conflict-ridden Church in Corinth help us understand the role of the Trinity in community.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”

Through the Second Person of the Trinity, we receive the unmerited favor of God.  By grace, we are restored into full communion with the Trinity and invited to take our place in the work of restoring creation to the fullness of God’s dream for it.  Through the First Person of the Trinity, we learn about love: perfect and unconditional love that gives of itself fully for the other; love that is so overwhelming that it flows forth and creates new things to love.  Through the Third Person of the Trinity, we receive admittance into the Communion of Saints, we take our place in the Church throughout all ages, and seek unity with the faithful in every generation.

Obviously, this is a work in progress, but hopefully you get the idea.  This Trinity Sunday, perhaps we should ask our people, “How do you engage the Trinity?”  I’m guessing we’ll be surprised by their answers.