Sermon for Trinity Sunday | 2018
By Fr. Hayden A. Butler
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the Spirit…
From Advent through Pentecost, the Sunday readings and collects have taken us through the mighty works of God. Advent taught us to expect that our God would come to us, both in the Incarnation and on the last day to judge the world. Christmas celebrated the mystery of the Father sending the Son to take on our flesh by the Holy Spirit, coming among us to dwell as one of us. Epiphany remembered the manifestations of Christ’s glory and power in the Holy Spirit even as He taught us of the Father. Lent turned our attention to the battle of Christ against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and Holy Week culminated in the revelation of the God who saves His people, as Christ died for us to redeem us. Easter celebrated the Resurrection of Christ and His victory over sin and death, opening the door to new life through Him with His Father. Ascension remembered Christ going to the Father to make a place for us in the house of God and to send to us the Spirit. Finally, on Pentecost we received the Holy Spirit promised by Christ to unite us into one life with Him by the work of the Spirit in the love of the Father. And so today, before we begin our long season of growth in this life we have received, we pause to turn from these meditations on what God has done for us to a celebration of who God is: our God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three divine persons and yet One God, the Holy Trinity.
Our Epistle lesson leads us this morning through the doorway of heaven, opened by Christ and passed through in the Spirit. The threshold to heavenly things may not be crossed unless we are invited, welcomed into things that are higher than us. To know that we must ascend by the Spirit to see the bounty of the Father, we must admit that we are too lowly to understand of ourselves. This is the foundation of what it means to understand anything–we must confess that we stand under something that is above our heads. Without this humility no one may hope to see God. God wills that we see Him, but also wills how we see Him: the one seeking the Father is welcomed only through the Son and goes there in the Spirit. We have no right to demand that God reveal Himself to us. Rather, God has done all as a gift of His grace to make us able to know Him as He is. The Holy Spirit attends to the soul who is invited to behold God and safeguards the passage. As our Lord tells Nicodemus, except a person be born of water and of the Holy Spirit, they cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. Only through Baptism are we made fit by the Spirit to be led into the truth of God.
When looking on God as He is, our language cracks under the strain of communicating what is, by virtue of being above our understanding, also above the symbolism of our language. The image of heaven is at once revelation and poetry. St. John’s language moves swiftly to capture this scene during which each new sight exceeds in the complexity the one that came before it. Wonder follows wonder, and our imaginations are left breathless as at last we are brought by the Spirit to the center of all wonders: the vision of God Himself. Suddenly, God’s radiance redefines the whole scene and we hear the song of praise that had been going on all along and always, before we even became aware of it. All the voices of heaven come together into one voice whose one song is a threefold Holy. The invitation to behold the vision of God, begun in the humility of understanding, is enlightened by the Holy Spirit to lead us by the hand into the worship of heaven itself. The consummation of revelation is adoration.
To confess the Trinity is a gift. It is the answer to Christ’s priestly prayer that the Spirit would lead us into all truth. The revelation of God as Trinity is a gift to the Church to liberate us from the bondage of our own ideas about God. It is the revelation of God we could never imagine or engineer for ourselves — In showing us Himself, God the Trinity liberates us to worship not as we might seek to know God but as God knows Himself to be. Where we would be tempted to worship merely a divine unity we would find ourselves in flat submission to a distant Power. Where we would be tempted to worship an ever-expanding plurality we would exhaust ourselves with fear and contradiction. The gospel of the Trinity means that we have been rescued by from both the divine tyranny and the divine absurdity we so often make for ourselves.
Even so, one cannot celebrate God as Trinity simply by stating the Creed. We do not need new life merely to cite ancient formulas of belief. No, the sacred, gifted life is for nothing less than participation in the Trinity. The life of the Church is lived through perpetual prayer, our union with God the Trinity. We continually offer prayers of praise and confession and intercession to God the Father through God the Son by God the Spirit. To pray the Lord’s Prayer is to share life with the Trinity. To pray the Daily Offices is to share in the life of the Trinity. To pray during Mass is to share in the life of the Trinity. To cross ourselves, to genuflect, to partake of the Eucharist is to share in the life of the Trinity. To give ourselves to service and charity is to share in the life of the Trinity. Yet to partake of the life of the Trinity is to share in the life of love that is the life of the Trinity, and this means that as we share in the Spirit of love who is the unity of the Father loving His Son and the Son loving His Father, we must be transformed as persons who love as they love in the free gift of our lives to redeem all things into that life of love until all things become the Kingdom of God.
And so that means, my beloved brothers and sisters, that today our celebration of God as Trinity and the life of prayer through which we share in the eternal life and love of the Triune Persons must become the shape of our life forevermore. We have been led through the waters of Baptism to this new life, and this new life has the purpose of being shared. We become true partakers in the life of God only as this life bears fruit in lives that witness to the love of God. And so today, let us bind ourselves to the life of our Triune God, let us become one with that love that moves all things, redeems all things. Let us love the person sitting next to us. Let us love the person we’ve not yet talked to. Let us love the families we go home to in their messiness and in their nobility. Let us love the stranger we meet who may need our help. Let us love our enemies, commending them to God’s redemption in hope of their salvation, for the Father through the Son by the Spirit has made us who were His enemies into His beloved children. “Beloved, let us love one another. For love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. They who do not love do not know God, for God is love.”