Revised Common Lectionary for Holy Trinity Sunday, Year A
June 11, 2017
Lessons: Genesis1:1-2:4a, Psalm 8, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people are aware that stewardship and discipleship are not solo acts but rather work done in the beloved community, and that is precisely where we see and experience God.
Key Scripture: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
On Holy Trinity Sunday the church celebrates the triune nature of God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a tough concept to wrap one’s mind around. After all, God is beyond us in so many ways but near to us in other ways. Think of the illustrations people have used through the ages to try and explain this idea–from St. Patrick’s shamrock to water, vapor, and ice–each dancing around the edges of God’s nature but in no way bespeaking its fullness. I am pretty sure a lot of parishioners leave worship no more sure about the Trinity than when they arrived.
The readings for this Sunday are not particularly useful for dissecting and analyzing the Trinity either. The Old Testament reading celebrates creation. Sure there is the Divine proclamation “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26), the identity of “us” is not explicitly stated.
Some worship leaders and preachers may try to stretch the final verse of the epistle (2 Corinthians 13:13) into a Trinitarian statement, but contextually that seems a far and tricky reach. Sure, it mentions all three persons of the Trinity in combination with an attribute/action, but does it really explain God in three persons, one in three and three in one?
Then, if you’re still scratching your head and wondering where to go this week, the gospel on first reading doesn’t seem to offer anything logical. The “Great Commission” for Trinity Sunday? Really? Worship, doubt, and divine authority? What does say about the Trinity?
Actually, I think the gospel does have something important to say to us about God’s nature and the Holy Trinity. The problem comes in our conditioning over time to understand this as a strictly missional passage–something we are supposed to GO and DO rather than BE and DO. Take a look at the gospel passage again. There’s a lot more going on besides what we hear in the last two verses.
It sounds to me like a lot of things are still the same after all these years. Disciples still follow Jesus to “the mountain” in the form of gathering with our sisters and brothers as worshiping communities. We worship, and yes, sometimes we experience doubt. Jesus still holds all authority, and in and by that authority we are empowered to BE the beloved community as outlined in the final two verses. Now, that sense of community, of relationship, of mutual activity and shared experience, that to me, dear friends is where we see the Triune nature of God best expressed in this week’s readings.
We see the work of God best in community, in relationship. I am often reminded of Rublev’s Icon, of the relationship and mutuality shown in the three persons seated around the table, in the three persons of the Trinity, of our God. We are not alone, and as humans we are not meant to be alone or to operate in isolation.
This Sunday, why not remind each other of the power of community, be it community as expressed in the three persons of the Trinity or community in our respective contexts? Consider how community works where you are. Are you increasingly relying on social media to communicate? Do you find your congregation fragmented and difficult to gather? Do you offer ways for disciples to gather in community in meaningful face-to-face ways?
Holy Trinity Sunday is an excellent time to remind one another that we do not “go it alone” when we follow Jesus and live as disciples in the beloved community. We are stewards of a very good gospel, yes indeed, but we are also stewards of one another. We are called into relationship, no matter how messy, difficult, or beautiful that may be on any given day. We may doubt whether what we do has meaning or even makes a difference. We may doubt whether we should be part of a specific congregation or worshiping community and wonder whether our gifts are needed, valued, or appreciated. We may even doubt Jesus when we gather to worship him.
Still, even in this messy work of doubt-full discipleship, Jesus has promised, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is good news, faithful stewards. Take a deep breath and truly BE with Jesus. Know that with the Triune God with you, you indeed can go in good company to make disciples.
Many liturgical traditions already use 2 Corinthians 13:13 as the greeting in worship. Consider how you might weave other elements from the epistle and gospel lessons into worship today. These are important words for the beloved community and for individual believers called to discipleship in community. Just as we serve a Triune God and have trouble wrapping our minds around that concept, so too, we serve together as a diverse yet unified Body of Christ, something that is quite often equally difficult to grasp and fully understand. Somehow it works. Somehow it “is.” Somehow God makes of us a people and loves us. This is reason to celebrate today.
“When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted,” we read in Matthew 28:17. This lesson is a good one to talk about the heads/tails and two-sides-of-the-same-coin relationship between faith and doubt. Helping youth understand that doubt is, indeed, part of faith, part of stewarding this mystery, is an important concept to teach and share. Consider sharing some of Mother Teresa’s story of doubt in the midst of great faith as recounted in a book containing some of her letters entitled, Mother Teresa: Come be my Light. Click here for more information.
Relational God; Relational Church
Tell the children that this Sunday we celebrate that God is a God of relationship. God does not like for us to be alone, and God desires to be in relationship with us. This is good news because we are stronger together. Think of a three-fold cord. Give children a card with three lengths of yarn tied together in a knot at the top. Show them a single piece of yarn and have them pull it. Chances are they will be able to break it. Now invite them to braid their three lengths of yarn into one three-fold cord. The three cords woven together are much stronger and withstand greater force. This is how it is with the Body of Christ. We are woven together as God’s people so that we can accomplish far more than we ever could alone. We are woven together as God’s people because we are not meant to be alone. Finish with a simple prayer giving thanks for strength in numbers.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Stewardship doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We become better stewards through the faithful modeling, teaching, and encouragement of other disciples. We become stronger stewards when we deepen our relationship with our relational God. We build up the Body of Christ and make it stronger when we share our time, talent, and treasure with others. No, stewardship doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s a community endeavor when it’s done at its best.
Stewardship at Home
How’s your relationship with God? Are you spending time with God the Father, Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, and the Holy Spirit who is always with us? This is how we grow as stewards, by devoting regular quality time to strengthening our relationship with God, with our worshiping community and one another, in service to church and world, and through cultivating generosity.
This week carve out regular “God” time. Spend it praying, reading scripture, attending worship, tending important relationships, serving others with random acts of kindness and generosity, and give a little more to something that speaks to your heart. At the end of the week, debrief to see how it feels to have spent seven days carving out this dedicated time for stewardship.
Photos: Camdiluv, Waiting for the Word, and Fady Habib, Creative Commons. Thanks!
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