Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – 26 May 2013 – Trinity Sunday – A Community of Equals

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Trinity Sunday – May 26, 2013 – A Community of Equals

Proverbs 8:22-31; Psalm 8:4-9; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15

This is the season for life cycle celebrations: baptisms, communions, confirmations and graduations. This past Friday I attended my niece’s high school commencement. The students speaking on behalf of the class each thanked the parents and teachers for the privilege of getting the gift of a good education. And, interestingly, they also challenged their classmates not to forget their responsibility for other persons who do not have adequate resources in their lives.

Today we celebrate God as a holy Trinity. As I listened to the graduation speakers I thought why have we made the Trinity such a big mystery. This morning I invite all of us to put away the triangles and the shamrocks, the tools we have used to try to grasp the presence of God in our lives. Let us see if we can expand our thinking about the Trinity. 

The definition of the Trinity was finally confirmed at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 CE. (The Council of Nicea, 325 CE, first addressed the doctrine, in part, to counter the heresy of Arius who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ.) But where did the idea of a triune God originate? The Old Testament speaks of God in pluralistic ways. In this morning’s reading from the Book of Proverbs God is understood as wisdom. This concept was familiar in mythology and later would be use to express God’s presence in the Word and Spirit. Other images in the bible present God as a mid-wife, mother, a warrior, navigator, lover. 

There are ample references in the New Testament to God as Father, Son and Spirit but not as the Trinity defined later in history. The author of today’s gospel calls attention to the relationship that Jesus had with his Father and the Spirit; that they were one. It is important to note also that although Jesus related to God as a Father figure, God is seldom assigned a particular gender in doctrinal circles. [1]

Why is God a trinity? Our faith tradition like some others believes that God is the creator of everything. From the outset God is involved in a relationship with nature and humanity. Logically then, all humans, all creatures and the environment embody this relationship. It is like kinship in a family where all members love and care for each other.

The story of salvation history is filled also with episodes of trust and mistrust, success and failure, solidarity and division. Along the way prophets announced that a savior would arrive to deliver the people from oppression and poverty. For Christians Jesus is this liberator, the wisdom of God revealed. Every relationship depends on loyalty, protection and the willingness to rescue the other in times of affliction.

The early Christians did not worry about defining God in trinitarian terms. They were more concerned about survival and relationships; how they were to stick together in times of transition, joy and trouble. Today we worry about how our children will manage in the world and make decisions about their lives. How will we stand by them and each other. The inner spirit of Jesus the Christ impressed the early Christians and stuck with them. This same spirit, found deep inside each one of us, nourishes and sustains us in a holy and sacred way.

There is a verse in one of our songs today that illustrates the son of God as the “Lover’s own beloved.” St Augustine (354-430) used the expression long ago when he described the Trinity in terms of the Lover, the Beloved and the Love which exists between them. 

This relationship is a model for the way the church functions in the world. God loves the evolutionary process, the development of creation. Jesus exemplified that love as he championed diverse peoples without compromise. That spirit of Christ is enkindled in the people of God, the church.

At the graduation the other day something unexpected happened. Before getting their diplomas the graduates left the stage to give their parents or guardians a handwritten note thanking them for their love and support. The relationship between the students and their parents expressed in this unusual graduation ritual was palpable. In that moment you could feel a holy spirit in that place.

The triune God need not be such a mystery in life. Vast textbooks try to explain and explore its meaning. It is not about trying to connect with or receive something from a distant God. It is about naming and sustaining our relationships with each other and with those in desperate need and recognizing God in those moments. In the words of Barbara DiTommaso, Director of our Diocesan Commission on Peace and Justice, we might think of the triune God as “a community of equals” to which we belong.

_____

1. See Platte, Daniel (Ed.). The Cambridge Dictionary of Christianity. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) 2012, 1251

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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

3 thoughts on “Homily – 26 May 2013 – Trinity Sunday – A Community of Equals

  1. I was touched by how the graduates went to their parents or guardians to pass a note of thanks for their love and support. I’ll have to pass this idea to my daughter’s school for next years commencement. I can say just how emotional an event as graduation will be for me when Elena accepts her diploma and moves on to the next big step in her and our lives.

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  2. Thank you for your amazing insights. This is not an easy topic. I’m passing it along to others who struggle with the concept of the Trinity.

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  3. I so appreciated your grounding of Trinity in relationship and how that fundamental relationship is the model for us. As I understand more of quantum physics and David Bohm’s theory of the implicate order of all reality (relationality, depth and movement), it seems that the Trinity becomes less of a mystery and more of a model to try to live into.

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