The Feast of the Holy Trinity, 11 June 2017

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8 or Canticle 13
II Corinthians 13:11-13
St. Matthew 28:16-20

Background: The Feast of the Holy Trinity

Trinity is a relatively recent festival.  From its humble beginnings as a collection of prayers in the Sacramentary of St. Gregory the Great (sixth century) to provision for an Office in the French churches (tenth century) and finally a provision for the First Sunday after Pentecost by John XXII (fourteenth century) the day is one that honors the Trinitarian understanding of the Godhead.  In some churches the Athanasian Creed (Quicumque Vult) is read on this day.  The day provides a focus to the coming Sundays in which we amble through the Scriptures and hear again and again the history of Salvation.

First Reading: Genesis 1:1-2:4a

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

One wonders what the intent of the framers of the Lectionary was in choosing this text for this Sunday and Feast Day. The other two readings just repeat the Trinitarian formula, but in this text we have something different – perhaps an appeal as to why we owe something to the Holy Trinity. God’s purpose and intent seem to be writ large here, and we are comforted by a Creator who not only wills us into being but is present in a protective manner as well. The focus of the creation story is not just human kind[1], however. All of the aspects of life and context are celebrated in this story. Of benefit here is that the hearer will enter the Liturgy of the Word recalling and rejoicing in God as creator, protector, and breath-giver. This is well beyond the dogmatic descriptions and controversies of the Holy Trinity.

Breaking open Genesis:
1.          Where do you see God in creation?
2.          What are your thoughts about the Holy Trinity?
3.         How do you describe God?

Psalm 8 Domine, Dominus noster

     Lord our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!
2      Out of the mouths of infants and children *
your majesty is praised above the heavens.
3      You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries, *
to quell the enemy and the avenger.
4      When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, *
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
5      What is man that you should be mindful of him? *
the son of man that you should seek him out?
6      You have made him but little lower than the angels; *
you adorn him with glory and honor;
7      You give him mastery over the works of your hands; *
you put all things under his feet:
8      All sheep and oxen, *
even the wild beasts of the field,
9      The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, *
and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.
10    Lord our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!

I always find the use of the word “Governor” to be a bit off putting – suggestive of modern political life, at least in the United States. Alter uses the word “Master”, but that is fraught with political problems. Weiser translates the incipit as, “O Lord, our Lord.” There is a play of alliteration in the Hebrew between the words “majestic” (“exalted” in our translation) and the Hebrew vocable for “master”. This celebration of creation and life itself begins with the youngest and extends to the eternity of the heavens. Verse three refers to “adversaries and enemies”, perhaps a reference to God’s victory over the orders of chaos and darkness. There is a delightful focus on human kind, and a comparison with the other created beings that owe God honor and praise. Humankind sits at the center of this panoply of created beings. The psalm has had the reader circle around the whole of creation and brings the psalm to an end with a repetition of the first verse.

Breaking open Psalm 8
  1. How do you express God as either governor, master, or lord?
  2. In what ways is God’s name majestic to you?
  3. What is your favorite part of creation?


Canticle 13 Benedictus es, Domine Song of the Three Young Men, 29-34

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; *
you are worthy of praise; glory to you.
Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.
Glory to you in the splendor of your temple; *
on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.
Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.
Glory to you, beholding the depths; *
in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.
Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Although hearers may be familiar with the words of this canticle, they may not realize its provenance. The song is one of three additions to Daniel in the Greek translations of that work. We only know it in its Greek form, although it was originally composed in Hebrew. The song is connected to the story from Daniel 3 in which three young companions of Daniel are punished for not worshiping a golden statue in Babylon. The hymn, sung after their survival of the fiery furnace, rejoices in the God of the fathers. It recalls temple, and the worship there – a natural following on given the stories place during the Exile.

Breaking open the Canticle 13:
1.         How do you praise God?
2.         What are the words that you use?
3.        What is the general theme of your praise?

Second Reading: II Corinthians 13:11-13

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

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

These verses comprise the closing of the Second Letter to the Corinthians. It is included here because of its naming of the Holy Trinity, but it is also a helpful summary of what Paul has commented on earlier in the letter. He calls for unity and fellowship, a community united in the peace that comes from God.

Breaking open II Corinthians:
  1. How do you gift others with God’s grace?
  2. Where do you see unity in the Church?
  3. Where do you see peace in the Church?

St. Matthew 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.”

Here in the 28th Chapter we have Matthew’s experiences of the Risen Lord. Helpful in understanding this appearance to the disciples is the content of verses 11-15, which describes the context of the ministry to which Jesus’ calls his disciples. It gives voice to the doubts of the world concerning their testimony. Actually our text gives witness to the doubts of some of the disciples as well. The forces of the verses of our pericope are seen in the call to mission that Jesus makes. It is interesting that this takes place on a mountain, and all that such a locale suggests (Moses, Sinai, Transfiguration, etc.) Completing the theme of the day that God is present with us from the very beginning of life is the comment by Jesus noting his presence “to the end of the age.”

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. In what ways are you a disciple of Jesus?
  2. How do you share his good news?
  3. How do you say it to yourself?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday. 

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Questions and comments copyright © 2017, Michael T. Hiller

[1]Robert Alter in his The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary, notes that the Hebrew vocable ‘adam is not a proper noun but rather a generic term for human beings. He suggests that the term is not necessarily associated with “maleness.”


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