Trinity Sunday, The First Sunday after Pentecost, 30 May 2010

Trinity Sunday, The First Sunday after Pentecost, 30 May 2010

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalm 8
Romans 5:1-5
Saint John 16:12-15

Most festivals in the Christian liturgical calendar celebrate events, either from the life of our Lord, or of our Lady, as well.  This particular Sunday celebrates a doctrine, and it is a rather recent innovation.  Prior to the 13th Century, readings were added to the Daily Office (Morning Prayer and Evensong) that emphasized the Holy Trinity.  In part this was a response to Arianism (a non-Trinitarian theology espoused in the fourth century), and it was particular popular in Frankish dioceses.  John XXII (14th Century) added it as a second-class feast of the Church, and in 1911, Pius X made it a first class feast.  Thomas Becket (1118-1170) was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury on the first Sunday following Pentecost, and in honor of that event stipulated that the day from then on should honor the Holy Trinity.  This honor spread from Canterbury into the English Church and then into the practice of the Western Church

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
"To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.
The LORD created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth--
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world's first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race."

Proverbs is a collection of “wisdom sayings” that were common to the cultures of the Ancient Near East.  We have examples from both Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures.  (A collection of  “wisdom” that we will all recognize as Poor Richard’s Almanac).  Some scholars see the book of Proverbs as a redaction of several collections, some coming into currency during the reign of Solomon, others during the reign of Hezekiah.  Tradition holds that Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs, but that is unlikely.  In this reading we meet a personification of Wisdom in the guise of a woman (common in other cultures as well) who accompanies God at the beginning of time and at the act of creation.  Proverbs is content that she is merely present.  Other wisdom collections will assert a more active role for Wisdom in creation.

Breaking open Acts
1.    Do you have any religious “common sense”?  What are its precepts?
2.    What does the word “wisdom” mean to you?  Is it something that you learn, or is it present in your life from the beginning?
3.    How is wisdom like justice?

Psalm 8 Domine, Dominus noster

O LORD our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Out of the mouths of infants and children *
your majesty is praised above the heavens.

You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries, *
to quell the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, *
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

What is man that you should be mindful of him? *
the son of man that you should seek him out?

You have made him but little lower than the angels; *
you adorn him with glory and honor;

You give him mastery over the works of your hands; *
you put all things under his feet:

All sheep and oxen, *
even the wild beasts of the field,

The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, *
and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.

O LORD our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Again we have a psalm that rejoices in creation, and delights in God’s mastery over all of its aspects.  The knowledge that God is the master of all is like the Wisdom from the first reading, it is known commonly to everyone – even infants and children.  Then the author sets up a hierarchy of creation, stemming from God’s victory over chaos (to quell the enemy and the avenger) to human kind, a little lower than the angels (and this is not a good translation – “gods” would be a better representation of the Hebrew) to the animals and fish. 

Breaking open Psalm 8
1.     What verse in the psalm speaks so wonderfully of our amazement at creation itself?
2.     What has God put under humankind’s feet?  What does that mean?  What kind of responsibility comes with that?
3.     How has this verse been badly used in the past?

Romans 5:1-5

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

In structuring today’s readings, the framers of the lectionary take a bit of a functionalist view of the Trinity (Reading I: Father, Reading II: Son, Gospel: Holy Spirit).  In this reading, Paul has completed the first segment of his work, in which he talks about the reconciliation of humankind and God, specifically talking about the faith of the Jews, and the ministry with the Greeks.  In chapter five, this discussion becomes a much broader discourse how Christians share in the hope of the resurrection in the risen life of Christ.  This is not”pie in the sky” hopefulness, however.  Paul mentions the realities of Christian life in the empire as he introduces the themes of suffering, endurance, and character – all precursors to the hope.

Breaking open Romans:
  1. What is the peace that Paul talks about in the first verse?  What kind of peace do you have in Christ?
  2. What is your experience with suffering, endurance, and character?  What does your life’s story say about those aspects?
  3. What are your fond hopes?  Are they religious?

Saint John 16:12-15

Jesus said to the disciples, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."

How confusing it must have been for the disciples, who hoped against hope that this Jesus was the Messiah.  Now, as things slowly unfold before them, they begin to understand that all the traditional language and descriptions of the Messiah’s coming where not holding true here.  They don’t know what to think.  Jesus understands, and bluntly says to them, “you cannot bear them now.”  I often wonder if we are not indeed in the same situation as the disciples, not being able to bear what it is that Jesus wants for us to know.  Jesus, however, introduces (as he continuously does in this so-called Farewell Discourse) the notion of the “Spirit of truth.”  This is a spirit that conveys the message and the importance of what is to come (namely, the Eucharist, the Passion and the Resurrection.)  What is intriguing about this passage is the comment of Jesus, “for he will not speak on his own.”  All too often, our thoughts about the Trinity are sectioned and parsed out into three distinct individuals.  We become guilty of betraying the monotheism that we profess to confess.  The vision in John is of the Word (and in that concept are bound up the creating word, the breath, the spirit, the message, all that God is) that is the word to the world.  There is a unity here of which we ought to take heed.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. What is the hardest part of the Gospel for you?
  2. How would you describe the truth of the Gospel?
  3. What does the Holy Spirit say to you?

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.


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