The Feast of the Holy Trinity, The First Sunday after Pentecost, 15 June 2014

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8 or Canticle 2 or 12
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.

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 bearing fruit 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.

This lesson on this day seems a bit misplaced to me.  It functions well at The Great Vigil of Easter where it begins to set the context for the History of Salvation that will be rehearsed in the other readings.  Here it stands alone, and one wonders as to its purpose and intent.  If viewed as a describer of the purpose and meaning or the Godhead we might be tempted to see God from a modalist point of view.  At its very best this first creation account gives us a view of God as actor (actually as speaker) that call us all into being, and gives us an image of the divine breath (ru’ah) and Spirit that becomes the creative force that is active in the world.  Often, to talk about the Trinity is to view the Godhead as a static entity devoid of action or meaning.  Here, in seeing the creative action of God, we begin to understand the community and economy of the Holy Trinity and see its action in our very lives.

Breaking open Genesis:
  1. What are the actions depicted in the story of Creation?
  2. What does the separation by days really mean?
  3. Why does God need to rest?

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!

This gem of a psalm celebrates creation in a frame (“O Lord, our governor”) that honors the primacy of God and the Name of God.  It also sets up a hierarchy of creation, “You have made him a little lower than the angels” (could or perhaps should be “gods”).  In the midst of this celebration of God’s mastery, there is a transfer of responsibility from the Creator God to humankind.  There is no development of that theme beyond its statement.  The shear inventory that accompanies this “transfer of responsibility” gives witness to the majesty of creation, including the majesty of humankind.  What is beautiful is the self-evident nature of God’s majesty and ownership, “Out of the mouths of infants and children,” that finds its initial expression in young lives.

Breaking open Psalm 8:
  1. Do you see the majesty of God in creation, or the majesty of creation in God?
  2. How do you understand the hierarchy outlined in the psalm?
  3. How do you understand the responsibility over creation that is given to humankind?


Canticle 2    Canticle 13    A Song of Praise 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.

This song from Apocryphal Daniel finds its place not only here but also in the liturgy of the Divine Office in the Roman, Episcopal, and Lutheran churches.  The song comes from the mouth of the three young men after they are saved from the flames meant to destroy them, and set by the Babylonian king.  Its sense of thanksgiving includes not only their personal salvation, but also a thanksgiving for creation as the context for God’s majesty and splendor.  The song moves beyond salvation to glory.  Perhaps the point here is to revel, for a moment, in God’s majesty and to stand in awe of God.

Breaking open the Canticle:
  1. How is the thanksgiving of the young men expressed in these verses.
  2. Is it a leap? How so.
  3. How do you express your thanksgivings?

2 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.

Again we encounter a text that is framed by a phrase, here a frame of blessing,  “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…”  It is also framed by the implications of the “body of Christ” – agreement, peace, greeting, life together.  If we view the Trinity as community, then Paul’s words here have an even greater meaning and impulse for a holy life and community.

Breaking open II Corinthians:
  1. How does Paul describe the Christian community in these verses?
  2. How does your congregation measure up to the description?
  3. What are “grace”, “love”, and “communion” to you?

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."

Matthew is not wearing rose-colored glasses here, and depicts his age in all of its complexity.  Nothing is neat here.  As Jesus gives the “Great Commission” there is an implicit recognition of the difficulties that those sent would encounter, “but some doubted.”  The reality of worship, doubt, and questioning is just beneath the surface of the Gospel, and reflects the reality of the Palestinian Early Church that Matthew came from.  As the Gospel sends us out into “all nations,” we need to be aware of the context and the difficulty of the task.  The closing line, however, makes it all bearable, “I am with you always”.  That presence and the ubiquitous Spirit from last Sunday’s readings ought to challenge us to speak again the Good News in every situation.
refreshes, as we end that same Spirit out to the world.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. How is Christ present with you in these days?
  2. What is Jesus’ directing you to do?
  3. How do you accomplish what he is asking?

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 © 2014, Michael T. Hiller


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