Trinity Sunday, The First Sunday after Pentecost, 22 May 2016

Acts 2:1-21, or Genesis 11:1-9
Psalm 104:25-35, 37
Romans 8:14-17
Saint John 14:8-17, (25-27)

Background: The Rublev Trinity

The icon pictured here, so fully identified with the Holy Trinity, is actually titled “The Hospitality of Abraham.  It was written in the 15th Century by Andrei Rublev, who lived in the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra near Moscow, and was trained by Theophanes the Byzantine. The first mention of his work is in 1405 when he wrote icons for the Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Kremlin in Moscow. The “Hospitality of Abraham” was painted around 1410 and now resides in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. In his depiction, both Abraham and Sarah are not present, but rather the three visitors are shown as a manifestation of the Holy Trinity. Rublev died at Andronikov Monastery in January of 1430. He is venerated in the calendars of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the Anglican Communion.

Old Testament: 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."

The first thing that the author brings our attention to is the ubiquity of wisdom. She is pictured at a variety of places in which men and woman would have gathered – the heights, the cross roads, and the city gates where justice was practiced.  She is pictured as the first of God’s works of creation, present with her words at the beginning of things. The section of our pericope that begins with verse 21 continuing to the final verse 31 may be a separate work of poetry or at least a new section of the work.  The beginning verses relate wisdom to the quotidian requirements of life, but here in these latter verses the outlook has a much broader scope. The view is retrospective before the great acts of creation had been pronounced by the voice of God. Here at the beginning, when limits were determined, when the waters of chaos are tamed, Wisdom is present, ‘daily his delight.” She delights in humankind, but remembers when she was the only companion.

Breaking open Proverbs:
1.     Do these passages change your understanding of creation?
2.     What is wisdom to you? Where do you find her?
3.     How does the Gospel of Saint John use this idea?

Psalm 8 Domine, Dominus noster

     O 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 have never liked the use of the word “governor” in this translation, a better word could be found. “Master” is used by Alter, but I understand the difficulties with that usage. Alter also relocates the second strophe of the second verse to follow the second strophe of the first verse so that it reads:

“Lord, our Master,
How majestic your name in all the earth!
Whose splendor was told over the heavens.
From the mouth of babes and sucklings
You founded strength.”[1]

It seems to follow the flow of the text better.  What follows here are contrasting views – from the view of the heavens by its weakest inhabitants, to those in creation intend only harm, or more likely, a return to the chaos that God has defeated. In the midst of the starry night, the psalmist is mindful of humankind. So small and weak (the babes and sucklings, above) and yet God is mindful of what has been made and sent into motion. In a hierarchy we discover the scope of God’s rule. It descends from God to the gods (our translation uses the word “angels”) and then the human, and below the human all other living things. In a sense it is a reverse order of creation that culminates in a reverie about the majestic name of God.

Breaking open Psalm 8:
1.     What is your theology of creation?
2.     How does it obligate you in your daily life?
3.     What kind of stewardship does it ask of you?


Canticle 13 A Song of Praise   Benedictus es, Domine

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.

Found in the apocryphal section of Daniel (3:52-88), this canticle is the song that the three young men sang in the fiery furnace when they refused to worship the gods of Babylon. It is used liturgically in the Roman, Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran offices and liturgies. The text is not apparent in Aramaic or Hebrew versions of Daniel, but does appear in Greek, Syriac, and Latin versions. Most scholars agree that there was some sort of Hebrew version that was later transmitted through other texts, most notably those in the medieval period. It may have been written during and influenced by the period of exile in Persia.

Breaking open Canticle 13:
1.     What is the basis of the praise in this song?
2.     Do you ever burst out in spontaneous praise?
3.     Why?

The Epistle: 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.

Paul reminds us of what he has been trying to convince us of in the previous section when he introduces this pericope, “Since we are justified by faith.” In discussing what we boast of, namely our hope and the possibility of sharing God’s glory, Paul directs us to the future. Something new will come out of the suffering that will finally produce hope. It is the Spirit that will provide this language and this understanding.

Breaking open Romans:
1.     What have you suffered in your life?
2.     What resulted from your suffering?
3.     Was it good?

The Gospel: St. 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."

We are still in the Farewell Discourse, but it is drawing to a close. It appears that there has not been enough time to share all that our Lord wished to, in addition that the knowledge might be unbearable. We are introduced to the “Spirit of truth” who will guide them, and more importantly, who will speak things that come from (and here the implication is) Jesus. The signal is that something new is about to happen that will go beyond the events and times that will be so trying. That is what the disciples are bidden to behold and hope in.

Breaking open the Gospel:
1.     What might be unbearable for the disciples to hear?
2.     What might be unbearable for you to hear?
3.     What is your hope?

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.
ever. Amen.

Questions and comments copyright © 2016, Michael T. Hiller

[1]Alter, R. (2009), The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary, W.W. Norton & Company, Kindle Location 1221.


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