The Feast of the Holy Trinity, Pentecost I, 16 June 2019

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalm 8
or Canticle 13 (or Canticle 2)
Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15

 Background: Perichoresis

I wonder how many preachers avoid preaching on the Holy Trinity due to the possibility of heresy or not finding words to express the mystery. Here is a term that I have not been acquainted with, that describes an attractive attitude toward the relationship within the Trinity. It is called perichoresis(“going around” or “envelopment”). In Latin it is known as circumincessio. The concept that informs our understanding of the Holy Trinity and its inner relationship is the concept of dwelling in. We encounter it in John 14 – 17, in the Last Supper Discourses where Jesus instructs the disciples about the meaning of the days and events to come, most notably his departure from them. The meaningful passages are from 14:8, where Phillip requests Jesus aid them in knowing the Father.

Hilary of Poitiers explains it all in his Concerning the Holy Trinity. He writes that the Trinity “reciprocally contain one another, so that one permanently envelopes and is permanently enveloped by the other whom he yet envelopes.” So there are no parts here. There is only being.  Paul describes it as “all the fullness of deity.” Does this help?

First Reading: 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."

Just when we thought we were comfortable with an approach to pondering the Trinity, the lectionary gives us another aspect – very primal and of mystery. In the first reading we meet Wisdom who situates herself in the center of things. On the heights, by the way, she is available to be heard and seen (although the hearing is probably the more valuable) by all of humankind. This is an entity before religion, if you will, a presence at creation as well. But it is the situation at the city gates that is the most telling, for this is the place of judgment and justice. This is the place where humankind come to have their grievances judged and to have justice served. It is catholic and universal.

We then skip back in time to the moment of Creation. This may be a new poem added to the content above, but it again places Wisdom at the very source of all things. St. John uses this device when he places Jesus, as the Logos, at the very beginning of things. Wisdom describes herself in a similar manner, “the first of his acts of long ago.” The language that follows mirrors the first Genesis account with deeps, water sources, description of foundations and space, and the conquering of the waters – the primeval chaos. Here in the midst of this is a playful Wisdom that delights in her relationship with humankind. 

Breaking open Proverbs::
1.    What does Wisdom mean to you?
2.    How is God Wisdom for you?
3.    What do you honestly know about God?

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.
10    Lord our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Each time I read this translation of Psalm 8, I am uncomfortable with the use of “governor” in place of “master”. I understand the politics of the choice, but wonder if there might be a better word, “head”, “chief”, or something else. Governor makes me think of state politics. The ubiquity of the knowledge of the Name is taken to the very beginning of life, “Out of the mouths of infants and children.” Quickly there is a comparison – adversaries, enemies, and avengers. This is the full spectrum of the knowledge of God. Those who know the Name, and those who either don’t know or avoid knowledge of the Name. 

The psalmist reviews all the witnesses who give testimony to the Name, principally “the work of your fingers.” All of creation from sun and moon speak of the goodness of God. Then we come to the witness of humankind, made a little lower than the angels, yet adorned with glory and honor. Here we are reminded of our responsibility – where we are the governors, masters, and administrators. All things are put under our feet – a reminder especially poignant in our day and age. We are to model the care that the Creator exercises over creation.

Breaking open Psalm 8::
1.    What truth have you heard from children?
2.    What were your child-like ideas about God?
3.    Have they changed? How?


Canticle 13 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.

Ascribed to the three young men in the Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, this is a poem in praise of God. It is of praise to YHWH in the midst of Babylonian power and failure. It describes a wide spectrum of praise from ancient parents to cherubim. The breadth of the poem in spite of its brevity is breathtaking. 

Breaking open Canticle 13:
1.    Where do you see creation praising God?
2.    Where do you see the Church praising God?
3.    How do you praise God?

Second Reading: 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.

If there is a pattern in the readings of the lectionary for this day, it would seem that the First Reading is devoted to the Creator/Wisdom, the Second Reading to the work of Jesus Christ, and the Gospel to the coming Spirit. Paul beginning with the notion, “Since we are justified by faith”, encapsulates his arguments in the first five chapters of the book. Now he begins to look at the ideas of hope, life, and death. The hope, life, and death that he engages here is not a Pollyanna discovery of sweet ideas, but rather a realistic evaluation of the difficult aspects that produce hope. He cites suffering and endurance here. These two aspects are a sharing with the suffering and endurance that Jesus offered and gave. What comes of that is a totally different character and hope for the Christian family. Observing cross and tomb, and built up hope through the resurrection, we know God in the love given to us in the life of Jesus, and the love that we commend to one another.

Breaking open Romans:
1.    What does faith mean to you?
2.    In what do you hope?
3.    How might you describe your life?

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 find ourselves in the Farewell Discourses of Jesus. In the latter part of the discourse, Jesus teaches about two main objects – the gift of the Holy Spirit, and what is destined to be in the days that follow. This reading is devoted to the first of these topics, the gift of the Holy Spirit. Here it is something anticipated, something to wait for. If we began these readings with the notion of Wisdom – of knowing God, then here it is the Spirit who leads us into a greater knowledge of God. “(she) will guide you into all the truth…and (she) will declare to you the things that are to come.” That is what we wait for – an understanding of what it is that God has done in Jesus, and what is yet to come. John sees God taking all the substance of the life of Jesus and declaiming it as part and parcel of the divine plan. Perhaps it is the Spirit that Church needs most at this hour. We need to be led into all that is new in God.

Breaking open the Gospel:
1.     What do you see in Jesus?
2.     What does the Spirit lead you to see?
3.     What does your vision lead you to do?

Central Idea:               God as Relationship and Embrace (forgetting the mechanics of the Trinity)

Relationship I:            Knowing God in our creating being and existence. Finding Wisdom in ourselves (First Reading)

Relationship II:           Listening to the wisdom of babes and infants (being kind to our little understandings of God) (Psalm 5)

Relationship III:         Finding God in our hopes (Second Reading)

Relationship IV:         Waiting for something new in God’s embrace.  (Gospel)

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 © 2019, Michael T. Hiller


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