Trinity Sunday B
May 21, 2018
The Trinity Sunday B Sermon Starters include commentary and illustration ideas for John 3:1-17 from the Lectionary Gospel; Isaiah 6:1-8 from the Old Testament Lectionary; Psalm 29 from the Lectionary Psalms; and Romans 8:12-17 from the Lectionary Epistle.
Related Reformed confession: Heidelberg Catechism: Q&A 23 (Lord’s Day 7)
Author: Scott Hoezee
I wonder what Nicodemus was thinking about when he walked home that night.
My guess is that it wasn’t the Doctrine of the Trinity! Yet this is the Year B passage assigned for Trinity Sunday. So what did he ponder? No clue. John doesn’t tell us. That’s ironic seeing as, according to John’s reportage at least, Nicodemus was the first human being on earth ever to hear what has gone on to become the most famous Bible verse in the world: John 3:16.
Today people parade John 3:16 around as though it were some kind of a magic formula, the mere sight of which printed on a bedsheet and displayed at a baseball game, affixed to a car via a bumper sticker, or posted on a front yard billboard will lead to some kind of conversion. And it may be that upon reading this most famous capsule summary of the gospel that any number of people have been moved closer to God on account of it.
But if anything like that happened for Nicodemus, we are not told. He simply disappears from the narrative after John 3:12 (he actually speaks last in verse 9 but verse 12 is the last time Jesus refers to Nicodemus in the second person). This is what has led to the conjecture that possibly the dialogue with Nicodemus ends prior to that famous 16th verse and so we should remove the quote marks from around verses 16-21 and accept these as John’s own musings on the meaning of what Jesus had said to Nicodemus.
That idea is probably not right but be that as it may, the fact that such a theory can be concocted at all is due to the odd fact of the disappearance of Nicodemus from this chapter. The last thing we hear him saying is, “How can this be?” which is not exactly a ringing indication that he ever came to grasp what Jesus was saying. A question asked out of sheer befuddlement is not exactly the way most of us would want to be remembered! But at this juncture in John, that’s the last thing we get from Nicodemus (and even though he will re-appear in John 20 at the burial of Jesus, he does not speak there and so this question, fraught with confusion, really is the last word recorded in the Bible from this teacher of Israel).
But let’s assume he heard everything Jesus said through verse 21 and let’s assume that he thanked Jesus for his time and then shuffled on back home through the darkened streets of pre-dawn Jerusalem. What on earth (or in heaven) could have been going through his mind? Did he realize that Jesus was referring to himself through all that talk about God’s Son? Did he have a clue that Jesus was pointing forward to the sacrificial death he would endure on the cross? Did he ever really “get it” when it came to that metaphor of being “born again” or did he find the image as silly as when Jesus first uttered it (and which, in turn, led Nicodemus to poke a little fun of Jesus’ rhetoric by trying to envision a fully grown senior citizen re-entering a woman’s uterus)?
We don’t know. What we do know is that if Nicodemus went home a saved man—and if his later appearance in John’s gospel at the burial of Jesus indicates that he had come to love Jesus—it was not because he had managed to figure it all out on his own. After all, if Jesus managed to make anything clear in these verses it was definitely the idea that salvation is not about what we know, what we do, what we manage to accomplish in our lives. Seeing the kingdom of God is a sheer miracle, a miracle that is actually far more stunning than what would be required actually to stuff a grown man back into his mother’s womb! That would just be a parlor trick.
The real spiritual re-birth of which Jesus spoke requires far more effort on God’s part. It requires a person to come to see the world in the upside-down terms Jesus always used when he talked about his kingdom. A person had to be re-born to the idea that humility and kindness are far more valuable than pride and brazen efforts to promote oneself, that the meek and lowly and quiet of the earth are of far more value than the bold and the lofty and the noisy of the earth.
Above all one had to come to the insight—and it is not an insight human logic could ever manufacture—that when God came to save this world, he did so by depositing a humble little baby into an animal’s feedbunk out on the edge of nowhere in this world. And if that idea was not startlingly radical enough, there was the other thing Jesus directly mentions in this passage; viz., salvation will come by paradoxically looking at an emblem of the very thing that terrifies us the most in this world: death. Just as the Israelites had to look at a bronze image of what ailed them to get healed, so all people would have to look at a bloody instrument of execution to find eternal life.
Christus Paradox is the title of a choral anthem and hymn that captures the both/and surprises of the incarnate Son of God. Within himself Jesus has all the majesty of the Triune God and all the humility of a lowly human being from a modest family. Christ is, as the hymn tantalizingly puts it, “the everlasting instant.” There is a whole lot of mind-blowing theology in that combination of everlastingness and a temporal instant but it is, in the end, no less mind-blowing than everything else Jesus had said in John 3. (You can watch/hear a nice setting of this by clicking here.)
And if on his way home old Nicodemus could grasp something of that paradox—and find in it the joy of his life—then it wasn’t because he was so smart as Israel’s teacher. It was because he had been born again of the Holy Spirit. And if that happened, then Nicodemus knew something else—he’d spend the rest of eternity savoring and marveling over the things Jesus said to him that dark night. But he’d never tire of reflecting on all that. Not ever!
Neither has the church ever since.
In his commentary on the Gospel of John, Frederick Dale Bruner frames up the famous John 3:16 verse this way, highlighting the GREAT import of these words:
God = The greatest subject ever
So (much) = The greatest extent ever
Loved = The greatest affection ever
The world = The greatest object ever
That He gave his one and only Son = The greatest gift ever
So that every single individual whoever = The greatest opportunity ever
Who is entrusting oneself to him = The greatest commitment ever
Would never be destroyed = The greatest rescue ever
But would even now have a deep, lasting Life = The greatest promise ever
Creation itself sprang from a bubbling overflow of God’s love. Like a shaken-up bottle of champagne, so also God’s love within the Trinity was so effervescent, so richly pressured and full that sooner or later the cork had to explode out and when it did, a river of sparkling love gushed forth and sprayed everywhere. Creation is that overflow of love. God wanted to share the life and the love he already had so exquisitely among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Greek theologians of the Trinity in the early church liked to talk about what they termed “perichoresis,” which is a Greek word meaning in essence the interpenetrating dance of love shared by the three persons in the Godhead. Whereas in the Western tradition of the church we have tended to depict the Trinity as a triangle, the Eastern church has always preferred a circle. The Trinity is like an ever-moving circle of dance in which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constantly and forever move in and through one another in perfect bliss, harmony, and self-forgetful joy. The three persons of God are so invested in one another, so interested in one another, so caring of one another that although three persons they form just one God. They’ve been serving each other from all eternity and finding holy joy in that loving co-service.
So it is no surprise that at some point those three persons decided that so great was this love, so focused was this love on the other, that they wanted an entire universe of others with whom to further share the love. God was under no compulsion to create anything. Yet it is just so like God to want to create, to want to share the love. God’s motivation to create the world is similar to what motivates us to invite as many friends as we can to the wedding of one of our children or to an anniversary celebration: we want to widen the circle of our own love and joy; we want to share the grand event with those who are close to us. Something very like that was what brought about creation in the first place: the love of God within the Trinity bubbled over in a desire to spread the joy around. “Let us create some more creatures so that we can then invite them to our holy party!”
Author: Doug Bratt
Isaiah 6 is a bit reminiscent of a “good news, bad news” joke about a conversation between a lawyer and her client. She told him, “I have some good news and some bad news. Which do you want to hear first?” Her client replied, “Give me the bad news first.” “The bad news is that the DNA tests showed that the police found your blood all over the crime scene.” “Oh, no,” her client mourned, “What could possibly be good about that?” “The good news is that your cholesterol is down to 130!”
The Scriptures contain both bad news and good news, both “trouble” and “grace” in the words of Paul Scott Wilson. Even most specific texts contain elements of both. So disciplined preachers and teachers look carefully to find and teach both. The Scriptures’ good news, after all, makes little sense until we recognize their bad news.
Our text’s bad news is that when the living God graciously stoops to meet us, we realize that we’re sinners. The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once called the Christian doctrine of sin about the only self-evident doctrine we have. Basically he was saying that even people who aren’t Christian, even those who flunked their anthropology courses, recognize that we sin. In fact, adds Will Willimon, “human history is the history of sin.”
But is the bad news that is the doctrine of human sin really so self-evident? People can, after all, almost always identify someone who’s worse than we are. Not many of those who proclaim Isaiah 6 have committed mass murder or greedily triggered a financial meltdown. Perhaps few of those whom we teach and to whom we preach have abused our spouses or neglected our children.
In this week’s Old Testament lesson, a young Isaiah is in church, perhaps in a worship service, not so unlike most of the people to whom we proclaim Isaiah 6. In the midst of great national turmoil, God gives the prophet a vision that even now has the power to buckle our knees and “blow our minds.” After all, it’s almost as if God tugs the curtain between heaven and earth open just far enough so that the prophet can peek into the heavenly realm. In it he sees “the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted” (1), whom he also calls “the King, the Lord Almighty” in verse 5. Isaiah also hears heaven’s angels crying out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (3). In verse 4 the prophet reports that it’s all enough to shake the temple almost to its foundations.
So how does Isaiah respond? Does he sing along with the seraphs? Does the prophet turn to his neighbor and say, “Wow, the praise band and accompanist are really on today”? No, Isaiah’s vision of heaven overwhelms him with a sense of his contemporaries and his sinfulness. When the prophet catches a glimpse of God, he sees himself as well as all people for what we really are: those whose sin has put our lives in danger. He, in other words, sees the bad news.
Isaiah 6’s preachers and teachers might invite their hearers to reflect on similar experiences. We come to church hoping to be comforted and encouraged. Yet we sometimes find that our time of confession, a song or message confronts us with the awful reality of our sin. And we find that its bad news makes us want to sink to our knees in pain.
Or perhaps it was during a time of personal or family devotions. We read a particular Scripture passage that spoke directly to our own disobedience. And it made us want to cringe in horror. Or perhaps God confronted those to whom we proclaim Isaiah 6 through a family member or friend who brought them face to face with the bad news that is the pain their sin caused someone. And they felt like crawling in a hole in misery.
That’s that context in which Isaiah 6 speaks its good news: sin doesn’t disqualify people from being God’s servants. In fact, it shows that God longs to make servants out of sinners, as it were. What happens, after all, when Isaiah says, “Woe is me!”? I am ruined”? Does the Lord, in fact, let him be ruined? Does God tell him to “Go to hell!”?
No, God wants to, in the words of one scholar, ruin the prophet’s ruination. So one of the angels touches Isaiah’s mouth with a burning but cleansing coal. God’s messenger then announces the good news, “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (7). Yet even then God isn’t yet done. Beyond the part of Isaiah 6 the Lectionary specifically appoints for this Sunday, the Lord also commissions the forgiven prophet to “Go, tell this people …” (9).
God certainly wants Isaiah to announce judgment on Israel’s sins. That judgment is bleak. Yet while the warning about it is notoriously difficult to translate and understand, it contains a seed of great hope. While God mourns that all that will be left of judged Israel is an ugly stump, God also announces the good news that that stump will also be the seed of God’s redemption, a purified remnant that, like Isaiah, God will turn into something “holy.”
There is some overlap in the text’s precise delineation of bad and good news depending on how much of it preachers and teachers preach on. If those who proclaim it choose simply to reflect on verses 1-8, as the Lectionary suggests, they might see the text’s bad news as our sin, and its good news as God’s forgiving love. If those who proclaim Isaiah 6 stretch it to include all of it, they might see the bad news as Israel’s sinfulness, and the good news as God’s determination to bring something holy even out of that decay.
Charles Colson worked as a Special Counsel to United States President Richard Nixon between 1969 and 1973. He became known as the president’s “Hatchet Man” for his willingness to do his dirty work for him. Colson also was the first member of Nixon’s cabinet to be imprisoned for Watergate-related crimes.
In 1973, however, the Holy Spirit transformed Mr. Colson into a Christian. The forgiven former “Hatchet Man” heard and faithfully responded to God’s call to work on God’s behalf with and for prisoners. His Prison Fellowship Ministry arguably did more to raise Christians’ (as well as others’) awareness of the need for more humane treatment of people who are incarcerated.
Reflecting on his conversion, Colson later wrote (https://descant.wordpress.com/2008/08/25/chuck-colson-reflects-on-his-conversion): “I left [the Raytheon Company’s president, Tom Phillips’] house that night [of my conversion] shaken by the words he had read from C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity about pride. It felt as if Lewis were writing about me, former Marine captain, Special Counsel to the President of the United States, now in the midst of the Watergate scandal. I had an overwhelming sense that I was unclean.
“After talking to Tom, I found that when I got to the automobile to drive away, I couldn’t. I was crying too hard – and I was not one to ever cry. I spent an hour calling out to God. I did not even know the right words. I simply knew that I wanted Him. And I knew for certain that the God who created the universe heard my cry.
“From the next morning to this day, I have never looked back. I can honestly say that the worst day of the last 35 years has been better than the best days of the 41 years that preceded it. That’s a pretty bold statement, given my time in prison, three major surgeries, and two kids with cancer at the same time, but it is absolutely true.
“That’s because, for the last 35 years – whether in pain, suffering, joy, or jubilation, it makes no difference – I have known there was a purpose. I have known that I belong to Christ and that I am here on earth to advance His Kingdom.”
Author: Stan Mast
Psalm 29 is the Lectionary’s choice for “Baptism of our Lord Sunday” in all three years of the cycle, and with good reason. The theme of God’s voice echoing over the waters is common to Psalm 29 and the synoptic Gospel stories of Christ’s baptism. The creation emphasis of Psalm 29 moves naturally into the redemption emphasis of the Gospels. So, good choice.
But is Psalm 29 a natural choice for Trinity Sunday? Not so much. I mean, upon first and second reading, I found absolutely nothing related to the Trinity in Psalm 29. The only possible connection would be the theme of “the Lord enthroned (verse 10)” which sounds like the reading from Isaiah 6:1, “I saw the Lord seated on a throne….” That prophetic text was chosen for Trinity Sunday presumably because of the thrice repeated cry of the seraphs, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.” But even that connection is a bit of a reach.
So why choose Psalm 29 for Trinity Sunday? Why end the celebrations of the great Feasts of the Christian year with the crash and the flash of a thunderstorm? You might use this text to preach a spring thunderstorm sermon, emphasizing how we hear the voice of God in that weather event. Like the rest of creation, it shouts the Lord’s glory. That would be an interesting sermon, but it wouldn’t fit the special day the church celebrates today.
That’s what I was thinking, when I had one of those Aha moments that must be some small sign of grace. Suddenly I heard Psalm 29 precisely as a thunderous conclusion to the great Feasts of the church year. Psalm 29 is not about the Trinity per se, but it is fitting praise for the work of the Triune God that we have been celebrating at Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost. The divine work of redemption is accomplished, and Psalm 29 invites us to join the heavenly hosts and the Temple crowd in crying, “Glory!”
The thunderstorm so graphically pictured and so powerfully voiced in Psalm 29 was the most awesome demonstration of God’s glory and strength in Israel’s experience of nature. Since Israel had no exposure to volcanos or hurricanes or tsunamis, the thunderstorm was the most impressive natural event in the typical Israelite’s life. So the writer of the Psalm uses the experience of a thunderstorm to move God’s people to ascribe glory and strength to their covenant Lord.
The Christian preacher can use this Psalm to move God’s people to ascribe glory and strength to their Lord, not for what he has done in nature, but for what he has done by grace in history. In the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, we Christians have seen and heard something much more awesome than a storm. And we should cry, “Glory!”
It is fascinating that the Psalm opens with an invitation/command addressed to the “mighty ones,” which is literally “sons of God.” Opinions on the meaning of that mysterious phrase vary widely. Some see it as a call to Israel, pointing out that the New Testament sometimes calls Christians children of God. Others hear this as an address to the angels, to the “heavenly host” of cherubim and seraphim, to Gabriel and Michael and the 4 living creatures of Revelation 4.
Still others imagine a kind of heavenly council, composed of the “gods” of the nations around Israel. Though Israel was taught that these gods were nothing on earth, they might be imagined as assembled around the throne of Yahweh giving him the glory. Scholars who champion this meaning of “mighty ones” point to the similarity between Psalm 29 and a Canaanite hymn to Baal. They posit that Psalm 29 is a polemical piece designed to put the empty idol Baal in his place. All the glory belongs to Yahweh, not Baal or any other god.
Still others speculate that the “mighty ones” might be some other kind of extra-terrestrial beings about which we are currently ignorant. I’m thinking here of C.S. Lewis’ marvelous space trilogy in which the drama of redemption on earth is being closely by the inhabitants of other planets which have not yet fallen into sin (see especially Out of the Silent Planet). Along that line of interpretation, one might try to hook in young people here by speculating that the Psalmist is appealing to the kind of super-heroes that populate the video world. Even Superman, Captain America, and the Black Panther are called to praise the God who has all the glory and strength.
However we read that opening command, it is fascinating that the call to the heavens is followed by a theophany from the heavens. No sooner are the “mighty ones” commanded to ascribe glory and strength to Yahweh than Yahweh shows up with a mighty voice. No fewer than 7 times is the “voice of the Lord” mentioned in verses 3-9. That is preceded by 4 mentions of that divine name in verses 1-2 and followed by 4 more in verses 10-11. This Psalm is all about Yahweh.
The heavenly host are called to give glory, the heavenly storm shows his glory, and then the inhabitants of earth shout his glory. “And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’” Some scholars think the temple of verse 9 is the heavenly temple, but it feels to me like the Psalm is moving from heaven to earth. The storm that came from on high has moved through the earth. Now the covenant people of Yahweh are moved to join the “mighty ones” in giving glory. The assembled people of God spontaneously join the assembled “mighty ones” in praise.
That should be the point of a sermon on Psalm 29 for Trinity Sunday. It is should not be a sermon that speculates doctrinally about the Trinity. Rather, it should be a sermon that calls God’s people to give praise to the Triune God for what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have done. Even as the heavenly hosts announced the birth of the Son with words about “glory” and “peace,” so the earthly host conclude our celebration of that Son’s work with words about glory and peace.
Speaking of peace, it is not accidental that this thunderous Psalm ends with that word, Shalom in the Hebrew. The storm is over, and there is peace. The drama of redemption is over, and there is peace. Or should be.
I want to suggest an unusual, but hopefully helpful way of reading the last two verses of this Psalm. Years ago I taught courses on narrative preaching, using the books by Eugene Lowry, especially The Homiletical Plot. Lowry urges preachers to organize their sermons using a narrative plot. He used five exclamations to summarize that plot: Oops, Ugh, Aha, Whee, and Yeah.
The “Oops” is the introduction of trouble the puts people off balance. The “Ugh” is the deepening of the trouble, where life gets messier and messier because of sin. The “Aha” is the turning point in the sermon, the introduction of grace into the trouble, the place where grace breaks into the story of human misery. The “Aha” should be followed by the “Whee,” in which salvation is explained and the grace of God celebrated. Finally, the sermon should end with a “Yeah,” which shows how life is different, now that God has come in his grace. As a result of grace, here’s how life is changed. We can settle into the experience of salvation with a satisfied “Yeah.”
I go to all this trouble to say that verses 10-11 are a wonderful example of “Yeah.” We’ve seen the “Whee” in the storm, God riding into human experience in the storm, and in the manger and on the cross. And we have cried, “Glory!” Now that salvation has been accomplished, here’s how things are in the world and in our lives.
First, we know that “the Lord sits enthroned over the flood.” That might mean the flood after the storm, or the “flood of mortals prevailing (from Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God”).” But most likely, verse 10 is about the flood of chaos that threatens to overwhelm our world. We’ve seen a bit of that chaos in the storm, but we know that Yahweh reigns over even worse chaos.
Second, the reign of Yahweh is not temporary. Other kings may come and go. There is nothing so constant in human experience as change. But after witnessing the awesome salvation of our God in Christ, we can count on this– “the Lord is enthroned as King forever.” What a comforting assurance in this time of national political turmoil!
Third, this eternal “King gives strength to his people.” There will still be chaos, but he will give strength to survive in the midst of the storm.
Finally, “the Lord blesses his people with peace.” As I said, this is that pregnant word, Shalom, which is not just peace of mind, or the cessation of warfare among people, but the complete restoration of all thing so that paradise is regained. All is right, all is harmonious, all is balanced, all is healed, everything is perfect. This is the goal of the Triune God in the work of redemption. He has already accomplished the first and decisive steps in that plan to restore peace. We have celebrated that in the great Feasts of the church year. So, now as we look back on that work, we can cry, “Glory!” And as we look ahead to the completion of the Triune God’s plan, we can be sure that there will finally be complete peace. Yeah! I mean, “Glory!”
Author: Scott Hoezee
It should be no mystery why the Lectionary chose this passage as a Trinity Sunday text. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all nicely on display in these half-dozen verses. Of course, if you also chose the Romans 8 Lectionary text option for Pentecost last week, then you realize that for some reason the Lectionary is proceeding backwards through Romans 8 as these verses actually precede the ones for Pentecost. Again, however, the reason for this backing up is clear enough: these verses are among the key building blocks used by the Early Church when assembling the Doctrine of the Trinity. The whole passage is about God but we seem to be talking in triplicate.
This is also a glorious text for other reasons, not least is the lyric truths it conveys about our salvation. One of orthodoxy’s key tenets in Church History has been the idea that despite the fact that God consists of three Persons, they are always and forever working in perfect tandem. Of course they are never at odds with each other and of course no one person is ever unaware as to what the other two are doing. But it’s more than just this: they are in fact working together perfectly to achieve a common goal. What’s more, all three Persons are needed to achieve that goal.
It would not have been enough for the Son to have been made an incarnate human being. The will of the Father had to be behind that. The power of the Spirit had to be permeating all of Christ’s work and teachings. The power of Father and Spirit were needed to raise the Son from the dead as the ultimate stamp of approval on the sacrifice Jesus made and how it was that he—along with Father and Spirit—chose to take on the devil and also death itself (namely by dying himself).
And in this part of Romans 8 we find out the other exceptionally important task the Spirit performs: he assures each individual believer that he or she really is part of the divine family now. What Jesus talked about a lot when he was on earth is utterly true: we are invited to call the Almighty God of the galaxies “Abba,” Father. Daddy. And you need the Spirit of God to do that, to sear that truth onto your heart, because otherwise who in their right mind would ever dare to do such a thing? Who would approach this figure of shining and holy effulgent glory and say “Hello, Dad!”? You would not walk into the Oval Office and address the President so lightly and in such cozy language, much less the Lord of Hosts!
Unless you are invited to do so, of course. Unless in baptism you really have been given a whole new identity as a New Creation who now dwells “in Christ.” And that, Paul reminded his readers over and over in his epistles, is exactly who we are and where we live now. But don’t take Paul’s word for it—it is the living Spirit of the living God who witnesses inside of us that this is all true. “The Inner Testimony of the Holy Spirit” was a leading concept in the theology of John Calvin. “Testimonium Spiritus Sancti Internum” or “TSSI” as I used to abbreviate it and write it into the margin of Calvin’s commentaries and other books every time he referred to it, which means I have a lot of TSSI marginalia scribbles in those books! This is a key doctrine.
Yet despite that truth and that reality, we are not for now removed from all suffering. Indeed, in addition to inviting us to call God “Abba,” we are also made to share in Christ’s sufferings as well as in the suffering travails of this creation generally, which is what Paul will go on to talk about next starting in verse 18. But those pains are birth pangs because they cannot remove the hope that has been sown into the soil of this creation and now sown into also our very hearts by that indwelling Spirit of God.
I could be wrong but if I had to guess, I’d imagine that “Trinity Sunday” may be the most under-celebrated day on the liturgical calendar. It goes without saying that it cannot compete with Christmas or Easter. Even Ascension Day and Pentecost have a hard time generating anywhere near the liturgical wattage of those two big celebrations. Epiphany might get a little more attention since you can loop it back to the just-finished Christmas focus. And even “Christ the King” Sunday has more cache than “Trinity Sunday,” which sounds doctrinaire, dusty, academic and too complex by half.
Yet here in the center of the powerful 8th chapter of Romans is a lyric reminder of why God as Triune is anything but an ivory tower idea for professional theologians to ponder ad infinitum. Father, Son and Holy Spirit working in their perfect tandem for us and for our salvation is our very life, our very hope, our deep, deep joy. The Spirit capitalizes on all the resurrection momentum Christ generated and brings all that movement and energy straight into our hearts, assuring us of our adoption into no less than the family of God.
So preach that on Trinity Sunday. Preach the Triune God as the God who—precisely by being three and not only one—is definitively the God who is pro nobis, the “For Us God.” Preach the Good News that out of the hyper-abundant fullness of the Trinity, life overflows to this whole creation and to those who are in Christ eternal life flows and flows, too. Celebrating the oneness in threeness and the three who are one is at once a great and inscrutable mystery and the foundation of all joy.
And there’s nothing arcane, dusty, or academically stuffy about that glorious message!
Celebrating our adoption as full children of God reminds me of something Richard Lischer wrote in his book The End of Words in terms of stories we can never tire of telling or hearing—and the story about how we by the Spirit get to call God “Abba” should be one of those stories:
“When the adopted child repeatedly asks her parents to recount the events surrounding her adoption, the story must remain the same. And woe to the one who introduces omissions or changes in the sacred formula. “And then out of all the babies in the orphanage you chose me, right?” Could parents ever tire of telling that story? Would they ever dare substitute another for it? If telling God’s story strikes us as repetitious, that is because it is. It is repetitious the way the Eucharist is repetitious, the way a favorite melody or gestures of love are repetitious, the wa the mercies of God that come unbidden every day are repetitious . . . Such stories do not entertain, they do something fare better. They sustain. They do not inform, they form those who share and hear them for a life of faithfulness.”