Lectionary, Trinity Sunday, Year C

I. Theme – The Trinity points to the mystery of unity and diversity in God’s experience and in the ongoing creative process

 Holy Trinity– Anton Rublev (1430)

The lectionary readings are here  or individually: 

First Reading – Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalm – Psalm 8
Epistle –Romans 5:1-5
Gospel – John 16:12-15 

The first reading reminds us of the holiness and wisdom of God’s personal mystery. The second reading invites praise for God’s glory, which we hope to share through our cooperation with God’s Spirit at work in us. In today’s gospel, Jesus promises the Spirit, who will convict the world and guide the disciples into truth.

Our language about God springs from our experience of God’s activity and, at best, only points to divine mystery. Though we know that all our language about God is metaphorical and that all our most comprehensive explanations fall short of God’s essential mystery, nevertheless we continue to be lured by God’s holy mystery.

Though we freely admit that God is beyond our rational capacity, we also recognize that God is not beyond our experience. Our metaphors move from what we know best to what we experience as lesser known. Our touchstone to the mystery of the Trinity is first of all the mystery of our own self. Despite our most persistent efforts to "know our self," there is always so much more of our self that escapes our scrutiny.

And the mystery of human selfhood spills over into our encounters with the mysterious others in our lives. Even those closest to us–our parents, children, spouses and friends–remain somehow other and surprising.

How do we know God? The question is not merely academic, but influences our deepest belief and behavior. The Trinity is not a heavenly riddle but an ongoing revelation, filling and blessing us and our days.

The Trinity, along with the Incarnation and the divine presence in history, is one of the great antidotes to the tendency of some Christians to see God as apathetic, a-historical, and unchanging in contrast to the passionate, evolving, and transitory world of time and space.

This lively God has not decided everything in advance without consulting the creaturely world, nor has the living God imaged the whole unfolding of history in one eternal, unchanging vision. The Trinitarian God suggested by today’s passages embodies loving fidelity through intimate and changing relationships with the unfolding world and its inhabitants

God is constantly doing something new, and God is constantly being revealed to us in new ways. God is still speaking through the acts of creation, which Wisdom (which also has at times been interpreted as the Holy Spirit in the New Testament) is part. Maybe even the Trinity falls short in showing us the way God is made known to us, but we have used it throughout Christian history

II. Summary

First Reading – Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

About five centuries before Jesus, a Jewish sage compiled a collection of his people’s wisdom. He wanted to make other Jews proud of their heritage and eager to know its truths. As an introduction to the collection, the sage wrote what we know as chapters 1 through 9

The passage we proclaim today is from the introductory chapters, where the author tries to convince the reader to love wisdom, to want it and to commit to its pursuit.

In these verses, Wisdom introduces herself by placing herself at significant locations in the ancient near east: the cross roads, and the city gate. As a presence at those locations, she would be the center of not only commerce and communication (an idea common in the so-called Wisdom Literature of most ancient near eastern cultures) but also the places where justice was meted out.

The later verses of this poem place her at the moment of creation, where she is present as YHWH orders chaos, and creates the earth and all that is in it.

The author is trying to show us that wisdom is more than practical knowledge. Rather it is a spiritual being whom God created first and made his partner in the work of creating everything else. If the reader believes that, then the prospect of possessing wisdom will be most attractive.

The actor is clearly God, and the observer is clearly Wisdom. In that capacity she communicates to humankind God’s joy in her, and God’s joy in the human race as well. What is unspoken here, in the choice of this reading for this Feast of the Holy Trinity, is the presence of all three persons of the Trinity – the creating God, Wisdom/Christ, and the breath – the Spirit.

The author personifies wisdom as a woman, focusing on her participation in creation. There was no time when God’s wisdom did not exist. This poetic description offers a way to understand Jesus as the "wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30), through whom “all things came into being” (John 1:1-3) at creation. Wisdom’s main joy is found among humans, for they are the crown of God’s creation.

Proverbs 8 counsels a spirituality and ethic of joyful attentiveness. . God delights in beauty, God has fun in creativity, the poet of the universe rejoices in the creativity of creaturely life. If God has a bias toward joy and playfulness, then these are values we should also pursue in our personal and corporate activities. Spirituality is about fiery passionate love of the earth, not otherworldly withdrawal

Psalm – Psalm 8

This hymn expresses amazement at the God-given dignity of the human being. If the awesome heavens majestically reveal God’s power and care, then God’s attentiveness to mortal human beings is astonishing.

Comparisons are made which heighten the grandeur of God, and the smallness of human beings. In spite of that, however, God crowns the creatures that God has made and honors them. Human value is rooted in God’s decision to impart "glory and honor" and to make humans the stewards of creation.

Psalm 8 reminds us that we are created in the image of God, and that we ought to reflect that image in our lives. In the way that God has dominion over all creation, so God has given us dominion over the earth—in that we are called to create, renew, and care for all of creation.

In verse three we have an image of the action of creation, wherein God establishes “a stronghold” against God’s “adversaries.” These “adversaries” are not the other gods of ancient near eastern culture, but rather the chaos and disorder that God orders in the act of creation. This image is seen in other psalms where water is seen as a sign of this chaotic threat

Once again, when we limit our image of God, we also limit the understanding of our own creation—that we are whole when we are male and female, together, and that we are whole when we are caring for creation the way God has cared for all. We are a “little lower than God,” and given the responsibility of care for creation.

Epistle –  Romans 5:1-5

Romans 5:1-5 speaks to this new unveiling of God, the continued revealing of God in new ways throughout our history, and that God is not finished yet. Hope does not disappoint us, because God continues to do a new thing. We know that even in times of suffering and doubt, God will continue to be revealed to us.

The idea of justification by faith is the key to understanding today’s second reading. To be justified means to be in a right relationship with God. People naturally try to achieve that by behaviors that they hope will please God, behaviors like keeping laws, saying prayers and performing rituals. Paul realized that wasn’t working for him and hadn’t worked for generations of observant Jews before him. He realized that the right relationship depended on God’s grace, not on our behavior. That Jesus came and died for us while we were still sinners proves that God loves us as we are, not as we should be. Faith means admitting that I can’t summon up enough good behavior to make myself pleasing to God, and trusting that God loves me anyway, because Jesus reconciled us to God when we couldn’t do it ourselves.

The disciples call upon Jesus in a couple of situations, asking him to determine “who sinned” when witnessing the suffering of others. Here Paul attempts to put such theology to rest by declaring that “we have peace with God” through Jesus. That, however, does not mean that there are no longer moments of trial and tribulation. Paul’s readers readily understood that.

  Thus Paul takes time to break open the understanding of “suffering” in the light of God’s pardoning. In a list of progressive circumstances (suffering, endurance, character, and hope) Paul wants to connect human life with God offer of love. This is the function of the post-Resurrection understanding – seeing in these actions and situations the gift of the Spirit to continue us in our faith and in our understanding of God’s gifts. 

All that backs up the hope that Paul mentions (verse 2). And it puts a different light on our afflictions (verse 3). They’re no longer to be viewed as the tokens of our condemnation, but scars, if you will, from our struggles, not against God but on God’s side against a common enemy

Gospel – John 16:12-15 

Jesus warns the disciples of his impending death and of persecution to come. Yet his death is described as a return home to the Father. Thus he tells them that it is to their advantage, for only then can he send them the Spirit.

Jesus’ death will bring the promised Advocate–the Spirit of truth, who will lead the disciples into an ever-deeper understanding of Jesus’ revelation. Like Jesus, the Spirit will not speak out of a separate authority. The Spirit will glorify Jesus, as Jesus did the Father, by revealing him to people. Through the inspiration of the Spirit, the mission of the disciples will be one with that of Jesus.

In verse 15, we know that everything that belongs to God belongs to Jesus, and Jesus promises that the Spirit will take what belongs to Jesus and declare it to us—in other words, the Spirit will speak of God in new ways to us. As our knowledge and understanding of who God is continues to unfold throughout creation (the Word becoming flesh, the Holy Spirit coming), God will continue to surprise us, to do the unexpected, and be revealed in new ways.

Often, when contemplating a doctrine such as that of the Holy Trinity, the temptation is to view the understanding as static and frozen. This particular reading from John underscores the progression of faith and understanding, highlighting the work of the Spirit. Here the verbs are very interesting in understanding the on-going work that God does with us. The Spirit “guides”, “speaks”, “declare”, and “glorify”.

The beauty of the Trinity is that it is a relationship of “persons” and aspects. It is active at various levels, and it appears to us by a variety of means. John’s understanding is heard in Jesus’ explanation what his work has been about – a constant communication of God’s grace that extends beyond the time that Jesus was with the disciples through the time that he is with us in the utterings of the Spirit.

God’s Spirit is alive in us, so proclaims Jesus to his disciples then and now. Christ’s wisdom is ours. God wants to give us everything necessary for faithful and powerful living. We can embody the mind of Christ, seeing as Christ did and living as Christ lived. God wants us to think big and act big as God’s emissaries today. We are the embodiments of divine creative wisdom. Spirit-centered living invites us to see ourselves as God’s companions in saving the world. This inspires us to seek an ethic of stature, encouraging largeness of spirit and experience, and radical hospitality, in ourselves and others.

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