Trinity Sunday, Pentecost 1, Year C

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C September 4, 2016 Proper 18, Year C Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C August 28, 2016 Proper 17, Year C Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14:1, 7-14
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C August 21, 2016 Proper 16, Year C Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C August 7, 2016 Proper 14, Year C Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, Proper 14, Year C
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C July 31, 2016 Proper 13, Year C Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23; Colossians 3:1-11, Luke 12:13-21
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C July 24, 2016 Proper 12, Year C Luke 11:1-13
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C July 10, 2016 Proper 10, Year C Luke 10:25-37
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C July 3, 2016 Proper 9, Year C Luke 10:1-11, 16-20; Galatians 6:7-16
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C June 26, 2016 Proper 8, Year C Luke 9:51-62, Galatians 5:1,13-25, Psalm 16, 1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C June 19, 2016 Proper 7, Year C Luke 8:26-39: Luke 24:13-35
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C June 12, 2016 Proper 6, Year C 2 Samuel 11;26-12:10-13-15, Luke 7:36-8:3
Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year C June 5, 2016 Proper 5, Year C Luke 7: 11-17
Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C May 29, 2016 Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C Luke 7:1-10
Trinity Sunday, Pentecost 1, Year C May 22, 2016 Trinity Sunday, Year C John 16:12-15, Psalm 8
Day of Pentecost! Year C May 15, 2016 The Day of Pentecost, Year C Acts 2:1-21, John 14:8-17, 25-27

 

Trinity Sunday, Pentecost 1, Year C

Sermon Date:May 22, 2016

Scripture: John 16:12-15, Psalm 8

Liturgy Calendar: Trinity Sunday, Year C


"The Trinity" – Anton Rublev (1411 or 1425-27)

PDF version

Since 1334, Christians in the Western Church have been celebrating the feast day for the Trinity on the Sunday after Pentecost.

Most of us know this Sunday as one on which the preacher feels compelled to talk about the Trinity and to come up with yet another hopefully insightful or clever way to try to make sense of our Triune God, three in one, and one in three. And then at the end of the sermon, if the preacher is truthful, you’ll hear that in spite of all that has been said, the Trinity is a mystery that no one will ever fully explain.

So today, I’d like to skip that part and talk about some of the practical implications of believing in this Triune God, three in one and one in three.

The Nicene Creed can help us out here because it provides succinct descriptions of the three persons of the Trinity and what we believe about each of these “persons.”

God is the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. All of creation on this earth, in this universe, and beyond is from God.

This transcendent understanding of God, which has been laid out in today’s psalm, puts us human beings in our rightful place—under God, a little lower than the angels, and even though God has adorned us with glory and honor, we are still not God. God is our sovereign and our Lord. So one of our jobs as Christians is to exalt God’s name in all the world—instead of ourselves.

We also believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. Begotten of the Holy Spirit and the child of Mary, Jesus grew into a man who, as the creed reminds us, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the scriptures; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Because Jesus lived and died as one of us, and experienced suffering in conjunction with a brutal death, we know that God knows the immensity of our own sufferings, whether those sufferings be physical, or mental or spiritual.

God knows the depth of our sorrows.

And God is in the midst of the seemingly endless griefs that can haunt us even in the midst of joy.

Jesus told the disciples that they had seen the Father because they knew him. Jesus is the best way for us to know God—because in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, we can see God’s love. In fact, the catechism says that the nature of God revealed in Jesus is this—that God is love.

The Nicene Creed goes on to describe the Holy Spirit as the Lord, the giver of life. In today’s scripture, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth, a term unique to John’s gospel. The disciples cannot bear all that Jesus needs to tell them. And so when the Spirit of truth comes, the Spirit of truth will guide the disciples into all the truth.

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, keeps us connected to Jesus, who said “I am the Way, the truth and the life.” And the Holy Spirit gives us the ability and the guidance we need to use our minds and hearts to discern God’s will in our lives and to receive fresh insights into God’s truth.

How we understand God matters immensely because our understanding of who God is shapes the way in which we make decisions in our lives.

I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC on Monday. It was the first time I’d been there. While I was there, I saw this sentence over and over.

“What you do matters.”

The fact that we believe in God the Father Almighty, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life shapes the daily decisions we make, both large and small and helps what we do to make a difference for good in this world.

Here’s how.

First of all, knowing that God is the Father Almighty reminds us that God is in charge, and that the good decisions we make point to God’s power and glory in this world. The first verse of Canticle 13 puts it like this—“Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; you are worthy of praise; glory to you.” The Westminster Catechism, which dates back to the 1600’s, says that our chief end in life is to glorify God and to enjoy God forever.

So the first question to ask when trying to make a decision would be-

How does the decision I am going to make put God first and show praise and glory to God?

Second, knowing that Jesus abides in God and that we are to abide in Jesus our Lord and obey his commandments to love God and to love one another as God has loved us, we ask a second question when making decisions.

How does the choice I am going to make draw me into a closer relationship with God and with other people?

And third, knowing that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth–Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth–then we can ask and expect the Spirit to help us discern what it is that we should do when the answer to some dilemma in our lives is not obvious. The Holy Spirit can guide us through our decision making by getting us to look at the truth beyond the obvious and to ask ourselves about the intended and unintended consequences of our actions.

So the third question is this– Where is the Holy Spirit leading me? And what will be the intended and unintended consequences of the actions I am going to take?

An example from the Holocaust Museum about a rescue effort for Jews that involved an entire region in France illustrates how our belief in our Triune God can shape our decision making.

In fact, this example also a great illustration of today’s reading from Romans—God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us, and that hope does not disappoint us.

The Holocaust Museum website explains that “from December 1940 to September 1944, the inhabitants of the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon (population 5,000) and the villages on the surrounding plateau (population 24,000) provided refuge for an estimated 5,000 people. This number included an estimated 3,000–3,500 Jews who were fleeing from the Vichy authorities and the Germans.” https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007518#seealso

Why did the people of this region put themselves at risk to help the Jews who were fleeing for their lives?

The people who lived in Le Chambon and the surrounding villages were French Huguenots, Calvinist Protestants who had been persecuted themselves by the Catholic Church from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Even during those centuries, the people of this area had taken in refugees who were seeking shelter and safety.

This group distrusted authoritarian governments. When the Vichy government came to power in France, this group of people refused to cooperate with the government. They would not pledge allegiance to Marshal Petain, the chief of state, and they refused to ring the church bells in his honor.

So at the very beginning of the crisis, the Huguenots asked the first question.

How does the decision I am going to make put God first and show praise and glory to God?

They made decisions based on their belief in God as their only sovereign ruler—their loyalties lay with God first, instead of the government in power. In fact, Pastor Andre Trocme, who was a committed pacifist, “who often preached against antisemitism, protested the mass roundup of Jews in Paris in 1942 in a sermon on August 16, stated that ‘the Christian Church must kneel down and ask God to forgive its present failings and cowardice.’”

The Huguenots put God first—above the government, and they also put God above their own safety, for they were putting themselves in danger by their open opposition to the government.

Now second, the Huguenots asked the second question that comes from our belief in Jesus as the Son of God, one of us, who has given us the two great commandments—to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

In this situation in which they found themselves, how could they best love God and love their neighbors as themselves?

They went beyond merely resisting the government. They also actively gave refuge to the desperate Jews who had nowhere to go but to a certain death.

Elizabeth Koenig-Kaufman, who was a child refugee in Le Chambon during the war said that “Nobody asked who was Jewish and who was not. Nobody asked where you were from. Nobody asked who your father was or if you could pay. They just accepted each of us, taking us in with warmth, sheltering children, often without their parents—children who cried in the night from nightmares."  

Pastor Trocme, his wife Magda and his assistant, Pastor Edouard Theis, along with the help of American Quakers in the area, organized refuge for about 5,000 people from December 1940 to September 1944. Refugees stayed in shelters, private homes, and in schools and in hotels. The Huguenots forged identification cards for the refuges and got some of them to safety in Switzerland. Most of these Jews were foreign born and most of them were children.

The Huguenots had asked themselves that second question—how do we love our neighbors as ourselves in this awful situation? And they were proactive about actually carrying out a plan that saved the lives of these five thousand people who would have otherwise been put to death.

Remember that last question that we Christians can ask if we are thinking about decision making based on our belief in a Triune God—where is the Holy Spirit leading us, and what will be the intended and possible unintended consequences of the decision we are trying to make?

Surely, the Huguenots must have known that they were putting themselves in great danger by what they were doing to resist the government and to provide safe refuge for Jews, both actions punishable by death.

And in fact, before the end of the war, Pastor Trocme’s cousin, Daniel, a school teacher who taught the Jewish children, and the town physician, Roger le Forestier, who had helped the Jews to obtain false documents, were both imprisoned and killed.

“In 1990, the State of Israel recognized all the inhabitants of Le Chambon and those of nearby villages collectively as “Righteous Among the Nations.”

The collective actions of the Christians in this region of France reach across the years to inspire us to think about the decisions we make as believers in our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Here are the three questions one more time.

How does the decision I am going to make put God first and show praise and glory to God?

How does the choice I am going to make draw me into a closer relationship with God and with other people?

And third, where is the Holy Spirit leading me? And what will be the intended and unintended consequences of the actions I am going to take?

On this Trinity Sunday, then, please take this list of three questions and use them in your own decision making as an ongoing act of thanksgiving for our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Amen

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