In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today is Trinity Sunday, when we celebrate and proclaim the co-eternal existence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as “one God, one Lord, in Trinity of Persons and in Unity of Being.”
The doctrine of the Trinity would make no sense were it not for the experience of the Christian Church in worship. Even so, the mystery of the Trinity, like all mysteries, can never be adequately explained—though some language is better than others. Rather, the Trinity can only be understood insofar as one participates in it.
This should sound familiar to those of you who were here last week, for I defined “mystery” as “a reality that can only be understood insofar as one participates in it.” The Church’s proclamation and worship of the mystery of the Trinity helps us to participate ever more deeply in the divine mystery of the Holy Trinity. As we enter into God’s own life, journeying toward the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, all of our relationships become infused with this participation. When we seek and serve Christ in each other, we participate in God’s life, not just inside the Church itself, but in the world around us.
Last week, I pointed to the presence of Jesus in this particular place as illustrated by the 12th Station of the Cross. Today, I want to tell you three anecdotes about how St. John’s has affected people and drawn them into deeper participation in the life of the Trinity. This “trinity” of anecdotes nicely illustrates, in fact, how St. John’s is participating in the mystery of the Trinity’s life in creation, in redemption, and in sanctification.
St. John’s is participating in the Trinity’s creative work by using the little corner of God’s Creation we’ve been given. Specifically, we have this lawn, where my children and Peter’s children play; last summer, we held several Music on the Lawn events for the neighborhood, organized by Scott Nicholson. A neighbor on Poplar Street saw the children playing and came to one of the events on the lawn, and a month or so ago sent us nearly $2000 from his employee charitable giving matching fund. He is not a member of St. John’s and has never been to Mass here…yet. I called him to thank him after we received this check out of the blue, and he said he was so impressed by the outreach into the community that he might well come check us out on a Sunday morning.
St. John’s is participating in the Trinity’s redemptive work, too. A couple of weeks ago, I received a note in the mail from a neighbor, also not a member of the church, also with a generous check enclosed. She is not, to my knowledge, a person of great financial resources. But it was an impressive amount. The note said, “This is in honor of [a member of your church] who, because of her own goodness and the inspiration of St. John’s concern for neighbors has looked after me this past year. Please use it where there is need.”
Now, I’ve withheld the name of that church member. She knows who she is. The point is, the person who honored her with a donation did it for two reasons: she recognized how generous her friend had been with her time, and she recognized that at least part of what motivated this person to spend her time in the way that she does is “the inspiration of St. John’s concern for neighbors.” Wow. Because the person in whose honor the donation was made is known in the neighborhood as belonging to St. John’s, we all get the credit for participating in God’s redemptive work in her work. And the good news here is that every one of us can do the same thing, in our own way, amongst our own neighbors. And many of us already are.
St. John’s is participating in the Trinity’s sanctifying work. Last Sunday, you may have noticed the bulletin announcement that the Bishop’s Committee confirmed my appointment of a small working group I’m calling “C3,” short for “Capital Campaign Committee.” Their job at this stage is not to run a campaign, but to help the Bishop’s Committee decide whether that’s the direction we want to head in. I would not have had the courage to appoint C3 were it not for the encouragement of certain people, one of whom wrote to me just a couple of weeks ago, “At this point in my life NOTHING seems more important than supporting the continuing presence of Gospel word and action in this fallen and crazy world…Saint John’s is where I feel led to make that commitment/investment. It would be a crime if I (and my generation), who received such a generous gift from past generations, was to take that gift for granted rather than furthering the commitment and generosity of faithful folks of earlier generations. I’m ready to put my money where my mouth and my heart are.”
Again: Wow! The Trinity is at work in our neighbors, friends, and members, and is using St. John’s to the extent that we are willing to get involved with God’s work in the church and in the world.
While these three examples are about how people have chosen to give thanks for God’s presence at St. John’s by sharing their financial resources, I think we are getting this sort of “manna” because it’s God’s way of saying, “Pay attention. You are doing the right things. I want to bless you. Keep up the good work.” There are different kinds of Christians, after all, and I think God knows that if a red streak on a wall won’t get your attention, a check in the mail just might! I try to pay attention to all of it. Thus, I tell you these anecdotes as a way of encouraging us to continue to participate in the Trinity’s creative, redemptive, and sanctifying work in the world, as we share what we have with each other and the world around us.
This sharing, this participation, begins in the here and now and continues for all eternity. Our participation in God’s life increases in direct proportion to our willingness to establish meaningful and mutually accountable relationships that invite God’s participation in each others’ lives. The community of the Church as a whole participates in God’s life by mutual upbuilding; as our relationships with each other are strengthened, so are our relationships with God. And as our relationships with God are strengthened, so are our relationships with each other, so much so that we are moved to go out into the world to seek and serve Christ in all of creation, whether that means just hanging out on the lawn, or actively serving our neighbors in Christ’s name, or committing to ever-deepening discipleship and stewardship. When we get involved at St. John’s, we get involved with God, and that gets us involved with the world around us.
In sum, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is about getting involved with God, and through God, with each other. Or, conversely, it is about getting involved with each other, and through each other, getting involved with God. This, after all, is what Christ Jesus did for us, and what we, too are called to do for each other, to the glory of God and the service of God’s people.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.