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The Rev. Joseph Winston June 3, 2007
Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 For almost seven hundred years, the Western Church has been celebrating Trinity Sunday on the ﬁrst Sunday that follows Pentecost. Pope John XXII, who lived between 1316 and 1334, ordered the Roman Catholic Church to set aside this day to remember the church’s teaching on the Trinity. We have inherited this tradition and today, we will examine our understanding of the Trinity. It has been said that the Trinity is one of those concepts about Christianity that is poorly understood. Maybe the confusion arises because no one takes the time to state what we believe. We, with the rest of the Christian Church, believe that God is One God in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God interacts with the creation
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3
in the manner of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Despite this fact, God is not three different gods but One. While it might be relatively easy to restate a portion of our confessions, it is much harder to talk about the difference that the Trinity makes in the daily life of the Church. Perhaps, this problem exists because the old models of the life of the Trinity as either dance or music are difﬁcult for us to understand because they draw on images that rarely exist in our world today. For example, at one time the entire community danced. The infants smiled and swayed as their parents and grandparents moved to and fro. At the edges of the ﬂowing bodies were the youngsters and the aged. The children, needing to learn the steps, watched the adults dance. One day soon, they would join their sisters and their brothers in the celebration. With bones too brittle and joints too stiff, the older members of the community also viewed the activity all around them and they remembered fondly their days on the dance ﬂoor. The rest of the people danced together as one. They all knew what to do because they had been practicing the moves their entire lives. No, it was not always pretty or even perfect, but this never mattered since they were enjoying themselves. This description of a community dancing together is one of the primary models for the Trinity. Every one: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit move as One. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all know the steps so well that they can switch roles if necessary. When this occurs, it often makes the observers a little bit dizzy because they never expected that to happen. Just like the community celebration on the dance ﬂoor, the members of the Trinity all love what they are 2
doing. The interplay between the Trinity is but one part of their life together. What really is important to the Trinity is the care that the members have for each other. This dedication causes them to live as One with One another.2 The application of these Trinitarian ideas should cause the church to freely go and love others. The idea of utter interdependence on others in a dance is practically impossible for us to grasp today because we no longer live like this. Instead, our entertainment exists solely for our own sake. We can clearly see this in our courting rituals. No longer do entire families and even towns provide proper ways for boys to be introduced to girls. Instead, we do nothing and let nature take its course. Our lack of involvement with our children and grandchildren show how self centered we have become. It is no wonder that we no longer use dance as a way to describe the life of the Trinity. The same story applies for music making. In the not too distant past, every human made music in some way or another. Society supported this idea by expecting that all of its members could participate in song. Children listened to their mothers sing around the house and soon even the babies could copy their mother’s music. Parents and schools joined together in teaching the children nursery rhymes, which were sung. Does anyone remember Three Blind Mice or Hickory Dickery Dock? The emphasis on music did not end with singing simple songs. Every one was expected to learn how to read music and to progress on to more difﬁcult reperThese ideas are based on the work of John Damascene’s doctrine of Perichoresis. Moltmann in The Trinity And The Kingdom argues that this is the lifestyle that the church must adopt. This approach gives the church the freedom to love.
toires. Men and women joined singing clubs. There they raised their voices in the traditional songs of their homeland. People purchased pianos and other musical instruments. With these tools of the trade, they gathered together into trios, quartets, and quintets. People made music together because it helped them express the reality of life. Our shared experience making music has been successfully used in the past to describe the Trinity. For many music lovers, the group known as the Trinity is a little bit different. First of all, all the members of the Trinity are virtuosos on their primary instrument but they can and they do change places as needed. Next, they do not religiously stick to the music. If you listen carefully you will hear that they always change the score since the ending of the piece is always played at the beginning. Additionally, like many great improv groups, they can shape their sound to ﬁt the current situation. Many people have been surprised by their emotional range. Finally, this group is inseparable. In fact, they have always been One.3 The description of the Trinity as a group making music gives the Church permission to invite others into God’s band. Today, we no longer make music. This fact is illustrated in our daily lives. Instead of singing, we only listen to professional singers. Carefully check the play list on your iPod. Does it contain any tracks by your brothers, sisters, or even you? Take a look at our homes. Only a few of us have pianos and even a smaller number
This section is based on the work of Robert W. Jenson and it can be found near the end of his ﬁrst book on systematic theology. The importance of the musical models is that God invites humans into the Trinity to play our own line.
of us have other musical instruments like violins, ﬂutes, or clarinets. No longer do we teach people to read music and in doing so we have become musically illiterate. Because of these facts, we now have difﬁculty using music as a way to understand the Trinity. However, we have still have intimate knowledge about the economy and this model might provide us with a better way to talk about the difference the Trinity makes in the life of the Church. Imaging my surprise almost two weeks ago when I found out the that HEB store had been permanently closed. This reality has made us poorer in ﬁve different ways. For many people, HEB provided convenience. This is our ﬁrst loss. Maybe they walked to the store because it was close by, HEB could have had better hours, or perhaps it was easier to go to HEB rather than Brookshire Brothers or Wal-Mart. It even could be that some of us liked the size of the HEB store and we did not like wandering around in a huge cavern just for a bunch of bananas and a gallon of milk. The closing of HEB removes every one of these possibilities. People will now have to select another grocery store. Next, there are people who are loyal to a brand. This is one of the reasons why I liked to support HEB here in Liberty. Two of my sons work part time at the Clear Lake HEB store as checkers and baggers. Because HEB has given them work, I like to make my purchases at HEB. I no longer have this option and when I need to buy some grocery items in Liberty, I will have to go the competition. The third loss is the ability to choose. Other people shopped at HEB because 5
of their selection. I have heard that HEB’s vegetables were the best in town. If you agree with this statement, you will either drive to Baytown or put up with what you can ﬁnd at Brookshire Brothers or Wal-Mart. This will be inconvenient and might actually cost you money. When HEB closed about two weeks ago, many relationship came to an abrupt ending. The termination of many friendships is the fourth way our community is now poorer. The checkers no longer can chat with each other while they are checking out customers. The stockers will have to pick up their discussions elsewhere. And all of the management has been scattered to different locations making personal interactions difﬁcult. The store’s closing has ended more than one friendship. Finally, one of the most detrimental losses in any small town is the closing of a grocery store. The reason for this fact is the economic impact of a store like HEB provides to the local economy. HEB employed many people, purchased many different items from local suppliers, and paid a staggering amount of taxes. Now that HEB is closed, this income is no longer available. The baggers, checkers, stockers, and the other former employees are no longer receiving a paycheck. The local companies that helped HEB here in the Liberty store have lost a client that always paid their bills. And the city, county, and the state all have fewer taxes in their coffers. The closing of the HEB store seems to provide us with a series of illustrations on how the doctrine of the Trinity should inform the daily life of the church. First, a good store of any type provides its customers with convenience be6
cause if a store is difﬁcult to use or to ﬁnd, the customers will leave. The life of the Trinity has the exact same attribute. If the Trinity was hidden then we could never ﬁnd God. The Trinity has found us and unlike any other store has given what we need for free. Our work is to go ﬁnd others and give them exactly what they need: forgiveness. Brand loyalty simply means that customers trust the company. This is the second way lesson that we can learn from the world of economics. The Trinity also has cultivated brand loyalty by always being there for us. The church’s job is similar. We are to be with every one at all times. Next, a store needs to sell what is needed otherwise it will go out of existence. This same thinking can be applied to the Trinity and what we need to do as a church. No one needs a god that gives us something that we do not need. Every one of us needs acceptance, forgiveness, and love. The Trinity models this type of life and gives us each of these items. We as church need to pass them on to our family, friends, and neighbors. Our relationships are an important part of our daily lives and we would like them to continue. This is the fourth example of what we have learned from the store closing. The Trinity wants to be with us forever. This amazing relationship needs to be given away to everyone. This is the work of the church and it is how the Trinity should be effecting us. Finally, a store touches the community in many different ways and the store provides work for people to do. The Trinity’s interactions in the work are similar. The Trinity’s work here in this place changes people and because the Trinity’s 7
has given us life, we can go serve our neighbors. The practical application of this attribute is that we should do the same. Implicit in many of the descriptions of the Trinity is that every one in the Trinity pitches in to do God’s will. This also is our role. We are to do what God the Father tells us. The problem found in our lives is that we do not agree on what the Trinity has decided that we should do. Our rebellion to Trinity’s way of doing things has been costly to both us and the Holy Trinity. For us, it causes suffering and ultimately our ways will cost us our life. Its not that the Trinity is out for an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth but that our way of living brings us to our end through our own choosing. We have made poor judgements and they will come back and hurt us. These mistakes have hurt more than ourselves. Others both known and unknown will suffer because of our bad decisions and even the Trinity itself will be changed. The economic impact has also deeply effected the Trinity. God’s Son, Jesus, will have to die for our rebellion. Instead of punishing us for our rebellion, the Trinity came up with a another plan. Once again show them how to live. Send the second person, Jesus to be with them. Maybe his life as a human will change them. Listen carefully to Christ’s Words. He, on the behalf of the rest of the Trinity, invites each and every one of us back into a daily relationship with the Trinity. This is not just some superﬁcial arrangement where you serve the Trinity or the Trinity ignores you. Instead, all the members of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are calling you into the Trinity’s daily life. They want you to dance with them forever. They 8
want you to always make music with them. They want to be part of all of your relationships. In the ﬁnal analysis, it really does not matter if we use dance, music, or even economics to describe the way that the Holy Trinity makes a difference in the daily life of the Church. The reality is that the Holy Trinity is calling us to continue Christ’s ministry in our everyday settings.4 Throughout the lifetime of Trinity Lutheran Church, we have been giving away the Holy Trinity’s unconditional acceptance. Sometimes this gift comes in a kind word on the streets. While at other times, it arrives in the completely unexpected form of a check, which was made possible by our pocket change ministry. All of this work has been a blessing from God and I am extremely thankful for everything that you have done in this community. The economic reality facing us today is bringing us a terrible question that we all must face head on. How do we continue in our present form? If I was completely honest with you, this question is not coming from some unseen hand of the economy. The issue of what we are to do is a gift to us from the Holy Trinity. The Trinity is calling us to change into something different. The real question is, “What is it?” “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”5
?, . Philippians 4:7.
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