Archive for the ‘Trinity Sunday’ Tag

A Glorious Mystery   Leave a comment

Above:  Symbol of the Holy Trinity

Image in the Public Domain

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For Trinity Sunday, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and giver of the Holy Spirit.

Keep us, we pray thee, steadfast before the great mystery of thy being,

and in faith which acknowledges thee to be the one eternal God.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Isaiah 6:1-8

1 Peter 1:10-21

John 4:7-24

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The doctrine of the Trinity, as we know it, is the result of centuries of debates and numerous ecumenical councils.  Although the word “Trinity” never occurs in the New Testament, that portion of the Bible mentions the Father (YHWH), the Son (incarnated as Jesus of Nazareth), and the Holy Spirit many times.  Some passages contradict subsequent Church doctrine.  In Pauline writings and the Gospel of John, for example, the Son is subordinate to the Father.  Furthermore, in those same epistles, the Son and the Spirit are interchangeable sometimes.  And the filoque question remains current.

The nature of God is a mystery no human being can fully solve.  So be it.  The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity is the best answer in human religion.  So be it.  My Western tradition tries to explain too much; it should frolic in glorious mysteries more often.  The ultimate nature of God is one of those glorious mysteries.  So be it.

The doctrine of the Trinity invites us to give up trying to explain the nature of God and to focus instead on relating to God.  The creation, Father Robert Farrar Capon wrote in The Third Peacock, resulted from a “Trinitarian bash.”  We should, in the words of the Westminster Catechisms, glorify and fully enjoy God forever.  Love and enjoyment do not require full understanding, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 29, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Worship the Unity   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm 29

Romans 8:12-17

John 3:1-8

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I aspire never to diminish the glorious mystery of God, or to attempt to do so.  The doctrine of the Trinity, which the Church developed over centuries via debates, interpretation, and ecumenical councils, is the best explanation for which I can hope.  However, the Trinity still makes no logical sense.  For example, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are co-eternal.  Yet the Son proceeds from the Father.  And, depending on one’s theology, vis-à-vis the filoque clause, the Spirit proceeds either from the Father or from the Father and the Son.  Huh?

No, the Trinity is illogical.  So be it.  I frolic in the illogical, glorious mystery of God, who adopts us as sons (literally, in the Greek text), and therefore as heirs.  I frolic in the mystery of the Holy Spirit, in whom is new new life.  I frolic in the mystery and worship the unity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 29, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/06/29/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-year-b-humes/

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Divine Mystery and Justice   2 comments

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity

Image in the Public Domain

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For Trinity Sunday, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and giver of the Holy Spirit.

Keep us, we pray thee, steadfast before the great mystery of thy being,

and in faith which acknowledges thee to be the one eternal God.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Isaiah 61:1-7

Romans 11:33-36

Matthew 3:13-17

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In the spirit of Romans 11:33-36 I refrain from attempting to make logical sense of the Holy Trinity.  No, I am content to revel in the mystery of it.  Besides, even a cursory study of Trinity-related heresies, from Adoptionism to Arianism, reveals that they come from attempts to explain the Trinity.  The theology of the Trinity seems to have more to do with the objective nature of God anyway.

The better question is, how should we live sound Trinitarian theology?  A partial answer comes from Isaiah 61, channeled through Jesus, who quoted it at Nazareth (Luke 4:18-19).  The Incarnation adds an element otherwise missing from Isaiah 61:1-9.  The passage, fulfilled in Jesus long ago, remains part of the collective calling of the people of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Isaiah 61, from the time of the return from the Babylonian Exile, continues to speak in contemporary times, and to have different shades of meaning than it did then.  God still loves and demands justice.

Attempting to understand the mystery of the Trinity may be easier than acting justly sometimes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DOUGLAS LETELL RIGHTS, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD TIMOTHY MICKEY, JR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF PETER MORTIMER, ANGLO-GERMAN MORAVIAN EDUCATOR, MUSICIAN, AND SCHOLAR; AND GOTTFRIED THEODOR ERXLEBEN, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICOLOGIST

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Little Less Than Divine   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Psalm 8

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Matthew 28:16-20

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Trinity Sunday is the creation of Bishop Stephen of Liege (in office 903-920).  The feast, universal in Roman Catholicism since 1334 by the order of Pope John XXII, is, according to the eminent Lutheran liturgist Philip H. Pfatteicher, author of the Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship (1990), not so much about a doctrine but

the now completed mystery of salvation, which is the work of the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

–page 301

Famously the word “Trinity” appears nowhere in the Bible, and no single verse or passage gives us that doctrine.  The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is the result of much debate, some fistfights, ecumenical councils, Roman imperial politics, and the pondering of various passages of scripture.  The conclusion of 2 Corinthians and Matthew are two of those passages.  Perhaps the best summary of that process in the fourth chapter in Karen Armstrong‘s A History of God (1994).

I, being aware that a set of heresies has its origin in pious attempts to explain the Trinity, refrain from engaging in any of those heresies or creating a new one.  No, I stand in awe of the mystery of God and affirm that the Trinity is as close to an explanation as we humans will have.  We cannot understand the Trinity, and God, I assume, is more than that.

The great myth in Genesis 1:1-2:4a, itself a modified version of the Enuma Elish, affirms, among other key theological concepts, (1) the goodness of creation and (2) the image of God in human beings.  We are not an afterthought.  No, we are the pinnacle of the created order.  These themes carry over into Psalm 8.  The standard English-language translation of one verse (which one it is depends on the versification in the translation one reads) is that God has created us slightly lower than the angels.  That is a mistranslation.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders the germane passage as

little less than divine.

The Anchor Bible (1965) translation by Mitchell J. Dahood reads

a little less than the gods.

The Hebrew word is Elohim, originally a reference to the council of gods, and therefore a remnant of a time before Jews were monotheists.  An alternative translation is English is

a little lower than God,

which is better than

a little lower than the angels.

Studies of religious history should teach one that Elohim eventually became a synonym for YHWH.

“Little less than divine” seems like an optimistic evaluation of human nature when I consider the past and the present, especially when I think about environmental destruction and human behavior.  But what if Pfatteicher is correct?  What if the work of salvation is complete?  What if the image of God is a great portion of our nature than the actions of many of us might indicate?

In Christ we can have liberation to become the people we ought to be.  In Christ we can achieve our spiritual potential–for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

May we, by grace, let the image of God run loose.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLIFFORD BAX, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENIUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSEEKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; STUDENT OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER , MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; FATHER OF JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-year-a-humes/

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Empowered by God, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Saint Peter, by Dirck van Baburen

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in you:

Mercifully accept our prayers; and because, through the weakness of our mortal nature,

we can do no good thing without you,

grant us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments

we may please you, both in will and deed;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 138

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Genesis 3:1-6, 22-23

Psalm 12

Acts 3:1-7, 11-21

Matthew 11:2-6

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Trinity Sunday is, by definition, the Sunday immediately following Pentecost Sunday.  Therefore the practice of the old lectionary from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), whereby separate sets of readings for Trinity Sunday and the First Sunday after Pentecost exist, is odd.

These readings, taken together, speak of what God does.  More to the point, most of them concern what God chooses to do through us, with divine empowerment.  Wherever we, empowered by God, are present, we can achieve great goals, for the glory of God and the benefit of others, near and/or far away.  Of course, each of us (individually) and all of us (collectively) are inadequate for the great work.  That reality, however, is no excuse to do nothing.  God might not call and empower you, O reader, to confront a potentate and lead a population out of slavery, for example, but God calls and equips you to do something.  You will probably be amazed at what it is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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The Mystery of the Holy Trinity   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR TRINITY SUNDAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty and everlasting God, who has granted to us, your servants, grace,

by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity,

and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the unity:

We ask you to keep us steadfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities;

who lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 131

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Exodus 3:1-8b, 10-15

Psalm 12

Romans 11:33-36

Matthew 28:16-20

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Trinity Sunday is, by definition, the Sunday immediately following Pentecost Sunday.  Therefore the practice of the old lectionary from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), whereby separate sets of readings for Trinity Sunday and the First Sunday after Pentecost exist, is odd.

Trinity Sunday is unique on the calendar of Western Christianity.  It is the only feast devoted to a doctrine, without an accompanying event.  Trinity Sunday is also one of the seven principal feasts, according to The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The other principal feasts are Easter Day, Ascension Day, Pentecost, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany.

I approach the doctrine of the Holy Trinity with great caution.  St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Greek in Romans 11:33, referred to God’s inscrutable judgments and unsearchable ways (The Revised English Bible, 1989) or unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989).  The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is, despite all orthodox statements (from Nicaea to Chalcedon), unsearchable and inscrutable.  I accept those orthodox statements while recognizing the existence of logical inconsistencies in orthodox Trinitarian theology.  The procession of the Holy Spirit is especially challenging.  If the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are co-eternal, how can the Spirit proceed from the Father and, if one is Roman Catholic, the Son also? I also understand that a cluster of heresies has resulted from pious attempts to explain the Holy Trinity. A few of these are Arianism, Apollinarianism, and Adoptionism.

I embrace the mystery.  The nature of God is what it is; no mere mortal can understand it fully.  God is also both transcendent and imminent.  How does that work?  Furthermore, God is, for lack of better words, bigger than our agendas.

The language of orthodox Trinitarian theology is prose poetry.  That is appropriate, for metaphors are fit for thinking, speaking, and writing of God.  We must say something, even though we will get some details wrong.  May we grasp that we are using prose poetry, and embrace the Trinitarian mystery.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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Relationships   1 comment

Above:   The First Council of Nicaea

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Song of Songs 8:6-7

Psalm 89:5-8

Hebrews 11:4-7, 17-28

John 5:19-24

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Trinity Sunday is frequently a difficult occasion to preach, for many heresies have their origin in attempts to explain the Trinity.  Yet on this day, the only Christian feast devoted to a doctrine, one must say something.

The Bible offers a variety of images for God from Genesis to Revelation.  Abraham and God, we read, took walks together and engaged in conversations.  Yet, as we read in Exodus, the understanding of God had become one of a remote figure whose holiness was fatal to most people–Moses excepted.  We read of the heavenly court, modeled after earthly royal courts, in Psalm 89.  And we read in John 5 that Jesus and YHWH/God the Father have a relationship.

The full nature of divinity exceeds human capacity to grasp it, but we can know some truths.  Hebrews 11 reminds us of the faithfulness of God in relating to we human beings.  By faith, we read, people have committed great deeds that have glorified God and benefited others, even long past the lifespans of those who have committed those great deeds.  The theme of relationship is also present in the Song of Songs (a book I advise reading in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985).   The relationship in Song of Songs 8 is between a man and a woman (marital status unknown), whose love has placed their lives at risk.  Love and death are linked for them.

Let me be a seal upon your heart,

Like the seal upon your hand.

For love is fierce as death,

Passion is mighty as Sheol;

Its darts are darts of fire,

A blazing flame.

Vast floods cannot quench love,

Nor rivers drown it.

If a man offered all his wealth for love,

He would be laughed to scorn.

–Song of Songs 8:6-7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Neither can anything quench or drown divine love for us, despite our frequent lack of love for God.  Yet for a relationship to be healthy, more than one figure must be engaged in maintaining it.  May we embrace the mystery of the Holy Trinity and pursue and deepen a healthy relationship with God, whose goodness and mercy alone pursue us in Psalm 23.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-ackerman/

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