Isaiah 6:1-8 Psalm 29 Romans 8:12-17 John 3:1-17
Since last weekend more and more people have listened to recordings of the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preach at the royal wedding. Google reports that the word, Episcopal, is being searched four times more now than ever before. Reporters on both continents have said that Bishop Curry stole the show at the Royal Wedding. And it is no wonder, too. Few preachers today, and perhaps throughout history, have had the ability to relate the power of Christ’s love for us like Bishop Curry.
Almost immediately, I saw Facebook posts from my Episcopal friends saying something to the effect of: “If you were blown away by the sermon at the wedding, Love is preached and lived at an Episcopal Church near you.” Love is preached here, but if [this is the first time you have attended an Episcopal worship service and] you expect to hear me preach like Bishop Curry, I must apologize. We do share the same theology, the same belief that it is love that will change the world for the better, and that God is the source of all love and our hope for the future – but Bishop Curry is one of a kind. The Episcopal Church is blessed to have him serving as the head of our church. With appearances on Good Morning America, the View, and Today, he is certainly doing his part to bring others into our fold.
His message of love is, I believe, an appropriate message to be shared this Memorial Weekend as we honor those who served our nation and died to protect our freedoms. They sacrificed themselves for us, that we might have a better life – and if that isn’t an act of love, I don’t know what is. Ultimately, we pray the way of love that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of and that the Most Rev. Michael Curry preaches about will create a new world where there is no war – but we are a long way from that happening and our freedoms are dependent on the men and women who place themselves in harms way to protect us. So, I would be remised if I did not acknowledge those who died in service to their country and to us.
Not only is this the Sunday before Memorial Day, it is also the day the church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Trinity. Now, Bishop Curry has a knack for being able to get to the heart of our theology, so I would love to hear what he has to say about our doctrine of the Trinity. This Trinity Sunday preachers everywhere are struggling to help their congregations understand our belief that there is one God in three persons. I have always found this Feast of the Trinity curious. We speak of ourselves as trinitarians, meaning we believe in one God in three persons – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – but do any of us really know what this means?
Our readings today may reference the three persons of the Trinity, but how do they help us understand our belief in “one God in three persons?” I’m not sure they do.
In the story of Isaiah’s vision in which God calls him to be a prophet. Isaiah sees God and is moved to say, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” His vision shines a light on who he is and who Isiah’s people are, and so he confesses his shortcomings. Then, one of God’s angels absolves him of his sins. When the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah responds, “Here I am, send me!” Thus, Isaiah answers the call of the one who is Lord over us all.
The only thing in this passage that remotely suggests the Trinity is when the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for US?” Is it possible the “us” is the Trinity? In the first story of creation in Genesis, God says, “Let US make humankind in our own image.” It is a leap, however, to develop a trinitarian theology from either of these passages. I think it is better to read Isaiah and consider what this passage says about the power of forgiveness. Isaiah is forgiven, overcome with gratitude, and responds by accepting a call to service.
Now the letter of James does refer to the “Spirt of God” and us as being the adopted children of God and calling him “Abba! Father!” It evens says we are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” But it doesn’t really reveal to us anything about the nature of the Trinity – it just includes references to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Likewise, the gospel tells us the story of Nicodemus coming to see Jesus and getting into a discussion on being “born again.” In it, Jesus speaks of the need for us to be “born of water and Spirit.” Jesus goes on to say, “for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal live.” All three persons of the Trinity are present here – the Spirit, the Father, and the Son, but alias, like the letter of James, this doesn’t tell us much about the nature of the Trinity.
After going to seminary, I concluded that the Trinity is probably best summed up as being part of “the mystery of faith,” that we Episcopalians like to reference. What we know of the Trinity is just enough to know that God has multiple ways of reaching out to us. We are touched, sustained, and strengthened by God’s Spirit (the Holy Spirit) at important times in our lives. We are drawn into a relationship with our creator when we are astounded by the beauty and wonder of creation. And, we are able to relate to Jesus, the Son, who comes to us in the flesh – as one of us.
The theology of the Trinity can be cumbersome and confusing if we attempt to explain it in anything other than how we relate to God. This past weekend, our presiding Bishop did more for our church by not focusing on the theology of marriage, but the source of love that draws us together – as couples, as families, and as children of God. With yet another school shooting this past week, love needs to be our focus, sharing God’s love with others needs to be our focus.
Understanding our Trinitarian theology is not what is important, only the relationships it represents – a father’s love for his child, the feeling of connection we have with one another, and the love of one who is willing to sacrifice all for us and our well-being. Jesus taught us to love, in all these ways – that is what is important. Forgiven and loved, our response needs to be, “Here I am, send me.”
Let us pray.
Almighty and ever living God, your love for us is without measure. You seek us at every turn in our lives. Help us to feel your presence and accept the love you offer. Help us, then, to share your love with those who have lost their way, that they may experience health and wholeness. We offer our prayers in the name of God who creates, sustains, and redeems us. Amen.