Sermon for Trinity Sunday, June 7, 2020 – the Rev. Elaine Ellis Thomas

ASEP Sermons

Genesis 1:1-2:4a+Psalm 8+2 Corinthians 13:11-13+Matthew 28:16-20

Trinity Sunday. This first Sunday after Pentecost is always devoted to a theological doctrine first put forward in the 3rd c. by Tertullian, a Church Father from northern Africa. It’s the only Principal Feast on our calendar that is not about an event or about people. The other Principal Feasts – Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, All Saints Day, Christmas, and Epiphany – these are days that even most casual church folk might have some idea about what they mean. But Trinity Sunday? A doctrine developed in the early Church to define the fullness of God and the continuing work of the Creator of the Universe in the world today? Not so much.

Many of my colleagues will ignore Trinity Sunday and go right to these great readings we have this morning. I was tempted to do the same. But then as events continue to unfold in this country and around the world of trying to undo centuries of white supremacy and racism, I realized that what we are aching for, what our world cries out for, is relationship. Not relationship built on a hierarchy of helpers and recipients or those who have giving to those who have not, but relationship grounded in an understanding that God created us all in the divine image, and we’re going to have to figure out a way to restore that.

I can no more define the Trinity than I can fly to the moon. Descriptions of the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit almost all fall into some heresy that was denounced centuries ago. I just don’t believe that we can comprehend the Trinity in human language. But this I do know, the Trinity is a relationship, described as a dance, the three persons moving and acting as one, distinct from each other yet each fully God.

We cannot look back into the Hebrew scriptures and wrest Christian meaning from them. The bible of the Jews is full and complete in and of itself. Yet, we do find hints that support our beliefs all the time. We take the prophecies of Isaiah and interpret them as pointing to Jesus. That’s certainly not the way a faithful Jew would interpret them. Similarly, we can look at the creation narrative that we heard this morning when God says, “Let us make humankind in our image” (Genesis 1:26) and wonder about the first-person plural language. Who is this us God is talking about? Is it the royal we? Or could Christians take it to mean that the words of John’s prologue – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1) – are part of who God is? And when Genesis tells us that a “wind from God swept over the face of the waters?” (Genesis 1:2), could this be that third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit?

This was not the intent of the writers of Genesis. Full stop there. But I do think it helps us grasp the incomprehensibility, the utter mystery, of who God is. And in the early days of the Church, it was just such a mystery that theologians tried to wrestle to the ground. God is One. And yet God came in human form. And God continues to move in and through creation. Creating God. Redeeming God. Sustaining God. Yet all the same.

But about that creation story. God could have been just fine all by God’s self, but God chose to create, to bring the earth into being with every plant and animal the imagination could cook up. And then God created us, sweeping us up into that dance of love and relationship and creativity. God chose relationship.

And we blew it.

Humankind wanted more.

Humankind aspired to be God.

And we have been paying for it ever since.

Even when God came as one of us in the person of Jesus, we killed him.

And we’ve been killing ever since.

But friends, we are in the hope business.

Jesus’s last words to the disciples at the end of Matthew’s gospel are, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” We are not alone. God continues to seek us out and gives us everything we need to mend this world. This is why we are in the hope business. It isn’t a hope that is pie-in-the-sky or wishful thinking. It is a hope grounded on the Rock of Ages that nothing in the world can shake, that the presence of God is with us. There is nothing that we face in front of us that can contend with the power behind us.

Even with the increase in violence against Black Americans, the locking in cages of immigrant children, the drone bombings of innocent civilians, the propagation of American power and might around the globe to protect our interests at the expense of everyone else’s – even with all of this, God is inviting us to the dance.

It’s a dance of love.

It’s a dance of relationship.

It’s a dance of healing and reconciliation.

It’s a dance of hope.

And our job as people of faith, as followers of Jesus, is to get up and dance.

Maybe not a single one of us has done anything to cause harm to those who are suffering. The lesson for today is that it isn’t about any one of us. We are all in this relationship of humanity. It is all systemic. We all participate in it.

So you can’t sit in that chair over in the corner thinking no one will notice. You can’t make excuses that it has nothing to do with you.

God is saying, in the words of that chart-topping pop tune, “Ooh, ooh, hoo, shut up and dance with me.”[1]

The Triune God is inviting us all to the dance of re-creation, restoration, and reconciliation. You want to change this world so that all who are created in God’s image can flourish? Then we’re going to have to get out on that dance floor.


[1] With a nod to Walk the Moon for their 2014 song, Shut Up and Dance.

ASEPSermon for Trinity Sunday, June 7, 2020 – the Rev. Elaine Ellis Thomas