Trinity Sunday
Sunday, June 4, 2023
Rev. Brent Gundlah

Happy Trinity Sunday, everybody!

Whoa! Try not to get to fired up about it.

Seriously, though — today is a big day for the church because it’s when we celebrate one of the things that makes Christianity unique:

an understanding of the Divine as God, Son and Spirit;

Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer — call it whatever you will;

God as three in one and one in three.

But, let’s be honest:

as religious observances go, Trinity Sunday generally doesn’t make most peoples’ top three.

Trinity Sunday is always a week after Pentecost (which, for some reason, also doesn’t generate the same kind of excitement as holidays — holy days — like Christmas and Easter do).

Maybe it’s because there’s no cards and gifts.

Maybe it’s because they happen during the season in which our attention has turned to vacations and backyard barbecues, weddings and graduations.

And this year, of course, Trinity Sunday also takes a backseat to Pride Sunday here in Salt Lake City.

But I think that our indifference toward this particular occasion really stems from the fact that the idea of the Trinity just seems so out of touch with our experience of everyday life; on the surface, it simply looks like a weird system made up and perpetuated by the church in an attempt to explain the great mystery of God.

As a result, the prospect of dealing with the Trinity tempts us to throw our hands up in the air and walk away from it, to disregard it and ignore it, because it seems irrelevant to our reality.

But what if the Trinity isn’t an abstract concept but, rather, a model for our very existence, a way of understanding and articulating who and whose we really are? What if the Trinity is not nearly as difficult to wrap our hearts and minds around as we might think it is?

Interestingly, the word “Trinity” isn’t actually used anywhere in the Bible; people settled on it centuries after Jesus’s life, death and resurrection, centuries after the Spirit appeared to the first disciples at Pentecost, as they tried to explain who God is and what God is all about using the ideas and the vocabulary they had at their disposal.

The fact that scripture makes no specific mention of the Trinity makes finding readings for today a bit of a challenge. Quite frankly, the the short passages you just heard from Matthew’s Gospel and Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians are about the best we can do.

Paul’s benediction to people of the church in Corinth at the end of his letter, a blessing given in the names of Jesus, God and the Spirit, is relevant for us today not only because it kind of hints at a three-person God, but also because of the context in which it was written.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all,” is what Paul tells the church in Corinth — just in case you missed it the first time around.        

In and of themselves, these words might not stir all that much of a reaction in us — except for the part about greeting each other with a “holy kiss,” which seems ill-advised and kind of gross in our post-pandemic world.

Otherwise, Paul’s message here just sounds like a signal that the letter is about to end — you know, like the music they play at the Oscars to let someone know that their acceptance speech has gone on too long. But there’s more to it than that.

What we’re missing here are the thirteen plus chapters of Paul’s letter that precede our text, and what happens there is really important.

I realize I’ve said this many times before, but I’ll mention it again: Paul’s letters are mostly addressed to churches that are dealing with problems. And the First Church of Corinth seems to have some big problems on its hands.

This gathering of believers has a history of serious dysfunction: rival factions fighting for control, the tendency of some in the community to marginalize others, and listening to false prophets are just a few of the issues that Paul addresses in his previous correspondence to them.

And if what Paul mentions in this latest letter is any indication, things aren’t getting any better; here he takes them to task for quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit and disorder — not to mention impurity and licentiousness. Coffee hour must have been a real barrel of laughs at that church.

So when Paul calls the Corinthians at the end of this letter to strive for full restoration, to encourage one another, to be of one mind, and to live in peace, he’s not simply tying things up with a neat little bow; he’s telling them to do these things because they’re not actually doing them.

And when Paul declares his wish that the grace of Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with the Corinthians, he’s not just being nice; he’s praying that they’ll choose to act towards one other as Creator, Son and Sprit act towards one other, and as God acts towards them.

Paul understands what God-as-Trinity is about even if he doesn’t ever use the word Trinity to describe God. The Trinity is simply a way of talking about existing in right relationship.

The Trinity is not about who came first — God, Son or Spirit — or which one is the greatest; these are things that tend to concern us, they are not things that concern God.

The Trinity is not about God defying our sense of how things work by simultaneously being three in one and one in three, for God has never been constrained by our understanding of how things work.

The Trinity is about seeing the way we should be by catching a glimpse of the way God is: three distinct persons, each with unique gifts, perfectly united by love, mindful of the other, willing to put one’s selfish concerns aside for the good of all, able to see oneself in the other and to sacrifice for the other to such a degree that the very idea of self and other becomes irrelevant.

For those of us living here in this world, the Trinity means loving your neighbor as yourself.

You know, when you see our LGBTQ+ siblings fighting to be recognized and appreciated for who they are; 

when you see transgender people being denied the healthcare they need and deserve;

when you see school kids and teachers having to practice active shooter drills instead of learning.

when you see George Floyd suffocating under that cop’s knee;

when you see Ahmaud Arbery being killed for running in a neighborhood in which he didn’t “belong,”

cry out at the injustice of it all because that is your neighbor,

that is the one you are called to love as yourself,

that is you.

I assure you that God is crying out at the injustice of it all because God cares about us — all of us, each and every one of us.     

Don’t you see? At the end of the day, there is no such thing as other people’s suffering; when one of us suffers, we all suffer – even if we don’t necessarily have eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to understand that.

And the Trinity is not just some lofty, stale proposition in theology books that’s meant to be acknowledged on one day of year (if that);

its God’s call to us to live as God lives every single day of our lives;

this is what God has always wanted for us;

this is what God has always expected from us.

We only need to open up our Bibles to pretty much any page and actually read it in order to understand that.