Trinity (Yr C) Jun 16, 2019

Old Testament: Proverbs (8:1-4, 22-31)

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Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.  The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth— when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

 

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The Response: Canticle 13

 

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; *

 you are worthy of praise; glory to you.

Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name; *

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple; *

on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.

Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim; *

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths; *

in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.

Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

 

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The New Testament: Romans (5:1-5)

 

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

 

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The Gospel: John (16:12-15)

 

Jesus said to his disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

 

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TODAY’S HOMILY

by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer

 

I have been blessed in life in many different ways.  Among them is the fact that I have always been, and continue to be, interested in a wide variety of things.  I like to learn.  That diversity of interests makes life much more – well, interesting.

 

One of my lifelong interests is science, in particular continuing to learn about and think about the universe on its smallest and largest levels.  Since on our recent vacation we had some long airline flights, which in turn gave me extra hours to read, I bought a copy of a special issue of Scientific American, one titled “Extreme Physics.”  To me, it is fascinating.  Its articles explore some of the latest research and theories on topics like gravitational waves, the composition and actions of neutron stars, the origin of primordial super-massive black holes, and the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

 

Despite the fact that concepts like these are mathematically demonstrable and at least theoretically verifiable, there is still an element of mystery about them.  They are all topics that stretch our minds and our imaginations since they involve ways of looking at reality and the principles that govern it which lie outside our realm of everyday experience.  Using the scientific method, some of the world’s most gifted physicists have tested theories about these concepts and been able to reveal strong evidence of their validity. 

 

Yet, at the same time, they have become increasingly aware of how much we don’t know about this world, this universe, in which we live.  Now if, for example, 95% of the universe is comprised of so-called “dark matter” and “dark energy,” and we have no idea what either of these things are, it is amazing that so many people adamantly claim to have the only valid and the eternally valid answers, not only about this physical world in which we live and of which we are a part, but even about what are sometimes referred to “things spiritual”: about ultimate realities and even about the Ultimate Reality, the One whom we call “God.”

 

In last Sunday’s sermon, I referred to some of the practical issues that, over the course of more than 1900 years, have caused divisions in the church.  In addition to these, there have been deep divisions over some theological issues, including the nature of God.  In the light of today’s celebration of Trinity Sunday, I am reminded that one of the central theological issues behind the split between the Eastern and Western Churches in 1054 – a division which still has not been healed — was whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (as our western version of the Nicene Creed asserts) or from the Father alone (as the creed’s eastern version affirms).

 

With all due respect to those who, over the centuries, struggled with and even fought over which version is correct — what difference does it make in your life or mine, or in the way that we strive to live out the faith that we profess?  Viewed on a larger scale, are the differing answers that we give to questions like this sufficiently important that they justify dividing the church?  And, at a still more basic level, how can we, who have such a limited understanding of this material world, be so adamant that we somehow have the only correct answer about the inner nature of God?

 

One of the church’s greatest and most influential theologians, Augustine of Hippo, one asserted simply: “Si comprehendis, non est deus”: “If you comprehend it, it’s not God.”  It seems amazingly arrogant for us as human beings to try to take the incomprehensible God and try to compress God to fit inside our own terribly limited minds and imaginations.

 

The Trinity that we celebrate especially on this Sunday each year is ultimately a mystery and, in fact, the Ultimate Mystery.  That’s not just a cheap and easy way out of explaining the Trinity, as is sometimes asserted, but a recognition of our human limitations and our need to be willing to live in mystery: in what we don’t and never will truly understand.  The late Eugene Peterson (as quoted in Context) once wrote: “We live in a world made by God, but we refuse to live in mystery.  We’re always trying to figure it out.  Now mystery doesn’t mean obscurity… [or] ignorance…  Unless we’re willing to live in… mystery, we’re not ready to live in what we’re given by the grace of God.”

 

But it’s not just theologians or pastors or so-called spiritual writers who recognize the mystical dimension of creation.  Some of the greatest and most insightful people of science have done so and continue to do so as well.  One of them was Albert Einstein – not a bad theoretical physicist!  Albert Einstein once asserted (Einstein: His Life and Times, chapter 12): “The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical.  It is the sower of all true art and science.  He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.  To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness.”

 

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus assures his disciples (John 16:13), “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”  That guiding and that journey have certainly not ended.  We might be a little further along that road than John’s original audience was, but only just a little.

 

As we continue along that road, we need to remind ourselves of how little of God and of the ways of God we actually know and comprehend, and to allow God’s Spirit to lead us into new understandings and new perspectives.  We need always to keep our sight focused on and our ears attuned to that Spirit, so that we might continue to learn where God is leading us now.  And, recognizing our own limitations and finitude, we need always to allow ourselves to live in the mystery.

 

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