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Holy Trinity Sunday C Sermon
Romans 5: 1-5
16, 2019


Sermon Archives


Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, 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.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

(Note … the icon to which I am referring in this sermon is found at the end …)

Pastors can get into real trouble if they attempt in a 10 minute sermon to explain the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. After all, it is a mysterious way that we try to get a small sense of who God is in relationship with creation as a whole, and and each one of us personally. Probably the best ways to preach on Holy Trinity Sunday is through poetry or artwork. I am not the best poet or artist, but I have always admired the icon that is on the front of your bulletin. I want you to consider this brief message an auditory and visual reflection on the Holy Trinity. Some use the language of “divine dance” when they talk about the Holy Trinity – the parts of God interplaying with each other and with creation. This icon attests to that idea of God’s nature and relationship with us.

In the book of Genesis, we see the divine dance in an early enigmatic story. “The Lord” appears to Abraham as “three men” or “three angels,” and Abraham and Sarah seem to see the Holy One in the presence of these three; they bow before them and call them “lord”. Abraham and Sarah’s first instinct is one of invitation and hospitality—to create a space of food and drink for the guests. Here we have humanity feeding God; it will take a long time to turn that around in the human imagination, to believe that we, too, could be invited to the divine table.

This story inspired the piece of devotional religious art on our bulletins today. It was created by iconographer Andrei Rublev, who lived from about 1360 to about 1430. Sometimes called, “The Hospitality of Abraham” it also is referred to simply as, “The Trinity.” As icons do, this painting attempts to point beyond itself, inviting a sense of both the beyond knowing and the intimate communion that exists in our midst.

There are three significant colors in Rublev’s icon, each illustrating a facet of the Holy One:

Gold: “the Father”—perfection, fullness, wholeness, the ultimate Source.
Blue: “the Incarnate Christ”—both sea and sky mirroring one another. Notice the Christ figure in the middle, wearing blue and holding out two fingers, telling us he has put spirit and matter, divinity and humanity, together within himself. Under the blue of creation is the red of suffering.

Green: “the Spirit”—the divine photosynthesis that grows everything from within by transforming light into itself Hildegard of Bingen, a German mystic from the 12th century, called this viriditas, or the greening of all things. Green can also be made by combining blue and gold.

As you can see, the icon shows the Holy One in the form of Three, eating and drinking, in infinite hospitality and utter enjoyment between themselves. If we take the depiction of God in The Trinity seriously, we have to say, “In the beginning was the Relationship.” The gaze between the Three shows the deep respect between them as they all share from a common bowl. Notice the Spirit’s hand points toward the open and fourth place at the table! Is the Holy Spirit inviting, offering, and clearing space? I think so! And if so, for what, and for whom? Consider this; at the front of the table there appears to be a little rectangular hole. Most people just pass right over it, but some art historians believe the residue of possible glue on the original icon indicates that there was perhaps once a mirror glued to the front of the table. It’s stunning when you think about it: There was room at this table for a fourth—the one in the mirror. The observer. You!

Yes, you—and all of creation—are invited to sit at the divine table, to participate in the divine dance of mutual friendship and love. The mirror seems to have been lost over the centuries, both in the icon and in our on-the-ground understanding of who God is—and therefore who we are, too! Paul’s words about how we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ depict a unity that all of us share with our Trinitarian God. And as Jesus lived and experienced the sufferings of life, so we do the same. Our hope, our deepest connection with the God is the sufferings that produce endurance, which produce character, which produce a hope that does not disappoint us because the Holy Spirit has poured God’s love into our hearts.

On this Father’s Day as we remember and celebrate those who have lived out a calling to be a father, we remember the many roles that these men play for their families. We also remember the hospitality they embody, the playfulness they showed us, and the strength so many of them embodied. If we were lucky, our fathers also exhibited a truthful humility – not denying weakness, but hoping in God to somehow make them good at their fatherly vocation.
These colors burst out to me on this icon – the golds, blues, reds and greens. The hole which used to contain a mirror, reminds me of my place alongside of God at this table. I don’t understand it, and if anyone tells you that they totally understand the Trinity or Baptism or Communion, or any of the mysteries of the church, you can just nod and walk away. These are the things that are not meant to be fully understood; these are the gifts of God’s grace given to us so that we might experience his love and have life abundant. May it be so, in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.