Plymouth United Church of Christ

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Sermon, Year B, Trinity Sunday, June 3, 2012
Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber
Focus Scripture: Isaiah 6:1–8, John 3:1–17

Today is Trinity Sunday, as I mentioned earlier. The Trinity being the three persons of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Also called the “Godhead”, a word we use for the Trinity. Or you may have seen formulations talking about the Trinity by their functional titles: Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, or Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier. Or as we sing in our doxology after we take our offering, that last line is “Creator, Christ, and Holy Ghost”. Though, quite honestly, the only reason we say “Holy Ghost” in the doxology is because it rhymes with “host,” which is in the line before it. But, some traditions talk of the Holy Ghost, and some of you may have grown up in churches that used Holy Ghost instead of Holy Spirit. It’s a perfectly legitimate old word: it comes from an Old English word, gast, that means “spirit,” although over time ghost is now more associated with haunting non-corporeal spirit presence of dead presence that has more to do with Halloween than the Church. Even as a kid it felt weird to talk about the Holy Ghost. So we talk more of Holy Spirit, but that’s a minor issue.

And today is Trinity Sunday, the day we celebrate the Trinity. It always happens the week after Pentecost, that’s just our tradition.

In the Gospel lesson from John, there is talk of the Spirit in that Gospel lesson. There is no talk of the Father or the Son, although in that passage it is the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, who is talking about the Spirit, which is kind of cool. And so it is Jesus talking about the Holy Spirit here to Nicodemus. Last Sunday was Pentecost, the day we remember the Holy Spirit came upon the gathered people and the tongues of flame came upon them and they spoke in tongues and preached to the people there. In this passage, Jesus says Nicodemus that one must be born of water and of Spirit. John the Baptist had been baptizing with water, and said that one would come after him who would baptize with the spirit. The Spirit being the power of God, the outflowing of God’s love. The Spirit is that which gives strength to the Church. It is the Spirit that is the binding energy that binds us together and calls us into community, into relationship with God. It is the Spirit that draws us to God, and draws us to one another. Jesus compares it to the wind. He says, “It blows where it chooses, we hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” So is the Spirit. And although we understand wind a lot more than they did in Jesus’ time, we do know in a sense where it comes from and what it is made of, even though we understand wind a lot more, the Holy Spirit is still a mystery. We still do not fully understand, by any stretch of the imagination, the Holy Spirit, the mystery that is the Holy Spirit. But it is part of the Godhead, part of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And to go back in time a little bit chronologically, before the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, Jesus, when he was with the disciples on the night of his Last Supper sharing a meal, he said to them that he was going to be going away, that he will not be with them much longer, but that he will send an Advocate, he will send the Spirit to to be upon them, and he did. That was Pentecost, fifty days after Easter. The Spirit that Jesus promised came to them.

Going back further in time before Jesus, to the prophets of Old Testament time, and especially Isaiah and Isaiah’s followers. Isaiah’s prophetic tradition covered a few hundred years, so there were a lot of people who were part of his tradition. As you read through the Book of Isaiah you are covering a few hundred years of prophetic literature there. All the earlier prophets, especially Isaiah, are speaking to the Hebrew people at a time when their countries Israel and Judah are just about to be invaded, and most are coming after the invasion and the destruction of the countries, the take over of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, and the people are sent into exile. The prophets, especially Isaiah, says to these people who are suffering that a Messiah will come. God will send a Messiah, the Son of God. The Son of God will come, and all this pain and suffering you are going through now will come to an end with the Son of God, with the messiah, which would be the second part of the Trinity, and who is Jesus.

We read from Isaiah this morning, our of the sixth chapter which is his call to be a prophet. And actually the first five chapters of Isaiah he is already being prophetic, and he’s speaking an awful lot of judgment against the people. There are a few verses of kind of niceness in those first five chapters, but the rest of it is all this judgment. In Isaiah’s call, God gives him a charge to speak God’s word. And at the time, God’s word was these words of warning to the people to come back to faithfulness. They have been following other gods, the religious structure is corrupt, the government is corrupt. They are not helping the poor and the oppressed, they are ignoring God and ignoring God’s commandments. They aren’t giving God any of the due. And Isaiah is saying that God will let Judah and Israel be destroyed if you don’t change, if you don’t repent, if you don’t turn back. And the people don’t listen. And so Israel gets overtaken Assyria, and Judah gets overtaken by Babylon and people are sent into exile.

Then after this time of destruction, Isaiah and the next generations of his followers offer the promise of the Messiah, the Son of God. Our Advent texts from the Old Testament almost all come out of the prophets, and most of those are from Isaiah, speaking words of restoration, reconciliation with God, bringing the people back into community. The words saying that we will be a community again, to these people who are in exile. We will be a community again, we will have right relationship with one another again, and will have right relationship with God once again.

Some of the readings that we read out of Isaiah are:

“A shoot shall come from the stump of Jesse.”

These words of peace, that “The wolf shall lie with the lamb, the calf and lion together.” It will be a time of peace.

“The young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel (God with us).”

And these words of comfort we read: “Comfort, comfort my people. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid.”

You may recognize this, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government shall rest on his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

And four weeks ago we had the passage from Acts of Philip being called by the Spirit to go to the Wilderness road where he meats an Ethiopian eunuch, who is reading from Isaiah, and is reading this: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was crushed because of our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) Philip says to the eunuch that that is Jesus; who Jesus was.

And so always there is comfort from Isaiah and the prophets, that there will be restoration of the people and reconciliation with God. Even their words of destruction, and there are many words of destruction in the prophets, that God will destroy and lay waste and armies will come. But those are always “Ifs”. They never say that God is absolutely going to do this no matter what you the people do. It is always an if. If you don’t repent, this is what’s going to happen. But if you do repent, God won’t do that. Always an if. And even if the people don’t repent, and I can’t think of any time that they do, unfortunately, certainly the government and religious leader realm they don’t ever repent, and so the judgment comes. After they suffer and the prophet’s words have come true, they are always followed by the prophets then giving words of comfort. Always a promise that the community will not end. That no matter what the judgement or destruction, the final word is always reconciliation, grace, and bringing into community, and the restoration of the people the restoration of that relationship with God. Always that promise that we will never be left alone without human companionship, and never be left alone from God’s companionship. God so loved the world that God came to us as Jesus. We have God’s companionship in the person of Jesus as well.

The godhead exists in community: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, three-in-one. Community is intrinsic to who God is. So I think it’s fitting that we celebrate Communion on this Trinity Sunday. We don’t always get to because Trinity Sunday is one of those days that moves around on the calendar depending on when Easter is. So today we get to celebrate Communion on Trinity Sunday, to come together at this communal table as the gathered body of Christ, called by the Spirit, called together to follow Jesus Christ, and to follow Jesus Christ to the glory of the Father.

We are invited by Jesus himself as a sign of reconciliation. A vertical reconciliation between us and God; and horizontal reconciliation between us, one another, and the rest of the world and with all Christian who are gathering around this table this morning. We all come together. The mystery and majesty of the Trinity. Which is not always, I would say not ever, understandable in any full sense of the word; it is always a mystery, this Trinity. And yet at this table of bread and wine, even though we can’t understand what all this is, at this table of bread and wine we can taste it. We can have a little taste of what that mystery is. This physical sensation on our tongues and in our mouths to feel a little bit of what is the mystery that is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, mother of us all. Our God, who is so desperate to be in relationship with us, that God came through the Son to offer himself and continues to offer himself to us, to all who wish to share at this table of fellowship and love. May you have a taste of the mystery this morning, and may you certainly and always know God’s love in your lives. Amen.

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Plymouth United Church of Christ
2010 Moholt Drive
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 54703

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