Sermon – May 31, 2015
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
“Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity….” Collect for Trinity Sunday, Book of Common Prayer, p. 228
Please be seated.
In August of 2010, I left my job in Washington, DC, got in my daughter’s car, and she drove me to seminary in New York City. Yes, in a true twist, my daughter drove me to college. Well, I had a bachelor’s and master’s degree already, but I’d never gone away to college and lived on campus.
And my daughter performed the duties most parents do when their children go away to college…the same things I did when I took her to college. She helped me set up my apartment. My daughter had lived in New York City for a number of years, so she knew her way around and had no fear of driving in the City. She knew the perfect place to buy the air conditioner and we even made a Target run!
At the end of September, there was a matriculation ceremony. I’m not sure how I even knew anything about this ceremony. Information was provided in dribs and drabs, I believe. One thing I knew for sure, during the service, I’d need to sign THE BOOK! The book was the 19th century version of a database. In it was recorded the name and signature of every student who matriculated to the seminary since 1822!
The evening came and I was in my finest, including my famous hat. We went through Evensong and then the final hymn began, hymn 370, signaling the start of the book signing ceremony.
“I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three.” (370 ECH)
I felt like I was going to be pulled to the floor. I wanted to cry. There was such power in that moment…binding myself to the Trinity and signing the book… a long line of people who also bound themselves.
Jeff Davis challenged me to preach on the Trinity. Today is the Sunday many preachers dread. You see, there is no way to explain the Trinity without committing heresy or nearly committing heresy. It’s a concept that isn’t all that easy to explain. As Bruce says, you need to live into it.
In seminary a professor had us read a book, “Being as Communion” by John Zizioulas, which really helped me love the Trinity. Zizioulas talks about the Trinity being a model for how we live our lives.
First of all, the Trinity represents unity in diversity. While Zizioulas is Greek Orthodox, this notion is very Anglican. We can be diverse in how we live our Christian faith, but we are still unified in our belief in God who created the world, Jesus, God’s Son who came to live among us and teach us, and the Holy Spirit who still continues to speak through our lives.
In the early church, there were great struggles in understanding the relationship between God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Much of this was based on different philosophical differences at the time. Finally, there was agreement that the Trinity is one substance and three persons. You can read more about this in The Creed of Saint Athanasius on page 864 of The Book of Common Prayer.
These three persons are in a unified relationship with each other – diversity in unity; unity in diversity.
We are certainly individuals, but Zizioulas distinguishes between living as an individual and living as a person. When we live only as an individual, we are bound by our biological nature. We are often exclusive in our dealings with each other. Individualism leads to being cut off and to death.
But to be a person, we must be in relationship with other persons. We know who we are as persons when we are in relationship with each other. In order to be a person, we must be in community. Being a person…in community…in relationship means freedom and authenticity.
The church is a special kind of community, says Zizioulas and here are some ways the community of the church is important:
- The church community brings us into a relationship with the world that is “not determined by the laws of biology.” (Being as Communion, 56)
- We learn to “love without exclusiveness….” (p. 57) We don’t just love within our family or our tribe. Rather we go beyond the “normal” human boundaries.
And it is when we gather together as the community that we experience a new freedom, because we are not bound by the human biological condition. We’ve learned a new way to be in the world.
Each of you is here today and your presence allows you to be in relationship with each other and with God, to fully be an authentic person, because that can only happen in community. It’s not always easy for we humans to be unified in our diversity. The community of St. John’s is one place we can work on that.
In the time I have been with you, I have witnessed your strong community. I have seen your diversity. I have seen you welcome others in to the community. Today is a good day to look at your relationship to this community. There are many ways to connect: choir, altar guild, property committee, attending services, financial pledge, and prayer. By connecting to this community, you have the opportunity to be an authentic person…the person God created you to be, the person Jesus taught you to be, the person the Holy Spirit moves through.
Bind yourself to this community and live into the Trinity…the unity in diversity.