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16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’Matthew 28:16-20
Time After Pentecost
Today is commonly known as Trinity Sunday, and it presents a new “phase” in our liturgical calendar. We have finally concluded the busyness that is the first half of the Christian liturgical calendar. We have come through the seasons of preparation of Advent and Lent. We have embraced the seasons of Christmas and Easter and seen how our lives are transformed by Christ’s birth and resurrection. We had a little of ordinary time after epiphany, but just enough to get our bearings straight for Lent.
Then, finally, last week we closed out this section of the calendar by celebrating Pentecost. It ends this “busy” section of the calendar, where we seemingly move from holy season to holy season, and now we move into an…ordinary time in the year. Ordinary time, in the church, marked with the color green, invites us into the rest of the story. The story we don’t have time to tell during the seasons of preparation and celebration in the first half of the calendar.
Now you may notice that the colors on the altar today are white. This is because, even sprinkled into this ordinary time are holy observances, that I have often seen as weeks to shake us out of becoming complacent in this ordinary time. However, we just came off of Pentecost, a joyous celebration of the Spirit’s presence among us. What complacency could we possibly need to be shaken out of?
This shaking up comes in a transitional manner as we move to this ordinary time. The fear of moving from this time of active celebration that takes up the first half of the Christian calendar is that we will just move forward and forget the mental spirit we bring into this season. Therefore, we take this week, this Trinity Sunday, to remind us who God is as we embark on a 25-week journey that will take us to the end of our liturgical calendar on Christ the King Sunday.
We are leaving intentional celebrations of holy days and moving into a less structured time and we do so with the Spirit of God guiding us in every way. Before we dive too deep, let us remind ourselves of the role of God in our lives, how we relate to God, and what it means for our ministry going forward.
Trinity Sunday…What is It?
That is the idea we gather around on this Trinity Sunday. Many of you heard me make mention of the Trinity last, and you may be seeking answers on what exactly the Trinity is.
I am sorry to admit that I don’t have the answers to that question.
I remember sitting in one of my early interviews in my long process of getting ordained. I was in an interview before my first year of ministry, looking for permission from my District to go before the Conference for provisional membership. I was asked how I would describe the Trinity…more specifically to a kid in confirmation.
Well to me, it doesn’t matter how young or old you are the Trinity is a difficult thing to explain. Even popular metaphors like water, a clover, or a chicken egg, do not do justice to the true nature of the Trinity. It is a mystery of faith that has no easy explanation in the language of humanity. We do our best, but to try and define it often runs the risk of committing heresy (when I say this I mean that we often rely too much on the oneness or threeness of the Trinity).
The basics of the Trinity are expressed in what is known as the Athanasian Creed. The first stanza reads,
“That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.”Athanasian Creed: found at https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/creeds/athanasian-creed
No there is no easy way to explain the Trinity, but is that the point of faith? This may be a tough concept to reconcile that we can’t have all the answers about God, but what if steps are going too far?
If the Trinity is practically unexplainable (without complicated theological terms), then what is the point for everyday Christians like us?
This is where I have to intentionally step out of my “theologian mode,” and truly enter pastor or even everyday Christian mode. This is because today, Trinity Sunday, is not about trying to define the Trinity, but celebrating how we experience it…how we experience the mystery of it.
The UM Discipleship Ministries Commentary I read this week put it this way:
“We describe God as Trinity because that is how God is experienced, not understood.”Discipleship Ministries | Trinity Sunday, Year A – Preaching Notes
We can have our time to debate back and forth the nature of the Trinity, but true understanding exists in experiencing God as the Trinity. We experience each person of the Trinity distinctly (Father, Son, and Spirit), and we experience their oneness, the divine majesty of God that transcends our nature giving us life.
Maybe we need to stop trying to explain God, and just let their transformational love flow through us, and live as forgiven and reconciled people. We often want so badly to prove we are “right” that we forget who truly works within us, and to what end.
Trinity Sunday and “The Mission Of The Church
Today we read a scripture familiar to many of you. Many have heard it before, and others can quote it by heart. However, if we dive into this scripture with the eyes of our Triune God seeking to transform us, we read with eyes willing to see the mission that God is offering through Jesus Christ the Son.
The Great Commission
We look at the last two verses and for millennia they have been held onto as “the Mission of the Church.”
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:19-20
Verses that have formed the basis for how we interact with the world, and creation around us. Though what does it truly mean?
We exist in a time where, not just Christianity, but religiosity at-large has a negative connotation to it. People identify as “spiritual but not religious,” and sometimes when I look at the church, I can’t blame them for feeling that way. Many when pushed to write about what they believe would write something akin to Christianity, but would never say the word “Christian.”
Then all we do here in the church is complain about it. We see the problem and continue to dig deeper and deeper on proving the hypocritical stereotypes that have gotten us into this situation, to begin with. If what we are offering is baptism in the name of the Triune God, then why do we miss the mark on providing a faith that is lived by the transformational love of the Triune God?
The mission of the Church is not to just “convert” every soul, trying to save them from the evils of hell. Friends the evils of hell are all around us. They plague our world. They tell us that God’s perfect manner of love in creation is unattainable. They teach us to devalue our fellow human beings because they are different from us. They impart upon us this nature of hatred and judgmentalism. They make us think we are the very nature of God ourselves, and therefore the decision of who, what, and even why are left up to us.
We are called to teach others to obey what God has commanded us through Jesus to do, and yet we don’t even listen to the words of Christ. The very Word of God that came to earth, the Gospel in flesh, and we ignore them for our understanding.
However, we are being commanded to live by the Triune God’s understanding of life. One led by grace, and yes transformation. We have become complacent in a faith that has asked very little of us and yet that has given us everything. We have become a people that demand, but demands in the absence of true justice.
The Great Commission, as this scripture is typically labeled is the sending forth for Christ. It is Christ’s benediction to the disciples before he leaves them. The disciples are about to enter a period of ordinary time, a time where they must engage and grow with the stories of Christ, not with glorious celebrations.
This commission is a reminder to always be on the go. Always be in a manner of living the Gospel. There is more to being disciples than we have made it to be. We have created a manner that is so rigid, it looks nothing like the God we truly experience. We have been offered a vengeful God, a God who seeks retribution, a God who demoralizes large swaths of people because of the way they were created, and the Spirit of the Lord that resides within each of them.
Within this final command is a call not just to make disciples, but to live as them as well. If we cannot truly do that how can we ever expect to make disciples?
Baptism and the Great Commission
Also, see the process of this we must make disciples, then baptize them. I see so many churches doing spur-of-the-moment baptisms as if it is just a “commitment” to God. Baptism is more than that through. Baptism is an inherent covenant to live as a disciple of God’s Kin-dom. It is why there is a process in the United Methodist Church. We look at baptism as a means of engaging and connecting with God and with the community.
When we experience God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (three in one and one in three), it is meant to be transformative, and with that, we are meant to GO!!!
We are meant to be transformed by what God has done for us and to then go and transform others, by that same nature. We, and those we make disciples of live by the commands of Christ, living by our love for God, love for one another, and love for ourselves.
It seems we can get so wrapped up in trying to define God or place limits on where God is that we forget the very inherent command Jesus offers to us. Jesus does not call us to control society through power and authority but to GO and make disciples. Make them in the image of Christ. Wipe away the smudge to reveal God’s image in each of us. Don’t just go through the waters of baptism because it sounds cool, but understand that the waters of Baptism are God’s work in us.
The act is meant to embody the nature of God’s work in our lives. It cleanses us in our forgiveness and reconciliation, it justifies us in our beliefs, and it sets us on a path of sanctification as we continue to live and learn how to be disciples of Christ. We cannot turn it into an act of complacency.
The monotony of ordinary time is broken up by celebrations, celebrations that bring us to an intentional focus for the Kin-dom. Observations like Trinity Sunday, and so too in our life baptism and remembering baptism shake us from our complacency because it reminds us of our mission.
It reminds us to GO!
Where have you been called to go? Who have you been called into a relationship with, to show God’s love? How are you making disciples? How have you been transformed to transform the world in the name and love of Christ?