Today in the Spirit: Trinity Sunday A

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It is no wonder that many Provinces of the Anglican Communion still retain the traditional title “Trinity” (instead of “Pentecost”) for the season we now enter in the church year. The Sunday lectionary prayers and readings in the last few weeks of Easter, as much as they have prepared us for “Whitsunday” (the old name for Pentecost Sunday), they have also caused us to ponder the Trinity–that puzzling and wonderful communal life of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit by which God reveals himself to the world. While this new season of the church year can be understood to center on life in the Spirit of God, it is also about life through the Trinity of God. The Collect reminds us the gift we have been given of faith in the triune God is not merely a confession of doctrine from us, but also a power from the Majesty of God for keeping us “steadfast” with him throughout our uncertain mortal existence, until we at last see God in “one and eternal glory.”

The Gospel reading in Year A, Matthew 28:16-20, is the only hearing we have of the Great Commission in the entire three-year cycle, except (appropriately) on World Mission Sunday in Year B. Trinity Year A is also the only opportunity on a Sunday feast (other than the Easter Vigil) to hear the full version of the creation story in Genesis 1:1-2:3, featuring the Spirit of God in the beginning. The appointed Psalm 150 is a call to every living thing to join in loud praise to the One God. And in the assigned NT reading 2 Corinthians 13:5-14 the apostle Paul ends his letter to the church in Corinth with one of the earliest and clearest statements of devotion to God Three-in-One: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (13).  

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The Collect

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: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Let There Be Light (Genesis 1:1-2:3)

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness (3-4).

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth” (14-15).

Consider briefly the two-part creation of light in this text. First, God gives the command Let there be light (Hebrew aor) to initiate energy out of nothing for the separation of light from darkness in creation, almost like the construction of a stage on which God will do his work. (Note, it seems both the pure darkness in 1:1 or the pure light of 1:3 are beyond the physical experience of human beings whose creation comes later). Then, on the fourth day the text refers to God’s command for lights (Hebrew maor, more like “lamps”). This is, significantly, not a re-creation or new manifestation of the first light, but, mysteriously, the “reflection” (maybe) of the first light in and through a second. Devotionally, Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:6 make an important connection for us to this passage: For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Here, clearly the apostle would direct our attention to the earlier of God’s command for light in Genesis, not the second. For the apostle the force of inspiration and regeneration and recreation over human believers through Jesus Christ comes, not like a lamp or a reflection, but like the energy of God’s first light to chase away the darkest of darkness over creation from its beginning. Is it not a source of great comfort to realize that the light of Christ in us overcomes even the highest form of blackness in the world? If even the greatest darkness is conquered by the light of Christ, then there is truly no enemy that can stand against us.

Today, in the Spirit, from the teaching of Genesis on the light of God and Paul’s commentary on it centuries later, we stand further convinced that nothing in all creation…will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).  

Praise Him with Loud Clashing Cymbal (Psalm 150)

Praise him with sounding cymbals;
   praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
   praise the Lord! (5-6).

Up to the very end of this short psalm those who are inclined to quieter music might be supposing, by the choice of instrumentation, that this Spirit-filled worship leader is asking for the kind of artful and precise performance they want to hear. However, the final call for sounding (Hebrew teqa, “trumpet-blast-like”) cymbals and, then, loud clashing (Hebrew terua, “battle-cry-like”) cymbals introduces something else altogether–high volume, even raucous, noise! Rather than a carefully conceived crescendo inside a tightly woven musical theme, this signal is for music that is loud and celebratory, designed probably as much to please the faithful as alarm the unfaithful. Devotionally, we need to ask ourselves if there is really space in our spirituality for praise with this kind of abandon–for letting go with body, mind and spirit, individually and as a group, all just to tell God how great he is. There are, to be sure, many forms of letting it all hang out in praise–but are we doing it at all? 

Today, Holy Spirit, give me and my church community the gift of abandon in worship at the time you call upon us to strike up our instruments and voices loud

That We May Appear to Have Met the Test (2 Corinthians 13:5-14)

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth (5-8).

Test yourselves…meet the test…failed the test. What in the world is the test Paul is referring to? Was it written? Was it oral? Have I ever taken this test? Well, before you start insisting your pastor provide you with the correct forms, consider the context of the passage. The Christians at Corinth were a difficult bunch. The content of both 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians (and even Clement of Rome’s letter to Corinth almost a century later) indicates that this community suffered from serious spiritual ADHD–disunity in the body and unwillingness to submit to authority, manifesting in terrible infighting between members and severe lapses in moral behavior. So what Paul is challenging them to do in his closing remarks in this letter is to stop, quiet down and examine themselves for evidence of a real devotion to Christ, something transformational that extends way beyond just adherence to doctrine and achievements in public miracle making. The testing language comes out of Greek words for approval and disapproval, being qualified and disqualified. Let’s imagine a minute that Paul did have a formal test for the Corinthians, here are some questions that might very well have appeared: 1) Does your belief in Christ conform with what I (Paul) and the other apostles who have walked with the risen Christ are teaching you regarding proper behavior for Christ-followers? If yes, how so? 2) Are the lifestyle choices you are making approved in your heart and mind by Christ who lives in you, or is it for you really just a free-for-all based on whatever the culture around is telling you is okay? Give specific examples. 3) Are you eating your brothers and sisters alive by jealousy or neglect, or building them up in love? Be sure to provide testimony from others as corroboration.

Today, Holy Spirit, Christ in my heart, with the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship of the church as my teachers, grant me the humility to examine myself for true maturity of faith as Paul recommends that the Corinthians do.       

But Some Doubted (Matthew 28:16-20)

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” 

Or, but some hesitated (NASB, margin). We can only wonder on what basis Matthew adds the comment about the doubters: Were they at that moment obviously not joining those who worshiped? Were they going through the motions of bowing and praising with everyone else only to speak up afterward with their concerns? Whatever the case, how Matthew catches on to them is not nearly as important as the fact that Jesus, who always knew what was in man (John 2:12), would have recognized those who doubted on the spot. And how does the risen Lord respond to them? Well, the text says nothing–so we can only assume he does nothing. (Compare this to the tyrants we hear about in the world today who frequently seek to eliminate at all cost the presence of dissenters in their midst). Devotionally, being honest about our own periods of doubt (Greek distazo, dis-”divided” + tasso “be established”), it is comforting to think that in much the same way we see in this passage our Lord does not shew us away at his first whiff of our half-heartedness and unsteadiness. Instead we are always permitted alongside everyone else to hear repeatedly: All authority..has been given to me and Go therefore and make disciples and, perhaps especially, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Or, “Worry not. I am fully in charge, I will always have a good job for you to do, and I will never leave you or forsake you.” For all their doubting, these disciples did show up that day on the mountain in Galilee, and Jesus, far from turning them away, upheld them by his commands and promises. 

Today, in the Spirit whose coming we celebrate with rejoicing this Sunday, we show up a mixed bag of certainty and confusion, doubt and pain, and we worship you with the Father and the Son.

Today in the Spirit

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Author

Geoff Little

Geoff Little writes the Today in the Spirit series of reflections on the ACNA Sunday and Holy Day Lectionary. He is the founding rector of All Nations Church in New Haven, Connecticut, where he lives with his wife, Blanca.

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