The Mysterious ONE

Sermon Trinity Sunday 5.27.18

St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church

Propers: Isaiah 6:1-8, Canticle 13, (or Psalm 29) Romans 8:12-17, John 3:1-17

I have always loved reading…my mother did too, some of the fondest memories I have as a child is my mom reading stories to me as a toddler…and how she so wanted me to learn how to read so that I would could have that mysterious experience of wonder -exploding in my own imagination …opening up worlds of adventure, mystery and knowledge all from black and white words on a page.  So much so, that she patiently taught me how to read by the time I was 4 years old. Now I wasn’t reading War and Peace at that time…! And that instilled love of reading my mother gave me is with me to this day.

When I look back now, I remember the books I enjoyed the most were books that made me curious…wondering and reading to find out:  Why? How? And What?

I think I read every Nancy Drew novel there was … Mysteries were and still are my favorite genre

I’ve come to realize mysteries are everywhere… not just found in books, but also in history, science…geography… (Think about the wonders of the world), even math!

Mysteries in the wonders of the human body, … the human brain and psyche… in God’s beloved creation- the mystery of God’s presence in EVERYTHING.

Most of us are captured by the exploration of the mysteries-we search out the wonder, the “clues” the “evidence” to find the answers to the Why? How and What…

And, maybe that’s why Theologians have been trying to understand, define and explain the Mysterious Holy Trinity for almost 2,000 years. PAUSE

Theologian, Stanley Hauerwas, says “Praise of the Holy One of Israel made Israel a people.  That is why the Psalms are the heart of Israel’s life.  Israel did not begin with an idea of God, what we might identify today as monotheism, but rather she learned to worship the One who alone is worthy of worship… “[1]

Theologians, Jewish and Christian, came to recognize that through ancient Israel’s praise and worship of the Holy One, they discovered a firm line had to be drawn between God and creatures (those created).  This later came to be known in Theological circles as “the distinction”.  Or, as many of us are familiar with: “God is God and we are NOT.”  Now I’m going to put you to work here for a moment…Please open your BCP to page 620– this is Psalm 29-(Also in the appointed in today’s Lectionary readings)

In this Psalm, the distinction is clearly stated…let’s read together, verses 1 & 2:

Psalm 29:

Ascribe to the Lord, you gods,*

     Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his Name;*

     Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

What distinction means is no matter how high, lofty, high-ranking, and glorious any creature may seem – (including the gods in verse 1,) all creatures will never be worthy of worship. ONLY the HOLY ONE is.

Ascribe and Worship are key words …we often skim over them as we read or recite the Psalms- Ascribe means in modern terms, to give credit and acknowledgement.  In this Psalm, it means to give credit and acknowledgement to God for the Glory and Strength and Beauty he already possesses; Worship is literally the bowing down, making yourself as lowly as you can, before the Most High.

And that is what Isaiah sees in today’s reading, …he sees the Glory of God, with just his hem filling the whole temple…and the Seraphs were calling to each other, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of HOSTS; the whole earth is full of his GLORY…”

Their voices of praise and worship make the thresholds in the temple shake…

And Isaiah sees the beauty of the Glory of God illuminating all of creation…

We, as Christians, have learned from Israel’s praise and worship of The Holy One the “distinction” of God and Creation…and that is at the center of what we do when we worship God, praise and worship Jesus.

But, in the words of Nicodemus today, “How can that be?”

How can we worship God and his creation AND Jesus, who for our sake became a creature…How can we worship like that and honor “the distinction”?

It’s the mystery we call the Holy Trinity.

And, to be a mystery, it can’t be an explanation,

It isn’t an explanation of how one god can be three…Trinity is not a further explanation of a prior idea of god, an idea we call “monotheism” … for this makes God a thing, instead of the One Isaiah and the Psalmists praise as the Holy One of Israel.

And like Israel, we worship not with an abstract idea of god, we worship as: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory.”

Hauerwas writes, “That is why, the heart of our confession that God is Triune is the church’s insistence that the God we worship, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is Israel’s GOD…like Israel, we have learned we cannot know who God is in himself…the whole earth is full of the glory of God…and that glory found its decisive home in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Only God is able to make his home among us while remaining God. That is what Trinity names.”

[2]The Holy Spirit directs us and draws us into the life of Christ, the LIFE of the One “who has come” to reveal to us the beauty of his holiness…

Trinity names for us over and over again, the love God has for all of his creation, how he is unrelenting in pursuing us in relationship with him.  He never abandons us.  He wants us to join in his glory manifested in creation.

And it is through Love, that He is with us and for us!

Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are incorporated into the Triune Love; The Father’s love who redeems through the Son and Spirit, the Son’s love for the Father and the Father’s love of the Son…

1600 years ago, St. Augustine, after writing over 800 pages on the Trinity searching for clues, observed: “We are now eager to see whether that most excellent love is proper to the Holy Spirit, and, whether the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Trinity itself is love, since we cannot contradict the most certain faith and the most weighty authority of Scripture which says: ‘God is love’…, therefore one must ask if love itself is triune”.[3]

Augustine found the answer to his question to be YES!, He said the Triune consists of “three: the lover, the beloved, and the love.”[80][81][4]

We are pulled into that mysterious Triune God, the One who is LOVE…

My prayer is as we continue our worship now, the words that reach our ears will not come as simply words spoken, black and white letter read off of a page, but will come to our ears and hearts as Triune LOVE …as we, through our worship, (from today’s collect) “acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty worship in Unity” …

We will soon hear these words “… we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you O LORD of all; presenting to you, from your creation…we pray you gracious GOD, to send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant.  Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit…

By him, and with him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and forever”.

And as the Eternal, Triune Love draws us into union with itself, let us be content in being a part of the Eternal Mystery of the Trinity.


[1] Hauerwas, Stanley.  The Cross Shattered Church. Pgs. 53-59

[2] Hauerwas, Stanley. The Cross-Shattered Church. Pg. 56-57

[3] Wikipedia. Article Perichoresis; Trinity and Love, quote from Augustine of Hippo, De trinitate 399-419.

[4] Wikipedia. The Holy Trinity; Trinity and Love.



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2 Responses to The Mysterious ONE

  1. Phil loveless says:

    You are awesome! If only I could write at that level. Mysterious for sure, you nailed it. It has been said if you try to explain the Trinity you will go mad, but if you denied it you could loose your soul. Top level preaching!


    • pamelarieger0503 says:

      Thank you, Phil…it was the 3rd time I’ve preached on Trinity Sunday. Keeping up with the old joke, “If it’s Trinity Sunday, the Deacon must be preaching.” But by far, it was the most difficult one to compose, by far. I found most of my inspiration from Stanley Hauerwas’ book, “The Cross-Shattered Church”- and his references that I accessed for more information.


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