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Sermons > Trinity Sunday

Memorial Day Weekend
30 May 2010

“‘… [the Spirit] will guide you to all truth.’”  (John 16:13)                                  In the name …

Today is Trinity Sunday in the church and also this weekend we observe the solemn national remembrance of Memorial Day.  Trinity Sunday has been long in the making.  On that first Pentecost almost 2,000 years ago, Peter addressed the crowds that had gathered around the small gathering of Christians, and Peter used the old and authentic phrase:  “‘God raised [Jesus] up, releasing Him from the throes of death because it was impossible for [Jesus] to be held by [death].’” (Acts 2:24)  Peter is talking about the Easter resurrection of 50 days earlier.  The later church phrase would be that Jesus resurrected, but the earlier theology was that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead.  In the later phrase Jesus is active, in the earlier He is passive.  This may not sound all that important now that we as Christians are comfortable with the idea of Jesus and God the Father being one, or as we read in today’s Gospel from the lips of Jesus:  ‘Everything that the Father has is mine.’” (John 16:15), but in that subtle change from passive to active we begin to see the emergence of Trinity.

It would take the passing of about another 300 Pentecost Sundays before the church would formally declare the divine union and equality of Father and Son, of God and Jesus.  Jesus had emptied Himself of His divinity when He accepted our human nature, and this we remember and celebrate every Christmas and every Palm Sunday.  This means that Jesus’ human nature was not only a covering over the top of His divine nature, that Jesus looked and acted like one of us on the outside but that inside He was the all-knowing and all-powerful God.  If this were true, Jesus’ humanity would be compromised.  He wouldn’t have been like we are, and then His incarnation and our salvation would not have been complete.  He wouldn’t be fully human, and we wouldn’t, therefore, be fully saved.  So Jesus empties Himself of His divinity for the length of time from the Annunciation of His conception until the moment the rock is rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. 

This means that the limitations we know, Jesus knew.  Any child in elementary school with a dinosaur book, for example, knows more about prehistoric times than did the earthly Jesus because the knowledge of dinosaurs was not a part of Jesus’ world.  In deference to Memorial Day, have you ever wondered why the Book of Revelation talks about the end-time confrontation with the imagery of swords?  Think about the lethal threats our military personnel have to face today in comparison with swords.  Swords don’t seem all that threatening in comparison.  And that’s now, never mind who knows how far into the future at the End-time confrontation.  But the sword was the instrument of war 2,000 years ago.  The author of Revelation could not imagine the weapons which could destroy the entire world with a push of a button.  And the earthly Jesus faces the same limitations.  Jesus had emptied Himself of His divinity not as sign of being less than God, but as a choice to be more like us.  And He did it successfully.  Jesus’ human nature was so complete that it would take Easter and Pentecost for us to realize Jesus’ full union and equality with God.  Thus, on the Sunday after Pentecost, we can finally celebrate Trinity Sunday.

It was only with the sharing of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost that we could begin to fully realize who Jesus was and is.  God the Father had raised Jesus from the grave, but it would take God the Holy Spirit to convey to us the full identity of this same Jesus Christ.  Thus, again as it says in today’s Gospel from the lips of Jesus:  “‘I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.  But when [the Holy Spirit] comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth.’” (John 16:12-13)  And with this another piece of the mystery of God falls into place as Trinity.  It is a religious truth that has evolved in the life of the church.  Nowhere in the Bible will you find the name “Holy Trinity.”  On rare occasions we can read in close sequence the names of Father, Son and Spirit, but the idea of God as Trinity is not a biblical concept.  It is a creation of the church as inspired by the presence and revelation of the Holy Spirit among us.  It is the Pentecost church that has looked back on the life, ministry and message of Jesus and discovered the mystery of the Trinity.  The Trinity is an expression of the living church, the church inspired by the ever-present, ever-speaking Spirit of God.

For as fundamental as the idea of the Trinity is to all Christians, whichever denomination a believer may belong to, there is still an awful lot of confusion about the whole matter of the nature of God, and the nature of Jesus as both fully human and fully divine simultaneously.  We’ll be starting new Confirmation and Communion catechism classes in the Fall, and I almost guarantee that I will be able to trick those kids with the same question that has stumped kids in all the previous years.  If I ask who is greater, God the Father or God the Son, the inevitable answer is the Father.  It makes linguistic sense.  But the correct answer is neither, both are equal because both are part of the one God who is Trinity. 

And on this Memorial Day weekend we should remember another constantly repeated mistake.  This is not only a vacation weekend, not only a time for picnics, parties and pools.  On Memorial Day, we have an obligation to join together as a nation in solemn remembrance of all those selfless men and women of our Armed Forces who have offered the supreme sacrifice of their lives for the good of our lives and that of our nation.  There’s a bumper sticker out there that reads of our military personnel:  Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Anyone Who Threatens It."  This valour comes at a great cost to all who serve, and at supreme cost to those who die in battle.  Let us never forget their sacrifices.  Let us never forget that Memorial Day is so much more than a vacation day.  And for this we pray in the name of the Holy Trinity:  Father, (+) Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Fr. Randolph Calvo


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