Signpost for Sunday 15 June 2014, Trinity Sunday: Gen 1:1- 2:4a; Ps 8; 2 Cor 13:11-13; Matt 28:16-20
I’ve heard quite few vicars “joke” that whoever gets to preach on Trinity Sunday has drawn the short straw. Let’s hope that doesn’t go for writing this week’s Signpost.
To start off, the lectionary gives us the quick version in poetry form (Psalm 8) of the whopping Genesis reading, in case we lose the plot while that’s going on.
But the actual opening words of our Bible are interesting, for lots of reasons. Here are two: First, they present a completely different account of the world’s origins from what was around at the time. True, it is only one of many ancient Near Eastern creation narratives. But all the others talk about bands of major gods and their lesser deities, fighting for prominence and survival. Here are a few of them: Marduk, god of water, vegetation, and magic was the head of one pantheon. Assur was leader of a rival bunch in northern Mesopotamia. While in Egypt, another set of gods quarreled over their legitimacy beginning with Osiris and Seth and then Seth and Horus. Genesis 1:1-2:4a, though, presents a fiercely monotheistic story. Interestingly, Plato and Aristotle were coming to similar conclusions: There is only one god.
Second, and even more interestingly, Francis Collins, who led the Human Genome Project, reckons that the sequence of creation portrayed in Gen 1:1-2:4 very closely mirrors the sequence of events that scientists believe took place during and after the Big Bang. (He’s written a book about it, The Language of God.)
And so we come to the Trinity. No wonder preachers tremble. It took St. Augustine 15 volumes to describe the Trinity. This is what he came up with: The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. The Son is not the Father. The Father is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the Son. There is only one God.
Worse still, the Trinity is nothing more than a doctrine imposed on us. Emperor Theodosius declared it to be the only acceptable Christian doctrine of God in AD 380. The Council of Constantinople rubber-stamped it in AD 381 and all opposing views were then banned and suppressed.
Yet after all that, the weird thing is that, when in church, we always say, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” in that order. But that order supports a heirarchical view of God, even though the actual Trinitarian theology says there is no heirarchy. That’s dogma for ya.
So let’s leave that and go back to the reading. I heard a sermon once that said there is no ‘Lo’ without ‘Go’. The preacher was saying that the those beautiful comforting words of Jesus, “and lo, I am with you always,” don’t apply unless we do our bit by converting people to Christianity (Matt 28:19).
Well I’m sorry but the text doesn’t say anything about a “great commission” or anything about getting people to believe certain doctrinal positions. Instead, scholars of ancient Greek tell us that “go” – poreuomai, is passive and has the sense of “being led forward on a journey.” In fact, the very helpful John Petty says this is not about converting people to a way of thinking; it’s about expanding the new community of grace and forgiveness to include everyone.
And so we come full circle from some of the first words in Matthew (1:23), where Mary’s son is to be called “Emanuel” – God with us – to the last words in Matthew (28:20): “I am with you always.”
I like to think he is, and on that note I will leave you with some more beautiful words, this time dictated to his scribe by Saul of Tarsus: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you (Cor 13:13).