Getting Ready for Sunday by The Rev. Casey Shobe

This coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday, when the readings that we hear and the prayers that we pray all proclaim that God is both three and one. It’s a funny thing to celebrate a doctrine. All year long we set aside days to remember and celebrate people and events—the birth of Jesus, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the resurrection, saints. But on Trinity Sunday we celebrate neither an event nor a person, we celebrate a mysterious theological concept: the Trinity.

When I was a child, that deep mystery seemed easier to believe. Although I couldn’t quite grasp it, I could accept that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were all equally God and yet equally themselves. But the mystery of the Trinity began to grow harder for me as I got older. I began to ask a lot of questions: what exactly does it mean to say that I believe in a God who is not one, but three? How are those three persons still one God? How can a Father and a Son be part of the same Godhead?

Much smarter people than I have struggled to clearly and succinctly articulate answers to these questions, so in this brief reflection I won’t get down into the theological weeds. But I must confess that Trinity Sunday doesn’t strike fear in me as it does to so many. While I may not fully grasp the mystery of the Trinity, pondering God’s triune nature reminds me that faith is a mystery that I can never fully grasp. It is one of the things that we believe that reminds us, in this very grown-up world, that even today, we have to become like a child in order to believe.

But there is one aspect of this crazy three-in-one God that I do understand. At the heart of it, the mystery of the Trinity speaks to us of the power and importance of relationship. The fact that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit means that God’s very being is about relationship. God is not a lone ranger, but a team. God is not only an individual, but also a community.

That’s a pretty powerful thing to hear. In a world that is all about “me” and “I,” we worship a God who is about “we” and “us.” In the midst of our modern, individualistic society, we believe in and proclaim a God who thinks community is so important that it is a part of who God is. One of the major challenges to the modern Christian faith has been the disgruntlement with the institutional Church. Many people have abandoned organized Christian communities to practice their faith individually, or at least, independent of a church. I can’t tell you how many conversations I have with people who feel they need church anymore, because they are good people and they have their own, personal faith. The bottom line of Christianity for most of them is being a good person, and you can just as easily do that on your own. But when we ponder that God is Three, that God is a community—that God cannot exist without reciprocal love and affection—then we are reminded that it really is impossible for any of us to go without community ourselves.

This is similar to the South African (Xhosa) concept of “Ubuntu.” Ubuntu is difficult to translate into English, but pretty much means “I in you and you in me.” Ubuntu is an understanding that I am because we are, that I can only become a whole person in relationship with others. When applied to our lives as Christians in the Church, this notion of Ubuntu means that we cannot truly be a Christian alone, because being a Christian requires being a part of a community.

When we ponder the mystery of the Trinity, we begin to understand that God is about community far more than individuality, because community and relationship are at the very heart of who God is. It would be much simpler to worship a God who is one, but not three; it would be a less confusing God, certainly. It would also fit in better with our prioritization of the individual over the community, our focus on “me” and “I” rather than “we” and “us.” But we don’t worship or proclaim a God who is easy, who is designed to fit in with what we want and value. Instead, we worship the Living God, the Three in One, the Unity in Community: the Trinity.

That is the beauty and challenge of Trinity Sunday. We are reminded, once more, that we can’t do this thing called life alone. We need God, and we need one another. Think about it: if God can't be without a community to give and receive love, why would we think we can? What we do and believe in our individual lives is certainly important, but it is not the entire story. I am not my best, most made-in-the-image-of-God self, when I am alone. I am my best, most-made-in-the-image-of-God self when I am with you. 

When we worship together. 

When we learn together.

When we serve together. 

When we eat together.

When we celebrate together. 

When we mourn together.

When we go through this messy business of life, not alone, but together. 

Not as lone rangers, but as community. Not as those who worship God who is one, but God who is Three-in-One.

The Rev. Casey Shobe is the Rector of Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas

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Getting Ready For Sunday by Paige Hanks

May 15, 2016


John 14:16 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever."

On the first day of school in kindergarten classes all around the country, teachers read the book The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. This picture book tells of a young raccoon who is apprehensive about leaving his mother for the first day of school. He would rather stay in the comfort of his mother’s presence forever. She kisses his hand and explains she will always be with him, and that kiss acts to remind the raccoon of the gift of his mother, helping him feel her presence even when he is physically away from her. This book is read by teachers to their students on the first day of school to help encourage and give them strength as they go out in the world to begin their formal learning journey.

The readings for Pentecost remind all Christians that we have the gift of the Holy Spirit with us forever. In the Gospel reading from John, the disciple named Philip tells Jesus that he wants to see the Father because he doesn’t fully grasp the divinity of Christ himself. Jesus goes on to explain that he will be leaving to be with the Father, and that God will provide an Advocate to be with us forever. Jesus reminds them to keep the commandments and do even greater works for the glorification of God and with the Holy Spirit abiding within them and therefore in us all.

What does it mean to have an advocate in the Holy Spirit? Another way to translate the word advocate is as a companion or helper, making the Holy Spirit an ever present guide in our lives. As followers of Christ, this means that we are not alone as we go about our daily lives. Philip didn’t really understand God when he asked Jesus to show him the Father, and the same is true for us today. How can we fully comprehend that which is divine when we are only humans? Although our revelation may be limited by our humanity, we can see the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. As we face the challenges that come our way, our faith in God can give us strength that can only be understood as divine, since we would never be able to overcome those challenges on our own. That evidence points to God’s promise to be with us as Jesus said to the disciples that day.

This text also speaks of the great works we will do, with Jesus using his own works as a model for us and as a way to show his divinity with God. Imagine if our own works showed our creaturely relationship with God as well! With the companionship and help from the indwelling Holy Spirit, our helping actions toward our neighbors, the poor, the marginalized, the neediest among us, will point directly to our God. The restoration of the Kingdom of God demands these works from us, and the Holy Spirit is in our midst to make it happen. We just have to seize the opportunity.

The words of the first verse of Hymn 516 in our Hymnal say it best:

Come down, O love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

May we know God’s presence in our lives as more than just a kiss on the hand, and may we call upon the Holy Spirit to work in us to serve God in the world. Kindle in us the fire of your love!

Posted by Paige Hanks with

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This is a blog of essays meant to prepare parishioners for an upcoming Sunday reading.