May 30, 2012

(The Definitive) Trinity Sunday Sermon

Ahhhh. Trinity Sunday. That day in the church year when we celebrate the mystery of the "one in three and three in one" that embodies the fullness of God. And the day when every rector in all of Christendom scrambles to find a seminarian to preach. Or a curate. Or anyone who is closer to the theological gymnastics of the seminary experience.

This year, I realized I was the only rector with a curate and/or seminarian scheduled to preach on Trinity Sunday. It's a lonely club but at least you can admire my pluck, determination, and theological grit (ie. I forgot to look closely at the liturgical calendar when making up the preaching schedule). But it reminded me that a couple years ago I asked my Facebook friends to send me key phrases of Trinitarian minutia that often wind up in sermons preached on Trinity Sunday. I then prayerfully combined them into a Trinity Sunday Homilette.

Before I share the text, I should note that the key to good preaching on Trinity Sunday is linguistic sleight of hand. If you distract the congregation enough with props they won't pay attention to the heresy you're undoubtedly spewing. This lowers the potential of being reported to the bishop.

Trinity Sunday Sermon

"The New Paradigm of Homoousious"

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (And I really mean it this time).

The Trinity [three intertwined circles appear on a giant projection screen]. It's a confusing topic; one that I am not qualified to speak about because I failed the systematic theology portion of the General Ordination Exam. [Three circles morph into a green three-leaf clover] St. Patrick converted the King of Ireland to the Christian faith by using the clover [use awkward hand gesture to point to the screen]. As he held up the clover he enumerated (or is that renumerated?) about the Trinity telling the king that...[choir sings St. Patrick's Breastplate to drown out the next few phrases. Twelve minutes later when the hymn ends and everyone has processed around the church nine times, the preacher continues].

The interplay between the Persons of the Trinity is like a dance. But not just any dance -- a perichoretic dance of love. I once danced this way at a wedding of a good friend. My date left with a groomsman while I was doing my interpretive dance of the Trinity. It was at that moment that I decided to go to seminary.

But I digress. Where was I? Oh, the interpenetration of modality. Which sounds vaguely obscene until you remember that God loves you. Like a fox. But in a co-eternal, co-equal, co-habitating kind of way.

Did I mention I used to be a horrible acolyte back in the day? [After laughing at his own joke, preacher picks up three tapers and attempts to bring them together and then pull them apart. Unfortunately he lights the pulpit hanging on fire and puts them out with the three glasses of water he brought up to supplement the fire illustration in case it fell flat. He recovers by singing an a capella version of "Holy, Holy, Holy,"  dramatically miming the line "Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea."]

In sum, we are all called to a hermeneutic of being immortal and invisible while still being led by faith and not by sight. Let me end by quoting from the well-loved Athanasian Creed; so beloved in church lore that it's relegated to page 846 of the Book of Common Prayer. In the "Historical Documents" section that you may have covertly perused earlier in the sermon. "Blah, blah, blah Unity, blah, blah, blah Godhead, blah, blah, blah Essence."



Deb Seles said...

Oh Tim, this is truly great! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the part about St. Patrick's breastplate! I've told my parish that I absolutely put my foot down when graduating/being ordained that I did NOT want that song--which tho lovely, is, interminable and mostly unsingable.

I also love the story (?) you tell about your dancing career (?)! Blessings, my friend.

Discernment Doctor said...

At Old North, we are celebrating HM The Queen's Diamond Jubilee with the British community so I can preach on a topic I'm not expected to know much about.

Meredith Gould said...

"The interpretation of modality..." screaming with laughter, so much so that the cat has fled. You're a comic genius, Tim.

Solange De Santis said...

It's just not a great sermon unless the word "hermeneutic" is in there. Who is Herman Eutic anyway?

Susan said...

You included the water, but where are the ice cubes and the steaming kettle?

preacherjean said...

I am laughing out loud right now!

John said...

Works for me.

Relling said...

You use jargon well, and in a way that I've always suspected it was meant! Hilarious! Reminds me of graduate school in English lit.

Unknown said...

So may I use this for my Sunday School lesson on the Trinity? Because I was thinking of having my high schoolers set up Coffee Hour instead trying to actually teach.

Unknown said...

So may I use this for my Sunday School lesson on the Trinity? Because I was thinking of having my high schoolers set up Coffee Hour instead trying to actually teach.

Unknown said...

I have hurt myself laughing uncontrollably and I am pretty sure that you're going straight to you-know-where for pure unadulterated blasphemy. However, you won't be alone as those previous 10 who commented and I will join you for joking about the Holy Trinity,,,,,we've all forgotten what we ever preached about it. I'm retired so nobody expects much from me nowadays + my TIA a few years ago. You have more innate talent in your left little toenail than some insult intended...not in their toenails...Oh! What the hey? You get it. Preach on!