Trinity Sunday – The First Sunday after Pentecost June 16, 2019

The Rev. Janet Campbell


Proverbs 8:1-4,  22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15


Christ Episcopal Church

Tacoma, Washington

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Rev. Janet Campbell



I think we should start

our Trinity Sunday reflections

with another version of today’s Gospel:


Jesus said to the disciples,

“I still have many things to say to you,

but you cannot bear them now.

When the Spirit of truth comes,

she will guide you into all the truth;

for she will not speak on her own,

but will speak whatever she hears,

and she will declare to you

the things that are to come.


“She will glorify me,

because she will take what is mine

and declare it to you.

All that the Father has is mine.

For this reason I said

that she will take what is mine

and declare it to you.”


That version may provide some relief

from all those masculine pronouns,

the he-s and his-es

of the other version . . .

but the truth is,

of course,

that the third person of the Trinity,

the Holy Spirit,

is neither male nor female.


Just as the first person of the Trinity

whom Jesus calls “Father”

is neither male nor female,


nor is the second person

whom we call the “Son”

male or female,


except for some 33 years

of incarnation,

life in human form

on this earth.



The female personification of Wisdom

in the reading we heard from Proverbs


is sometimes seen by Christians

as a figure of

the second person of the Trinity,


due to her presence with God

before time

in the act of creation . . .


as John’s Gospel says about Jesus,

the Word who was with God

in the beginning . . .

Or Wisdom might be seen as

a figure of the third person of the Trinity,

because of the creation story in Genesis,


which tells us

the Spirit of God hovered over

the waters of chaos

bringing order into being . . .



In either case,

Wisdom is neither female nor male,

just as the God whom she calls “he”

is neither male nor female.


All this is to say,

in just one way


in far too many words,


that our minds and our language

just don’t have the bandwidth

to encompass or express

the other-than-human nature

of the Divine One,

God in all God’s Mystery.


There are things that can be done about that –



We can expand the words we use

to think and speak of God

so that we think and speak of God

in a greater variety

of inadequate ways

instead of just one inadequate way.


This is not to minimize the best efforts of

scholars and theologians

whose tragic task it is

to attempt to understand and explain

the un-understandable

and un-explainable . . .

they are doomed to inadequacy . . .


So we must turn to

metaphor, poetry, image

to evoke the nature of God

who is Being to be experienced

rather than proposition

to be understood . . .



So for instance, here’s a hymn text,

one that we’ll sing later,

that uses a multiplicity of words

for how we experience God –

and surely each of us

will resonate with some of them . . .



For the First Person of the Trinity,      Thomas H. Troeger, 1986


the one often called Father:

“Source and Sovereign, Rock and Cloud,

          Fortress, Fountain, Shelter, Light,

          Judge, Defender, Mercy, Might,

          Life whose life all life endowed. “


And for the Second Person

whose human name is Jesus:

“Word and Wisdom, Root and Vine,

          Shepherd, Savior, Servant, Lamb,

          Well and Water, Bread and Wine,

          Way who leads us to I AM.”


And the Third person, the Holy Spirit:

“Storm and Stillness, Breath and Dove,

          Thunder, Tempest, Whirlwind, Fire,

          Comfort, Counselor, Presence, Love,

          Energies that never tire. “


I think that last summary line

perhaps falls short of the Holy Spirit,


but then all our words about God

fall short . . .


Each verse of the hymn concludes:


“May the Church at prayer recall

          that no single holy name

                    but the truth behind them all

          is the God whom we proclaim.”


The Truth behind them all

into which the Holy Spirit

has come to lead us:

the being and life

of the God whom we proclaim.

The Holy Trinity, Russian, Andrei Rublev, 15th c.


That Truth shines through

the icon of the Holy Trinity

that graces the cover of

today’s worship bulletin.


The three persons,

androgynous figures we note,

sit at table . . .


The colors of their clothing

telling, in the visual language of icons,

which person is which . . .


for they are different “persons,”

whose individuality

is caught up in their

unity . . .


Separate persons,

yet inseparably One.


– Here is a glimpse into

the inner life of God,

not a solitary life,

but a Trinitarian life,

God a community

of intimacy,

of relationship . . .


See how the figures

incline toward one another

around the table . . .

a dynamic energy

flowing among them

that can only be divine loving.



See how they leave a space at the table,

room right where we are

as the viewer . . .


room for us . . .


– Here is gentle invitation

to that table,

to that love

to that life . . .


invitation to relationship with God–

not just knowledge about God.


Here is invitation

to stop using words

and simply dwell

in Mystery . . .





But of course,

this is a sermon,

and it uses words . . .



The Rublev icon of the Holy Trinity

reveals something

about the Mystery of ourselves

as well . . .


for in all our relationships,

no matter how deep we may go . . .


is there not always

that final Mystery

we can never penetrate . . .


the mystery of the unknowable other . . .


The mystery we see most clearly

in the unguarded eyes of an infant . . .


and in the far-away-seeing eyes

of a person

near death . . .



No matter how deeply we know


our parent, our child,

our lover, our dearest friend,


we will never know the other

completely . . .


just as,

this side of death,

we will never know God completely.


This is a good thing,

isn’t it,

because if we could know God completely,

encompass God with our minds,

God would be too small

to be God.


But we can love God,

just as we can love our child,

our parent,

our lover,

our dearest friend,


for the great Mystery they are

and always will be.


Perhaps we can also love ourselves

as the great Mystery we are,

even to our own selves.



Perhaps this is how

we are made in the image

of the Trinity . . .


made for Mystery,

made for wonder,

made for relationship,

made for love.



I spent yesterday

reuniting with two dear long-time friends

I had not seen in a year . . .

For several years we met weekly,

a three-fold friendship,

a small support group,

accompanying one another


through the sufferings

and hopes

and joys

of life . . .


being fired from a job,

the death of a spouse,

the break-up of a relationship,

the loss of a vocation,


and through the joys, too . . .

a new marriage,

a new job,

a newfound purpose and ministry . . .


But we’ve been separated now

for four years

by the whole width

of this country.



there we were,

together again,

a trinity of women

around a table

at Salty’s in Redondo Beach.



Separate persons yet

inseparably united

across time and distance


easily, joyfully

resuming our relationship

as if we’d been together

just last week . . .


inclining toward one another

across the table

in the intimacy

of our longtime friendship . . .


each of us so well known to each,

and yet

each still a holy Mystery

to each . . .


each a Mystery

not to be learned or understood

but simply to be appreciated,






Ah sweet mystery of Life . . .

as Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy

sang in their lovers’ duet

in the 1935 movie version

of the operetta Naughty Marietta:



“Ah! Sweet mystery of life
At last I’ve found thee
Ah! I know at last the secret of it all;
All the longing, seeking, striving, waiting, yearning


“The burning hopes, the joy and idle tears that fall!
For ’tis love, and love alone, the world is seeking,
And ’tis love, and love alone, that can repay!
‘Tis the answer, ’tis the end and all of living


“For it is love alone that rules for aye!
Love, and love alone, the world is seeking,
For ’tis love, and love alone, that can repay!
‘Tis the answer, ’tis the end and all of living
For it is love alone that rules for aye!



Ah sweet mystery of life . . .


Ah sweet mystery of God . . .




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