Trinity Sunday, Year A

Main Text

Gospel Anthropological Reading
Gospel Historical/Cultural Questions
Gospel So What?

Epistle Anthropological Reading
Epistle Historical/Cultural Questions
Epistle So What?

Main Text

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

And God said, "Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, "Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it." And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

And God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth." And it was so. God made the two great lights– the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night– and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky." So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." God said, "See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Matthew 28:16-20
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Gospel Anthropological Reading

Example 1

Marine 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano is on trial for the alleged killing of two Iraqis. Whether he is guilty or not is up to the military courts to decide. But as to why he was in Iraq is far clearer. After 9/11, Pantano would say that it was the responsibility of America “to export violence to the four corners of the world so this doesn’t happen again.” Most illuminating is that Pantano acknowledges what most Americans prefer to deny: that our greatest export is violence.

2,000 years ago another solider in a different army sought to export something else to the four corners of the globe: non-violence. This one fought not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. Of course, we speak of Jesus.

The Great Commission in Matthew’s Gospel has been used throughout Christian history to export the gospel but along with the gospel also came something else, the exportation of violence in the name of the Prince of Peace. Christianity has its pogroms, inquisitions, death chambers all exported ‘for the benefit of humankind.” Today, there are those who would also evangelize others in the name of this Prince of Peace; yet they are evangelized at the end of a gun, or a pen or violent rhetoric. Infidels, non-believers, atheists all are to be brought to submission in the name of a “Christian culture.” Shall we suppose that this is what Jesus was seeking as he gave this ‘great commission?’

Example 2

“The U.S. Air Force said Tuesday it will appoint a task force to investigate allegations of religious intolerance at the Air Force Academy [in Colorado].”

Among the allegations are that cadets are frequently pressured to attend chapel and take religious instruction, particularly in the evangelical Christian faith; that prayer is a part of mandatory events at the academy; and that in at least one case a teacher ordered students to pray before beginning their final examination.

The report said it found that non-Christian cadets are subjected to "proselytization or religious harassment" by more senior cadets; and that cadets of other religions are subject to discrimination, such as being denied passes off-campus to attend religious services.” (from CNN.com, May 4, 2005)

Christian belief in America has become synonymous with “Faith in America.” The evangelization being practiced by ‘Christians’ at the Air Force academy does not to promote faith in Jesus the crucified but belief in the ultimate American Idol, Jesus the mighty warrior, the divine avenger. When Jesus commanded the church to make disciples, he was explicitly commanding us to teach people to follow him and following Jesus means practicing peace, non-violence and love.

Fundamental to certain types of Christian expression is the belief that God is violent and thus, following God, we can and may use violence to achieve divine ends. Miroslav Wolf (Exclusion and Embrace, Nashville: Abingdon, 1996) has proffered justification for this by asserting that while Jesus may be non-violent, “God has a monopoly on violence.” As J Denny Weaver has pointed out, “the Christian tradition has a long history of accommodating violence via the doctrine of supposedly justifiable war, and the idea that doing justice means punishment is the hallmark of United States criminal justice procedures. I submit that [this] is very much a problem of the Christian faith. The classic orthodox formulation of the Trinity emphasizes that each person of the Trinity participates in all the attributes of God. According to this doctrine, it would be heretical to develop attributes in one person of the Trinity that were different from the other persons of the Trinity…Jesus as the revelation of God reveals the very being and character of God.” Do you suppose they teach this at the Air Force Academy?

Example 3

The worst and most dangerous weapon developed in world history is the nuclear weapon. Yet J. Robert Oppenheimer would call this project “Trinity.” Why? Oppenheimer said he was influenced by a line from a poem by Donne. But to invoke the name of the God of peace for the worst imaginable violence is nothing short of blasphemy.

Which God is Christianity in America exporting to the world? Which vision of the divine being are preaching and teaching? Are we creating followers of Jesus, imitators of Jesus or have we become blind to the fact that we are in fact creating disciples of Satan in the name of Jesus? Is not this Jesus in fact, the anti-Christ? Have we not yet learned that “violence is not an attribute of God?” (Epistle to Diognetus)

I am always astonished when I read in the press, “Islam has been hijacked by fanatics.” Cannot the same be said of Christianity in America? This Sunday pulpit after pulpit is going to be filled with evangelistic sermons extolling the virtues of saving the world, of the need to send out missionaries. Yet, what is it we are really preaching? Has not the name Trinity become synonymous with violence in the eyes of many across the globe?

It is time for followers of Jesus to reclaim their heritage. It is time for those who desire peace, who desire to follow the Prince of Peace to rise up and shout from the rooftops that God is not violent, that God has reconciled the world, that God does not war. Then we shall know that Jesus is indeed the One with us ‘to the end of the age.”

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Gospel Historical/Cultural Questions

No significant issues occupy us today.

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Gospel So What?

What can you do? First, consider becoming a peace church. Every Church A Peace Church (www.ecapc.org) has information on their website on how individual congregations can join together in announcing that they choose peace. If there is to be a peace movement in the 21st century it will begin in the churches.

Second, consider joining a study group around Jim Wallis’ book God and Politics (Jeff will be posting his review soon). Details are available at the Sojourners website (www.sojo.net). Jim has rightly said, “It is now clear there are some who will fight this religious war by any means necessary. So we will fight, but not the way they do. We must never lie or misrepresent the facts or the truth. We must not demonize or vilify those who are our opponents. We must claim that those who disagree with our judgments are still real people of faith. We must not fight the way they do, but fight we must. A great deal is at stake in this battle for the heart and soul of faith in America and for the nation’s future itself. We will not allow faith to be put into the service of one political agenda.

This is a call for the rest of the churches to wake up. This is a call for people of faith everywhere to stand up and let their faith be heard. This is not a call to be just concerned, or just a little worried, or even just alarmed. This is a call for clear speech and courageous action, and in the words of the prophet Micah, ‘to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.’”

Third, renew your own personal commitment to walk with Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to find the peace that passes understanding. Maybe this should be first but the personal, political and ecclesiological all run together in the long run anyway.

Some Sermon Thoughts

Quoting from a sermon I preached last month, “The teaching of the Trinity, the true Trinity, has preserved the apostolic faith at several points in the Church’s history. This moment is no less important than the council of Nicaea.” American “Evangelicalism” may not have the following that Rome does, but it wields a much larger sword in the name of its version of Jesus. What needs to be said is that the teachings in many churches that Jesus does not fully reveal the Father is not Christian teaching. It isn’t even “biblical.” When Jesus said, “The Father and I are one,” he meant it. When he grew exasperated with Philip because he’d asked Jesus to “show us the Father,” it was because there was nothing left of the Father to be seen beyond that which was revealed in Jesus. Nothing more to show. We can resist this current distortion of the Gospel by resting on the Trinity.

As I read Michael’s examples in the Anthropological segment, I was reminded of another illustration that might work into your sermon. The movie “Kingdom of Heaven,” which I haven’t seen yet, has been roundly criticized by evangelical reviewers because of it’s “anti-Christian” stance. One reviewer I read criticized the film because one “relatively noble Christian” says “we have no need of a perfect knight.” This, apparently, is evidence of the director’s “anti-Christian” bias, because, as the reviewer and his readers all know, “Christ is the perfect knight.” Jesus the mighty warrior indeed! (Click here to open a new window with the review.)

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Epistle Anthropological Reading

This section of this particular page is not yet completed, but will be done a few weeks before the Sunday in question. It will be the heart of the discussion, offering an anthropological ("Girardian") reflection on the lectionary texts. It will be complemmented by the other sections, but this will be the primary material. Back to top

Epistle Historical/Cultural Questions

This section of this particular page is not yet complete. In it, there will be materials pertinent to the historical/cultural setting of the texts under consideration, to the extent that they contribute to a non-violent understanding of the text. (We won’t re-hash historical/cultural materials that are well known and add nothing to the "peace" discussion.) Back to top

Epistle So What?

The "so what" section for each week will go here. Less scholarly, more reflective. In this section, we’ll try to give our answer to the questions, "Okay, that anthropological stuff is nice, but "so what?" How do I use this in a sermon? How do I relate this to my congregation’s world?" Back to top