Sunday, June 11, 2006

of the Trinity

Trinity Sunday
John 3:1-16
(preached originally without notes, so this is an edited version of what actually happened)

When I was in seminary, I was handed a sheet of paper with the list of courses we were required to take our first year. Church History, I thought I could handle that. Church Music, no problem. But one class title, for the spring term, leaped off the page at me. Systematic Theology. Theology--well, that sounded a lot like Philosophy, which I spent my four years as a liberal arts major avoiding--all that thinking. Systematic--well, that sounded like math, and that hadn't gone to well in high school.

Then I turned up in class, and the syllabus was even more frightening--we had to do papers on God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, and a final 20 page paper on the Trinity.

All I remembered of the Trinity was that drawing with the circles and the triangles from confirmation class--which hadn't made any sense to me when I was 11, and hadn't been cleared up since.

Thankfully, our professor was very good--although I did suspect that he was going to be the first professor who was ever going to tell us that HIS dog ate OUR homework, but I digress--and working on that paper helped me understand what was going on with the Trinity, why it's so important.

After all, in the Episcopal Church, we don't care how you're baptized--sprinkled, poured on with water, dunked 3 times in the river with white robes--but what does matter is that you're baptized in the name of the Trinity, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

So why does it matter so much?

What Systematic Theology helped me understand is that all that 3 in one language is about two things--God is bigger than any one thing that we can imagine AND the very heart of God's being is relationship. God is the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit--and that relationship is love. The love of Father and Son pouring out into the Holy Spirit. And it's so important for us to be drawn into that love because we get drawn into something bigger than just us--it's not all about me.

(Here I handed out a paper copy of this icon).

This icon of the Trinity was painted by a Russian icon painter named Rublev. I could go on all day talking about the importance of icons, and how each gesture, each facial expression, each color, each item in the icon has significance. But what is critical with this icon is that, as you look at it, you realize that the 3 of them are looking at you. The viewer is at the fourth place at the table. You have been invited to sit with the Trinity at the Table, and participate in that relationship of love.

On this Sunday, as we do every Sunday, let us gather at the table, let ourselves be drawn into the heart of that love, that we show it forth into the world. Amen.


At 5:17 PM, Blogger Prayerful Knitter - Shelly said...

Thank you, Emily. I'd like to say more....but *Thank You* is all that is coming out from my many thoughts just now.


At 9:14 PM, Blogger Emily said...

Thank you for saying that, Shelly.

At 12:45 PM, Blogger Annie said...

It is certainly worth a great deal of contemplation .... we were speaking of symbols and the triangle and the circle and the unity and all the aspects of the Trinity on which one can just lose themselves .... relationship, too.

Great link!

At 7:09 PM, Blogger mibi52 said...

have you read Henri Nouwen's "Praying with Icons"? I recommend it highly. Rowan Williams also has a beautiful but virtually impenetrable poem on this icon called "Rublev." As an iconographer, I meditate on the poem often, finding different things in it each time. I have read an interpretation that says that the Rublev Trinity is in fact the Old Testament trinity of the three angels who came to Abraham on the plains of Mamre. All I know is that it is sublime, and is on my list of icons I would like to write. Thanks for sharing these words with us.


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