Southern Heights Presbyterian Church

5750 South 40th Street - Lincoln, NE - 402-421-3704 Worship Sundays at 10:30

A loving and welcoming faith community located at 40th and Old Cheney Road in South Lincoln, Nebraska, Southern Heights Presbyterian Church is a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

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Encircled and Embraced

Trinity Sunday is one of those days in the liturgical year that we don't quite know what to do with. On Trinity Sunday this year, we tackled the question of "What does this doctrine and the celebration of it mean to us, here and today?"

Encircled and Embraced
Trinity A - June 13, 2014
Rev. Leanne Masters
Southern Heights Presbyterian Church


This morning, we celebrate Trinity Sunday, an odd and wonderful special day within the liturgical calendar when we set aside time during the year to truly celebrate the gift of the Trinity in our theological life.

Generally speaking, Trinity Sunday is a chance for Christians, who believe both in the idea of One God and the Triune nature of that one God to reflect on the tension that we live in when we hold both of those things to be true. God is One. But God is Three. God is One in Three and Three in One.
It’s a tension that we don’t really explore or think deeply about today. We just accept that it is what it is and we move on. Too often, when we do talk about that triune nature of God, we tend to elaborate on it too much and get a little too insistent on our understandings of what it means, (the Trinity defines three distinct identities of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), that are separate and apart from each other, etc. etc.), and define sharp boundaries of orthodoxy based on these thoughts.
In fact, one of the earliest big schisms of the Church had to do with just these questions. Known as the filoque controversy, the question arose surrounding the Nicene Creed, as to whether it should read:

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified


We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified

Huge Fight. Seriously.

On the flipside of that, we also have the tendency to minimize the concept and focus only one one identity of God (worshiping, at times, the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit, but rarely all three together). We witness this second tendency in talking about the Trinity each year on this Sunday as the lectionary tends to focus on a different member of the Trinity in each of the three years of the lectionary cycle, this year being the year that the lectionary focuses on God as creator, with the Old Testament and Psalm readings (both of which we didn’t read this morning...) both being about the way that God acted in creation.

For me, I believe that the reality of the Triune nature of God is found somewhere in the midst of all of that, the three manifestations or identities of God living in community within each other, co-mingling identity and work throughout the history of God’s action in the world.
The reality for us is that in our finite nature, the infinite nature of God can’t really be defined or even described.
And yet, throughout history, we have tried, coming up with a myriad of names and descriptions for various aspects of God. Rock, Salvation, Mother Hen, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. All of these terms describe a way that we have experienced and witnessed God working in our world and in our lives and yet they only describe a brief glimpse into how and who we understand God to be...
And so we have the Trinity, which boils down all of those understandings into three basic forms: The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit. God who created and birthed the world and all of us into being, who nurtured us and guided us along the way. God who came and lived among us, to show us and teach us God’s way, who worked to redeem us from our brokenness and sinfulness. God who gives us strength and guidance still, sustains us when we are weak, and gives us inspiration and hope as we continue to seek God’s will for us in our lives and in the world. These three basic forms are how we understand and experience God through the revelation of scripture and through the ways that God and God’s work is revealed in and around God indeed does encircle and embrace us, through all the work that God has done, in times past, present, and in times to come.

In my mind, it is as simple and as complex as that...

Now before I get too deep into all of that, and join the legions who have spilled much ink on the theology of the Trinity, I just want to say that it is tempting to use this Sunday as an opportunity to get deeply into the theological arguments surrounding the nature of the Trinity and just how intertwined and how separated the members of the Trinity are, and how we understand them working together, and the details of what we understand the natures of those forms or manifestations or revelations of God to be. It is tempting to use this Sunday as a chance to make sure that we all have correct doctrine and correct words and wording taught to and embedded in us about the theology of the Trinity. And while I believe that it’s important to talk about those things, I also feel like this day kind of like I do about Valentines Day: You shouldn’t do something to tell your loved one that you love them only once a year, but you should be living in such a way as to make that known every day...Same thing with the concept of the Trinity. We shouldn’t only talk about it and teach it once a day, but should be living our communal life in such a way as to demonstrate our belief and our trust in the Triune God every day.

What does that look like? What does it look like to live our lives in such a way?
In his final instruction to his disciples, Jesus commanded them, saying “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and remember I am with you, always, even until the end of the age.”
Friends, we are called to share what we know about what we have experienced in God...just like we talked about last week. But not just share, help others to understand what they are witnessing God doing in their lives.
To Encircle and Embrace others, enfold them in God, by being God’s hands and feet in this world. To let them know, through our words and our actions, what we have experienced and known to be true in God.
To live in faith and trust and confidence that God is encircling us, too, as we seek the courage and the strength to go and do as God has called us.
This, and so much more is what it means to live a life in such a way as to demonstrate our belief and our trust in the Triune God every day. May we do so, always, filled with the love of God, the grace of Christ, and the leading of the Holy Spirit...sharing, showing, living and doing as we are led and called.


“He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” — Micah 6:8 CEB