Trinity Sunday Sermon by The Rev. Dick Toll

June 12, 2022

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

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Following Pentecost each year in the Church calendar is what is known as Trinity Sunday. It is the only Sunday of the Church year dedicated to a theological interpretation of God and the life we live as Christians. Trinity… God in three persons. God is one and revealed to us in three distinctive powerful ways…Creator, Redeemer, and Spirit.

I would like to address the topic of God from the point of view of an individual like you and me. The persons who experienced and experience God and gives their lives over to God so that we can be who we are meant to be. And, of course that means that who we are reflects what the next generation will be.

Let me explain. God created. And we look out upon the vastness of our ever expanding universe and we are filled with wonder. The Bible is written by people we have no real knowledge of . They left us writings like the Psalms to give us their relationship to the God of creation. We would say their writings are often primitive but also very real and powerful. For instance, Psalm 8, you sang it. It was written by an unknown person two to three thousand years ago.

Individuals like you and me…voices from the past giving meaning to relationship…a relationship of trust and love. We hear these Psalms ever Sunday in worship. Psalms of people that have made a difference in their individual lives as they have found God and found by the Creator God. Jesus was raised on these Psalms. There is a first century home in Nazareth that I believe is the authentic home of the Holy Family. It is in the monastery of the Sisters of Nazareth and was discovered underneath the monastery in the 1800’s. It has been proven to be an early church of the 4th century and the home has been set apart as a part of the early church. A bishop’s remains have been found in the church. It is a simple house with the remains of a fireplace that I can imagine Joseph, Mary, Jesus along with his brothers and sisters and reciting them from scrolls.

The second person of the Trinity is this Jesus we know who comes to us as a reflection and incarnation of the living God of history…. a moment in time when our humanity was affirmed. We have in Jesus a model of life to share with the world and give ourselves to this person of Jesus as he gave himself for us, It is a moment in time that helps us to define who we are and who God is in our relationship to Creation, each other, and to recognize our own humanity and our God given gifts. Who are we to make a difference for other? Who are we to give of ourselves? How do we accept the knowledge that we have been created by God and are here to serve the purposes of God….people with their God given gifts to make our own choices to choose God or to choose evil. Evil pervades much of what we encounter in life and we often deny its existence. We need to learn to choose what Jesus would have us do rather than choose to ignore, deny, or remain silent as we move through our daily decisions and relationships

I am making a point that the God we know and trust in is given to us by individuals who have become instruments of God in order to fulfill the purposes of God. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.’

And that leads me to the Holy Spirit…the third person of the Trinity. The three in one that we know as God. Pentecost was last week. When Pentecost and the Holy Spirit came to us in the 1st century, the entire following of Jesus were people who were Jewish. Jesus and all of his disciples were Jewish. The early followers of Jesus

had an issue with how and who the message of Jesus was to be offered. Was it just to the Jewish people? People in Jerusalem, including Jesus’ brother James, believed so and acted upon that belief. The early followers of Jesus had many disbutes about what was next in the spreading the news of Jesus…his life, his death, his resurrection.

Paul comes along as a person who sets out to destroy the early Jesus moment.

And we read of this destruction in the Acts of the Apostles. We know of his conversion and his ministry to gentiles who were baptized and became part of the Jesus movement. We see the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the first century Jesus movement. The first two centuries of the Jesus movement was throughout the Roman empire and we know that it was against Roman law to be a Christian. Many died cruel and inhuman deaths. And there were many, many martyrs. Everywhere the Empire was located on the shores of the Mediterranean the early Christians worshiped in homes…there were no churches. They did not continue the Sabbath Saturday worship of their Jewish roots. Instead they defined the day of worship on Sunday, the day of Resurrection. Their worship included what they called an “Agape Feast” with food and fellowship. They received the Eucharist as remembrance of the last supper. Eucharist means thanksgiving in Greek.

Back in the first, second and third centuries of the early Jesus movement they built the infrastructure of the authority of bishops, priests and deacons. Baptisms became a central focus. People took up to four years to study before they were baptized. Still no church buildings. They worshiped in homes as families and communities. It is estimated that by the time of Constantine becoming the Roman emperor in 306 that 10% of the entire Roman empire was Christian and Constantine himself converted to Christianity and was baptized. Christians were now accepted and became the official religion of the empire. Churches were built throughout the empire. This transition has caused much consternation and pain throughout the centuries.

Why? Because of the way the Church and state developed over the centuries, and the way authority took the place of what the early movement had provided in the lives of people, the church lost something of it’s participation in the life of the Spirit.

In 325, the Nicene Creed was established by the leaders of the Church under the leadership of Constantine. It was a Trinitarian formulation of the way in which God

has been revealed as Creator, Redeemer and Holy Spirit. We will be reciting this creed after the sermon.

What I am wanting to offer today is the understanding that God is always present and moving us into a future. But, that future always includes the past. We as a people today do not spend much time learning about history and I find that to be a weakness in our society and church.

For instance…from 1967 to 1970, I was City Missioner of the Diocese of Oregon along with being Curate here at Grace Memorial. It was the 1960s with many civil rights issues. I found a ministry with urban Native American Indians. I help set up the American Indian Center in Portland which became a focus for urban Indians to come to and express themselves as to their own needs and experiences within our culture. I learned a great deal from them. We had as many as 30 different tribes from throughout this country and Canada. Our national church gave $20,000 to this ministry which included a grant to begin a ministry for Native American Indians, run by Native American Indians for purposes of alcohol problems. The native American Indians could not accept AA as a means to rehabilitate. They needed to use their traditions to recover from alcohol abuse which included sweat houses along with other traditions. I am proud to say that NARA, the Native American Rehabilitation Association is still alive and active today. I have had friends that are still sober today and have gone through the program. Native American Indians knew the Spirit of God well before we showed up from Europe. I learned from them how much they cared for each other and cared for Mother Earth. We would do well to learn from them what we have received in creation and how to maintain it.

Why do I mention this story? Because the work of God is not just in the Western world. We did terrible things to the Native American peoples in trying to convert them and leave behind their traditions and heritage. Last week, Sixty Minutes had a segment on what the government and church schools in Canada did to the Native populations,…removing children from their homes, not allowing them to use their native language, keeping them from their parents and on and on. One person interviewed said he could look out of the window at the school and see his home which he was not allowed to go to. His mother and father could not visit him. In his 60’s he said he did not know the meaning of the word “love”.

I have spent years supporting Palestine Christians since 1984. The percentage of Christians in Palestine in 1948 was 18% of the population. Now there is less than 1%. I remember an Anglican priest I met in 1984 asking me the question, “Why do the Palestinians have to pay for the sins of Western Christians?” Over 500 villages were destroyed in 1948 and more 750,000 people became refugees and are still refugees in Lebanon, Syrian, the West Bank and Gaza. I have learned from Palestinian Christians the meaning of perseverance. They are authentic in a way that helps me be a Christian.

God is present in all of creation, within every culture, person, society and nation. But with our wonderful gift of choice, we often choose evil instead of God. We do not allow ourselves to be touched by the living God to move us into a future that can only be defined ultimately by God. Remember….time is a part of Creation. It is all a mystery. As the Psalmist says, “1000 years in God’s sight may be only a blink of our eyes.”

The future awaits us, God wants us, we are here for the purposes of God…to love, to nurture, to give of ourselves, to move forward in trust. Trust in a God who has created and redeemed us and comforts us. Learn to let God consume you, not as a puppet, but as a reality of love, which is the definition we know to be God…God is Love,


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