June 7, 2020 – Trinity Sunday
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
Now 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.”
Fire off the confetti cannons!
It’s Trinity Sunday!
Seriously, it would be a rookie mistake to
Lecture at length during the sermon
The theological significance of the Trinity.
In place of a lecture
Think about a C note on the piano / guitar.
Allow the C note to capture your imagination.
Now, add to the C note an E note.
Now, add to the C and E notes a G note.
What do you have?
You have the opening chord to “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty”,
A hymn that expresses Trinity more thoroughly than an academic lecture:
Holy, holy, holy!
Lord God Almighty
Early in the morning
Our song shall rise to Thee
Holy, holy, holy!
Merciful and mighty
God in three persons
(UMH #64. Words: Reginald Heber, 1826 (Revelation 4:8-11). Music: John B. Dykes, 1861 (Nicaea))
This hymn preserves the mystery of God;
At the same time invoking
The awe-inspiring nature of God and
The power, mercy, love, and purity of God in three persons,
A blessed Trinity.
The worshiper is called to unite in praise with
Saints of biblical times.
“Holy, Holy, Holy!” was written specifically for use
On Trinity Sunday by Reginald Heber,
A poet, vicar, and bishop of Calcutta.
C. E. G.
The Gospel lesson this Trinity Sunday includes
The Great Commission –
The resurrected Jesus commissions his remaining 11 disciples,
To make disciples, baptize, and teach all the world.
The commissioning takes place
On a mountain top in Galilee
Where he had previously taught.
Think: Mount of the Beatitudes
Overlooking the majestic Sea of Galilee.
Similar to resurrection accounts in the Gospel of John,
Jesus appears out of the ether, out of nowhere.
When they saw him, they worshiped him,
But some doubted, the Gospel of Matthew reports.
Those who worshiped him may have fallen
As did Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
When they encountered the resurrected Jesus at the tomb.
He told the women
“Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
– Matthew 28:10
The disciples who worshiped Jesus
May have worshiped with words and music similar to “Holy, Holy, Holy!”
C. E. G.
A few gems catch my eye.
First, the disciples followed directions.
They did as they were told.
They returned 90 miles north to Galilee.
Galilee is a region slightly larger than Monroe County,
About 2,000 square miles.
So, where in Galilee did they go?
They returned to the mountain where Jesus directed them.
They returned to the familiar, the safe, the known.
You may have noticed the past few Sundays
I have been recording the Gospel lesson
From different locations around the Town of Rush.
Today’s Gospel reading came from the grounds of Industry, near the chapel.
In these pandemic days of lock down and isolation
It is my goal to bring to you, the viewing audience,
The same sense of the familiar, safe, and known.
My intention is to associate the Gospel with
Our Christian values
Of faith, worship, and relationship with God.
Setting, location, environment … frees us to connect with God in our holy places.
For the disciples, their familiar, safe, holy place
Where they could experience the essence of Jesus
Was the Mount of Beatitudes.
Which begs the question,
Where is your holy place?
The place where Jesus is known and familiar to you?
It’s the shoreline at Casowasco;
The church camp where I attended and worked during college.
Another holy place for me has been with the poor and disabled in Tecpan and Puruha, Guatemala.
Jesus and I came together with the homeless and hungry in Telica, Nicaragua.
The safe, familiar feet of Jesus have been around the picnic table at our cottage,
Where we are blessed to entertain church members, family, and friends with disabilities.
My holy place is quietly floating in a boat on the Sea of Galilee.
Where is your holy place?
It can be anywhere you serve in the name of Jesus,
With anyone who is on a similar journey of faith,
Engaging in an activity that brings laser focus
And undivided attention
To Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Many of us may associate the church sanctuary as
The safe, holy, familiar place where we encounter Jesus.
I certainly, do.
We are mourning, as in death, over the fact that we can’t safely gather for in-person worship until a vaccine or cure is found.
Anger is a stage of grief.
We are angry because what we had
Has been taken from us and
We’ve been largely powerless to resist.
Know this to be true.
Anger is a stage that will soon pass.
It’s normal to be angry.
Beyond anger and acceptance will come healing.
This time of mourning will pass;
It will take time,
But it will pass.
Anticipate like Advent
The time when we will gather in person once again
To encounter Jesus,
To worship the Holy.
Low, it will be a great and holy day
When Christ appears right before our eyes!
C. E. G.
Secondly, Matthew reported that
When Jesus appeared,
Some of the eleven disciples doubted.
They doubted it was Jesus,
Risen from the dead,
Materializing right before their very eyes.
It puzzles me that
Given all that Jesus and his disciples had been through together
That some would doubt him.
It doesn’t say they didn’t recognize him;
What did they doubt?
This was their first time in the Gospel of Matthew seeing the resurrected Jesus;
So, did they doubt his death? His resurrection?
Did they doubt his teaching?
Did they doubt their own decision to follow Jesus?
Did they doubt that Jesus was both human and Devine?
Jesus commissions the doubters anyway.
An honest confession with full, spiritual transparency,
I’ve had periods of doubt in my life:
Heaven and hell,
Evil and suffering,
God, Jesus, Holy Ghost,
Healing and salvation,
Covenant, Law, and Grace,
Justice, peace, and love.
Jesus commissioned me anyway.
I suspect most everyone on a journey of faith
Has periods of doubt in their life.
In the privacy of the confessional,
I’ve heard doubts shared with me throughout 35 years of ordained ministry.
It’s okay to doubt, to question, to inquire further, and dig deeper.
In fact, I’d suggest it is a healthy thing to do.
Giving each other permission to doubt,
While supporting one another with love, encouragement, and assurance,
Is a means of God’s grace to work wonders and miracles.
To doubt is to be normal.
Jesus commissioned you anyway.
The commission is God’s holy work,
Something only God can do.
C. E. G.
The commission itself is so baked into the Christian psyche
That there isn’t much I can add to the conversation.
Jesus commissions us to three things:
Make disciples of all nations,
Baptize disciples in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and
Teach disciples everything Jesus commanded.
To the point.
It makes for a good three-point sermon
(I’ve preached that sermon many times!).
It makes for a good three-point mission statement.
The third and final detail that catches my attention
Is the concluding promise Jesus makes
That ends the Gospel of Matthew.
“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:20
Numerous parishioners over the years
Who have received a devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, or related, disease
Have expressed to me their fear
Of how their progressive loss of memory will affect their faith.
What happens when I can no longer remember?
What happens if I forget Jesus?
Jesus promises to be our eternal care giver,
Always at our side,
Even, to the end of the age.
As one progressively loses independence,
We can be confident is placing greater dependence on Jesus.
You may forget Jesus.
But Jesus will never forget you.
“I am with you always”
Is the promise of Emmanuel.
The first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew
Opens with an angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph in a dream.
“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. … All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’” – Matthew 1:20, 23
God is with us.
God is with us in our safe, familiar, holy places,
Just as God is with us in our valleys filled with shadows and death.
Though it feels as if the world is out of our control
And we’re angry because of a forced dependence beyond our control,
Remember, God is with us, and
Will remain with us, beyond these trying times,
To the end of the age.
God with us.
God is with us when our faith is strong, and
God is with us when we doubt.
We are commissioned anyways.
When we know that God is with us always,
Tomorrow is filled with hope.
We will overcome.
We will overcome this pandemic.
We will overcome racial injustice.
We will overcome partisan vitriol.
We will overcome our failures and sins.
We will overcome the mortal constraints of life itself.
With God by our side,
We will overcome.
God, in three persons, blessed Trinity.
C. E. G.