Reflection for Sunday – June 12, 2022
Readings: Proverbs 8:22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16: 12-15
Preacher: Marlene Bessette
It was a bit intimidating to be asked to provide the reflection for Trinity Sunday. I mean, who really wants to try and talk to one of the greatest mysteries of our faith? But I put on my floaties and jumped into the deep end of the pool of homiletic research. Now before I get to my message, let me share a couple of facts I discovered.
I never realized that Trinity Sunday is always the Sunday following Pentecost. But it makes sense. Right after our experience of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, we’re reminded that the Spirit, Jesus, and God are distinct persons, but one God. That this Spirit isn’t something new and different from God (like an angel) but is one with, and an extension of, God and Jesus who continues to teach and guide us.
Second, sorting through the complex theology of the Trinity took a lot of time and patience. The First Council of Nicaea in 325 officially confirmed the deity of Christ, the Council of Constantinople in 381 declared the Trinitarian doctrine of the equality of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son, and the Council of Chalcedon in 451 focused on the relationship of Christ’s humanity to His divinity, declaring that Jesus is fully God and fully human. Wow! It took hundreds of years after the death of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, thousands of people, and dozens of saintly theologians to finalize the elements of the Doctrine of the Trinity. And today we still can’t explain it to the satisfaction of the average person in the pews!
So, I won’t try to explain it either. Instead, I’d like to focus on the first line of today’s gospel and how the facts I shared relate to Jesus’ promise to help us grow and evolve in our faith through and with the Holy Spirit. And that this growth is our hope for a vibrant church despite declining attendance.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” The phrase, “you cannot bear them now” isn’t Jesus holding back because he thinks one more thing may break the disciples. It’s Jesus recognizing that the disciples must continue to grow and evolve before they can more fully understand and carry forward (bear) the meaning of God’s revelation into an unknown and likely dangerous future. It’s a reminder that we, as the church, never have all the answers and so we must always be humbly patient and attuned to the Spirit’s continued guidance. So many have left the church because they lost patience with the slow pace of change and the slow or unsatisfactory response to crisis within the church and in the world.
At this moment, it’s impossible to shut out the horrors all around us: death and destruction in the Ukraine, the senseless and heartbreaking mass shootings in supermarkets and schools, and the daily violence in our city. So, we pray for all involved in these tragedies and for greater love and peace in our world. But we also need to pray for and be open to the tremendous power of the Spirit, asking for wisdom in how to respond and the courage to act. This Spirit, who is one with God, can change the world and the church, through us. Just as Jesus promised. But only when we’re able to bear it. So maybe we also have to be patient and allow the Spirit to work in the Spirit’s time. This patience doesn’t demand that we do nothing, but rather that we stay attuned to Jesus’ call, being ready to act on what Jesus and God, through the Holy Spirit reveals to us.
After all, it was the presence of the Spirit that guided and unified our early church leaders over hundreds of years to the complex truth of the Trinitarian mystery. And as Jesus promised, it’s that same Spirit who can guide us to the truths we struggle with in today’s challenging world and in our shrinking church. But we are the ones who have to ask, listen, and act.
The Spirit is always working to deepen our understanding of Jesus’ revelation. The question is: Will we have the patience, wisdom, and courage to respond?