156 N. Monroe St.
P.O. Box 507
La Grange, Texas 78945
Father Eric: 979.968.3910
in the Preschool
Tuesday - Friday
9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
The Sermon on Trinity Sunday
St. James, La Grange
Bishop Kai Ryan
Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers, mothers, and kinspeople;
Glory to you in the splendor of this temple;
Glory to you, in the lives of future generations;
Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever. Amen.
What a glorious day to join you at St. James! You and Father Eric have worked hard to restore the past, to invite new companions into your fellowship, and to plan and give in ways that build the future. What a delight to praise God and seek God’s blessings with you on this June day!
Across America, people are celebrating Father’s Day. It’s fitting to stop and express our affection for the fathers here, and to remember those separated from us by miles or death. Much like Mother’s Day, a day focused on fathers can be complicated for fathers, for men who are not fathers, and for all of us who are children of fathers. If you feel a mix of joy, gratitude, grief, and confusion on days like today, know that you’re among company. If you are fortunate to have your father – natural, adopted, or step - with you – physically or virtually today, and to have a strong and loving relationship with your father and with your children, to
celebrate without apology. And if you are missing your father or kids or grieve a difficult relationship, be assured of our love and empathy and prayers for you, too.
In the Church today, we aren’t celebrating Father’s Day, but instead “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” Day, the Feast of the Trinity. Celebrating God as Trinity can be complicated, too. The point of Trinity Sunday, the focus of our observance, like Father’s Day, is a relationship. God’s internal relationship and movement of love within the Divine. Our relationship with the God revealed to us as Trinity. And God’s invitation that we relate to God and each other in love - in the service of our siblings in the world. And it’s true. Relationships are always a little complicated, whether those relationships are among human beings, within the godhead, or between God and us.
On this Sunday, the Church makes its boldest claims. That what we human creatures experience of God in Jesus Christ reflects with accuracy the inner workings of the divine. We experience the majesty of creation, exquisite and living, and discern the power of God, Father, Son, and Spirit. We hear of Jesus’s death and resurrection, his words of mercy, and his powerful presence with his followers, and discern the redemptive love of God, Father, Son, and Spirit. We are led by light and challenged to love and risk in accordance with Jesus’ character and discover the inspiration of the Holy One, Father, Son, and Spirit.
Whichever way the Church turns, there God stands ready to meet us and we say with boldness – here we meet Jesus, who shows us his Father and his Sonship, intimately connected in the movement of the Spirit. Even so, the Church’s traditional formula elicits complicated reactions similar to those with which we humans struggle when considering the beauty and brokenness of human relationships. Father and Son, being gender-specific identities, seem to exclude women from reflecting the character of the Godhead.
Through the ages, the gender-specific names for the inner workings of the Trinity have been used to justify excluding women from leadership, from the priesthood (and by extension, from the episcopacy, of course), and from a full claim on the adoption to which St. Paul points in Romans. Today those clear that God has no gender-identity argue that the Church’s name for God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, should be replaced by a gender-neutral formula that is less vulnerable to human manipulation or corruption. One alternative – “One God, Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier” gets beyond the gendered language, certainly. But it substitutes functional terms for relational ones and creates new
challenges. By assigning each person of the Trinity with one part of salvation, this new formula takes us right back to worries about role rigidity within the human family.
Some years ago, a parish purchased new membership software. It
allowed members to update info on-line; sign up for ministries, and track contributions. The staff could receive a message about a pastoral need and immediately access driving directions to the member’s home. Bells and whistles for all. As soon as the switch-over began, however, calls and emails pointed out the fly in the ointment. Each record was designated by a “Head of Household” and a male adult member of the family was always the default “Head of Household”. “Head of Household” got credit for contributions, was assumed to be the pledger, and was the primary name on any email sent to the family unless it was about the enrollment of children in Sunday School. In other words, the software assumed that the man in the home was the Provider, Guide, and Judge – the person with power and authority.
Of course, American families are far more complex; few consistently have a single provider or decider. And to pretend that they do shield us from discovering the beautiful complexity of the gifts and graces that make a household – and a congregation - thrive.
Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier describe God’s work. But we lose the nature of Trinity when we plug functional language in where relational language has served. The scriptures tell us that creating, redeeming, and sanctifying emerge from the related actions of all three persons of the Trinity. In the beginning, God created, but not one thing was created, except through the Word, and all arose as the Spirit moved over the waters. Redemption and Sanctification, similarly, are not the particular jobs of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but the creative, interrelated, loving, mutually dependent life of the Three-person God. It is that relatedness that the traditional Trinitarian formula, in the limited style of human language, tries to convey. There is no generalized identity here, but the clarity and vulnerability of persons. Father means there must be a Son or Daughter or Child; Child means there must be Father and Mother. The names themselves reveal mutuality.
In our experience, talking about God is complicated. But God’s love in Trinity spilling over in God’s love for us – for you and for me and for all human beings created in God’s image- is not complicated. God’s love is perfect and constant, and unrestrained. God’s love shows us the way of love.
We are called to a life of mutuality and love, and God who is Trinity equips us for that life.
Those in Christ, Paul writes in Romans, receive access to the grace which brings them into peace with God. That peace empowers endurance and character and instills hope, even when we are in the midst of suffering. In the end, all who come through suffering from hope share in God’s glory in ways befitting those into whom the Holy Spirit has poured God’s love. Living in relationship with the God who is known to us as Trinity is an intricate dance whose steps are choreographed by the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ himself.
We are summoned to that dance.
I see you here at St. James, living a life of mutuality, connected to God and to each other, and to the faithful departed who preceded you in this community, and anticipating those who will come after.
You have received the resources passed down by earlier generations and have stewarded them – not just to maintain an historic building, but to nurture a living community.
You have partnered with the Diocese, and with Second Chance, and have invested in your preschool – receiving help from those beyond your walls and zip code and generation, and extending support and help to your current neighbors, and to those who will grow to love and serve the Lord as the future leaders of St. James, La Grange, the Diocese, and Texas itself.
Human relationships are rarely simple.
Their wonder and beauty lie in the give and take, the serving and
forgiving, the moments of disagreement and reconciliation.
Our part in God’s dance is a life of relating in love – to sisters and
brothers and siblings, to daughters, and godchildren, and grandsons; to uncles and grandmothers and neighbors and strangers. And, of course, to mothers and fathers.