May 30, 2021
The church teaches us about the centrality of the Trinity in our understanding of God. And then the church turns around and makes it almost impossible to talk about the Trinity, typically using lots of wordy, complicated sentences that seem, more than anything, to obscure what we’re talking about. As I’ve often recounted, I took a course at Harvard in trinitarian theology and history. To make a vital point, the professor skipped out on the last lecture. It was his way of saying that there is no way to wrap-up the Trinity in words. We understand the Trinity, but we can’t explain it.
For example, at the beginning of Genesis the spirit moves over the roiling waters, but we’re told that that spirit isn’t our Holy Spirit. We shouldn’t talk about the Trinity in temporal terms, such as God the Father was there at the beginning, God the Son lived a couple of thousand years ago, and upon his ascension he sent the Advocate—the Holy Spirit—to dwell with us throughout eternity, because all of the three understandings of God were there from the beginning.
We talk about God in terms of job descriptions—Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier—but we really shouldn’t. The Spirit is there at Jesus’ baptism and at the Transfiguration, but we’re also taught that the church really didn’t have a defined theology of the Trinity, and particularly the Holy Spirit, until four hundred years after Jesus. So, whatever we learn from Scripture is not what it seems because it needs to conform to understandings that were centuries away.
My thought—and this is my thought, even though I consider myself a Christian theologian—is that our understanding of the Trinity should be as simple as possible. When we veer into too many words, similes (“the Trinity is like …. “), and lots of diaphanous language—we’ve lost our way. (Although each of the examples I’ve just given are strategies and images that do, indeed, help in understanding the Trinity, but not as a hook to hang an entire, complex theology onto.
And by this time, I’ve lost you all, and I should have taken the example of my trinitarian theology professor who had the good sense not to show up. Simply: The Trinity exists, three co-equal, independent aspects of a single God. And we couldn’t get along without any of them in their richness and fullness. Full stop.
Celebrant Blessed be God: Father Son, and Holy Spirit.
People And blessed be his kingdom, now and forever. Amen.
Celebrant Beloved God, as we approach your Presence, guide and stir us with your Holy Spirit, that we may become one body, one spirit
in Jesus Christ our Savior. Chiefly are we bound to praise you for the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; for he is the
true Paschal Lamb, who was sacrificed for us, and has taken away the sin of the world. By his death he has destroyed death, and by his rising to life again he has won for us everlasting life. Amen.
THE COLLECT OF THE DAY
Celebrant The Lord be with you.
People And also with you.
Celebrant Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
THE LITURGY OF THE WORD
A Reading from Isaiah at the 6th Chapter
And I said, “Here am I; send me!”
A Reading from Isaiah at the sixth chapter.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.
And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”
And he said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate; until the Lord sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land. Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.
Reader The Word of the Lord.
People Thanks be to God.
Reader The 29th Psalm, said responsively
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name; worship the Lord in holy splendor.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!
The Epistle to the Romans, at the 8th Chapter
The whole creation has been groaning in labor
Reader A Reading Ephesians
So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Reader The Word of the Lord.
People Thanks be to God.
The Gospel of John, at the 3rd Chapter
You are witnesses of these things
Celebrant The holy gospel according to John
People Glory to you, O Lord.
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jewish teaching authorities. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Celebrant The Gospel of the Lord.
People Thanks be to God.
Sermon Pastor Neil
Response to the sermon:
Celebrant: Let us bless the Lord.
People: Thanks be to God.
THE NICENE CREED
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son, he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Prayers of the People
Reader In peace, we pray to you, Lord God—
Grant, Almighty God, that all who confess your name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
Guide the people of this land, and of all nations, in the ways of justice and peace; that we may honor one another and serve the common good. Heal the rifts that bind, vex, and scare us. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory. Heal the wounds of those who have been victimized by climate change and destruction. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as he loves us. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit; give us purpose and hope in troubles, and bring us the joy of your salvation. Bestow courage upon those who look out at the world, and who wonder if there is a safe and gracious place for them. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
We commend to your mercy all who have died, that your will for them may be fulfilled; and, we pray that we may share with all your saints in your eternal kingdom. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
Silence to lift up our own prayers to God
Celebrant Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage, we may always be supported by this community of fellowship of love and prayer. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
A Confession of Our Sins to God
Celebrant Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.
Silence may be kept.
Minister and People Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
The Bishop, when present, or the Priest, stands and says
Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins ☩ through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.
Celebrant The Peace of the Lord be always with you.
People And also with you.
The Great Thanksgiving
Celebrant The Lord be with you.
People And also with you.
Celebrant Lift up your hearts.
People We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People It is right to give our thanks and praise.
God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of glory and praise. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. In fulfillment of his true promise, the Holy Spirit came down on this day from
heaven, lighting upon the disciples, to teach them and to lead
them into all truth; uniting peoples of many tongues in the
confession of one faith, and giving to your Church the power
to serve you as a royal priesthood, and to preach the Gospel
to all nations. Glory to you for ever and ever.
At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home. By your will they were created and have their being.
From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another. Have mercy, Lord, for we are sinners in your sight.
Again and again, you called us to return to your fold. Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous Law. And in the fullness of time you sent your only Son, born of a woman, to fulfill your Law, to open for us the way of freedom and peace. By his blood, he reconciled us. By his wounds, we are healed.
And therefore, we praise you, joining with the heavenly chorus, with prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and with all those in every generation who have looked to you in hope—to proclaim with them your glory, in their unending hymn:
Celebrant and People Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
Celebrant And so, Father, we who have been redeemed by him, and
made a new people by water and the Spirit, now bring before you these gifts. Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.
On the night he was betrayed he took bread, said the blessing ☩, broke the bread, and gave it to his friends, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
After supper, he took the cup of wine, gave thanks ☩, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”
Remembering now his work of redemption, and offering to you this
sacrifice of thanksgiving, (said together) We celebrate his death and resurrection, as we await the day of his coming.
Lord God of our Ancestors: God of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar; Isaac and Rebekah; and Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, born to Mary, his mother, and watched over by Joseph, with a father’s care: Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this table for solace only, and not for strength, for pardon only, and not for renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his name.
(said together) Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the Bread.
Send now, we pray, your Holy Spirit, upon your redeemed and holy people, ☩ and upon these your gifts of bread and wine, that we may bear fruit worthy of repentance. Bless us to abound in hope, be filled with all joy and peace in believing, and receive our inheritance with all your saints in light.
People Through Christ and with Christ and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, to you be honor, glory, and praise, for ever and ever. Amen.
And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to pray:
The Lord’s Prayer
People Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
A Call to Communion
Celebrant The gifts of God for the people of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.
The General Thanksgiving
Celebrant and People
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.
Celebrant Let us bless the Lord.
People Thanks be to God.
Celebrant Sisters and brothers, we go out into the world in peace. We live and walk as part of God’s beloved community. May God help us all to be of good courage, to hold on to what is good, and to return to no one an evil for an evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, aid the suffering, do justice and hope, honor all people, and let our gentleness be known by everyone. May God, who raised our Lord Jesus from death, lift us up and restore us to wholeness. And may God bless us all, ☩ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Celebrant Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
People Thanks be to God.
Lodovico Carracci painted this image of the most poignant intimacy. The symbolism of the painting is redolent in countless paintings of the dead Jesus being held in the arms of his mother, with a formulist term Pietà. Lodovico takes the subject matter and switches it because in his painting Jesus is held in the arms of his Father. Like all Pietàs, the feelings express the transcendent in terms of great intimacy and sincere humanity. The painting also seems also in the spirit of a line of paintings known as the “Lamentation of Christ.”
After Jesus was crucified, his body was removed from the cross allowing his friends to mourn over his body. The overall subject matter is trinitarian. Because this Pietà doesn’t include Mary, the artist is specific in including God (as an old man); Jesus’ commanding the foreground and much of the painting; and the Holy Spirit, in the typical representation as a dove. The angels surrounding Jesus’ body are carrying the implements of his death: the cross and angel on the upper right; the nails and an angel on the lower right. Rich contrasts of light and shadow abound, infused by a profound sense of pathos. There is decidedly a theological emphasis on the Humanity of Jesus. Oftentimes in both Pietàs and Lamentation paintings, the cross, nails, and landscape is portrayed in terms of context.
Ludovico (or Lodovico) Carracci (21 April 1555 – 13 November 1619) was an Italian, early-Baroque painter, etcher, and printmaker born in Bologna. His works are characterized by a strong mood invoked by broad gestures and flickering light that create spiritual emotion and are credited with reinvigorating Italian art, especially fresco art. He died in Bologna in 1619.