GRACE, LOVE, COMMUNION – Trinity Sunday, Year A

June 4, 2023

Revised Common Lectionary
Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9
Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56 (52b)
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
John 3:16-18

Have you ever spoken hard things to a person you love? Parents, teachers, employers, and others need to speak firmly at times to children, students, or staff members that they care about. How can they do so in a way that also conveys love and caring?

In his Second Letter to the Corinthians, and especially in the last few chapters, Paul delivers several difficult messages to a community that he loves. In his first letter to this same church, he had addressed internal divisions that plagued the community. This second letter, which scholars believe to be several writings that have been combined into its present form, deals with some problems that had arisen since Paul’s first visit. The last few chapters of Second Corinthians address conflicts over Paul himself and challenges to his ministry, to which he responds fiercely and firmly.

Even though he uses some harsh language to address problems in Corinth, Paul shows his pastoral heart and his love for the community in the brief and surprisingly positive ending of the letter. In today’s Epistle reading we hear that short passage, which is just three verses long.

As he brings his letter to its conclusion, Paul offers five short exhortations. In contrast to the fiery admonitions that immediately precede this passage, he first says, “Farewell,” but not in the ordinary sense of that word. His wish here might also be translated as “Rejoice.” His desire for this community is that they should live in joy, not in dissension.

Paul then summarizes the message of the entire letter with four brief instructions: “Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace” (2 Cor 13:11). He calls not merely for an end to conflict but for deep unity. Some scholars have noted that these four exhortations could be expressed as “Put yourselves in order, encourage one another, be united, live in peace.”

Paul then concludes with a benediction that most of us will recognize from its frequent use in Christian worship: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13). This formula is the most elaborate of the greetings and benedictions used by Paul in any of his letters. It clearly relates to his heartfelt wish for unity and peace in the Corinthian community that can only be brought about by gifts of grace, love, and communion that come from God.

While he may not have been able to articulate the doctrine of the Trinity, Paul does express in his benediction three distinct identities of the one God as they had been revealed in the life and teachings of Jesus. Jesus called God his abba and spoke of himself as God’s Son. Risen from the dead, Christ has poured out the Holy Spirit on the community of believers to remain with us always.

The loving relationship of the three divine persons is for Paul a model for the way in which disciples of Christ are to relate with one another. Just as Jesus is one with his abba, Paul’s fervent wish is that the church may also be united in love and that its members may live in communion with one another by the working of the Holy Spirit.

The very brief passage that we hear today from Second Corinthians is not about unpacking the mystery of the Trinity, but about embracing the deep, abiding love into which our God, three-in-one, has invited us. The Trinity is not an intellectual problem to be solved but an awe-inspiring mystery that shapes our lives as individuals and as a community, drawing us together more deeply in love for one another and for the world we have been sent to serve.

A Hymn for Today: “Praise with Joy the World’s Creator”

John L. Bell, FHS, and Graham Maule, members of the Iona Community in Scotland, have created hymn texts that use language and images that expand our ways of singing about God and challenge the church to deeper concern for those who are forgotten. The first three stanzas of this hymn address each of the three persons of the Trinity in strikingly fresh contemporary language. The final stanza gives praise to the “one God in community,” expressing in sung poetry the message we hear in today’s reading from 2 Corinthians. Click here for a recording of this hymn sung by the congregation of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City.

Praise with joy the world’s Creator,
God of justice, love, and peace,
source and end of human knowledge,
God whose grace shall never cease.
Celebrate the Maker’s glory—
pow’r to rescue and release.

Praise to Christ who feeds the hungry,
frees the captive, finds the lost,
heals the sick, upsets religion,
fearless both of fate and cost.
Celebrate Christ’s constant presence—
friend and stranger, guest and host.

Praise the Spirit sent among us,
liberating truth from pride,
forging bonds where race or gender,
age or nation dare divide.
Celebrate the Spirit’s treasure—
foolishness none dare deride.

Praise the Maker, Christ, and Spirit,
one God in community,
calling Christians to embody
oneness and diversity.
This the world shall see reflected:
God is One and One in Three.

Text: John L. Bell, b. 1949, and Graham Maule, 1958-2019, alt. © 1987,
WGRG, Iona Community, admin. GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857.

Image Credit: Celtic Trinity Knot Symbol

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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