TRINITY AND COMMUNITY – Trinity Sunday, Year B

May 26, 2024

Revised Common Lectionary
Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
Psalm 33:4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22 (12b)
Romans 8:14-17
Matthew 28:16-20

What does God look like? I remember that as a very small child, I would sometimes lie in bed at night imagining a man in the sky sort of in the shape of a cloud, complete with a beard and a top hat—a bit like Uncle Sam but without the Stars and Stripes. Perhaps you have similar childhood memories of trying to imagine what God looks like.

God can never be fully captured in a pictorial representation, and the task becomes even more difficult when attempting to depict God as both one and three—as Trinity. Yet because we’re human, we continue using the limited tools at our disposal in an effort to deepen our understanding. Theologians speculate while artists try to expand our imaginations.

Perhaps the most famous artistic representation of the Trinity was created by the fifteenth century Russian Iconographer Andrei Rublev, who drew on a story from the book of Genesis in which three travelers visited Abraham and Sarah. The elderly couple extended lavish hospitality to these strangers, who turned out to be angels. They promised Abraham and Sarah, much to their surprise, that they would conceive a son. In Rublev’s depiction, the three figures, representing the three persons of the Trinity, are gathered around a table where they are not merely sharing food with one another, but have left an open space that invites the viewer to participate. God is depicted in this icon as a community that is not closed in on itself but seeks out others to share in its life.

Inspired by this image, American Iconographer Kelly Latimore has created a newer depiction of the Trinity, using Rublev’s icon as a starting point. Latimore depicts the three angels as female, with hands joined in a gesture of the love that binds them together, but also with hands extended to welcome us into their life. As in Rublev’s depiction, a place has been left for us at the table. Instead of bread and wine, the table is set with wheat and grapes that invite us not only to receive but also to participate in the creative work of the divine persons in preparing the food that we will share.

These two icons are consistent with today’s biblical texts and open our imaginations to the mystery we celebrate today. Although the New Testament does not explicitly articulate the doctrine of the Trinity, there are many passages that speak of the relationships among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Today’s reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans reminds us that those relationships flow outward to embrace us and all of creation. God is one and yet God is community that reaches ever beyond itself. We are summoned into the vibrant, loving embrace that draws us into the divine community and in turn forms us into a community of love for one another. The depth of that love achieves its deepest expression at table, where the divine life is shared and nurtured.

If we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, we become aware that we are not simply guests at the table of the Holy One, but have been made children of God. That makes us siblings of Christ, and thereby elevated to the status of heirs of God. Yes, of course we have always been children of the Holy One, created in the divine image. Yet when we are led by the Spirit, Paul tells us, we also receive the “spirit of adoption” (Rom 8:15). We are written into the will, so to speak, and given the promise of an inheritance beyond imagining with Christ our brother. With him and through the Spirit, we too can cry out, “Abba!”—the very same way that Jesus addressed God in the Gospels.

When Christians profess belief in the Trinity—God who is one yet three—we affirm that the Holy One is all about relationship, community, and love. The love that binds the three divine persons reaches ever outward to create, redeem, abide, and empower. As we have been “born of water and Spirit” (Jn 3:5), as we have been baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19), so have we been incorporated into deep, rich, and abiding relationships with God.

Just as we have been welcomed into the Trinity’s circle of love, so are we called to extend that same hospitality to affirm and elevate others through the power of love. There’s room at God’s table for all.

A Hymn for Today: “Come, join the dance of Trinity”

Hymn Society member Richard Leach has based this hymn on the theological concept of perichoresis, which uses the metaphor of dance to describe the interpenetration of the three divine persons of the Trinity with one another. In this text, the community is invited not only to reflect on this dance but also to join in it. Listen here as Leach’s text is sung to a dance-like setting of KINGSFOLD, based on an English folk tune.

Come, join the dance of Trinity,
Before all world begun,
The interweaving of the Three,
The Father, Spirit, Son.
The universe of space and time
Did not arise by chance,
But as the Three, in love and hope,
Made room within their dance.

Come, see the face of Trinity,
Newborn in Bethlehem;
Then bloodied by a crown of thorns
Outside Jerusalem.
The dance of Trinity is meant
For human flesh and bone;
When fear confines the dance in death,
God rolls away the stone.

Come, speak aloud of Trinity,
As wind and tongues of flame
Set people free at Pentecost
To tell the Savior’s name.
We know the yoke of sin and death,
Our necks have worn it smooth;
Go tell the world of weight and woe
That we are free to move!

Within the dance of Trinity,
Before all worlds begun,
We sing the praises of the Three,
The Father, Spirit, Son.
Let voices rise and interweave
By love and hope set free,
To shape in song this joy, this life:
The dance of Trinity.

Text: Richard Leach, b. 1953. © 2001, Selah Publishing Co., Inc. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857.

Image Credit: Trinity, Kelly Latimore, 2016

“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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