May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts always be acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Greetings to you this morning in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And greetings to you on this high holy day, when we come together to worship and celebrate the triune God, the Holy Trinity. That mystical union that exist between God the Father, world without end, the Son, Jesus Christ, the first born of all creation and the Holy Spirit, the giver and sustainer of life.
Today is called Trinity Sunday, and it is the Sunday each year that we celebrate the Triune God. And it is the Sunday when we come together to attempt to make sense of what it means to worship only one God, but to put faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and to trust that the spirit of God will be with us. It is the Sunday each year when we try to answer the question, how can three be one.
For centuries, we have as Christians, struggled with what it means to believe in Jesus, and also to profess the same statement of faith that the Torah requires of us, in the Decalogue, Ten Commandments, to have no other gods before our Lord and creator YHWH (Yahweh). No other Lord then Yahweh, Jehovah, God. But yet, we also accept that at the name of Jesus ever knee shall bow. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who we often refer to directly as the incarnate God. And we also worship and glorify the Holy Spirit, the gift of God presence to us that we receive in baptism, to always be with us, a part of us; and that we are joined to God, through Jesus in baptism by this same Holy Spirit.
So do we worship Jesus? Is the cross an Idol? Is the image of Christ upon the cross a graven image? Is it proper to ask the Holy Spirit to intervene in our lives? This question has torn the church apart for centuries. For example, the early church, the Eastern Church, what would come to be known as Greek Orthodox to us, created images, icons, to help people pray and worship God. The western church condemned these images and one of the first schisms in the church took place and the body of Christ was broken, divided.
And this question was also front and center in the debates between Protestants and Catholics during the reformation; between Martin Luther and Rome, between the Church of England and the continental Catholics and also was a question in the formation of our diocese, the diocese of Huron. Just how catholic should our expression of piety be? Is the Eucharist a veneration of false idols? Should we only preach the word and celebrate the Eucharist sporadically and only a few times a year? It is a question that has troubled us and a question that has led to divisions in the body of Christ, both in the Diocese of Huron, in the world wide commune of Anglicans and the church universal. How do we worship one God, with three persons?
It is also a bad question.
Language, many times, has been the cause of the problem. Translations and miscommunications have lead to wars, disagreements and arguments that have consumed the church and its people for centuries. And it continues today.
And when it comes to the Trinity, we have been for far too long, subject to bad translations that have lead too much ink being spilled over theological interpretations, not mention blood between catholic and protestants. Allow me to explain. As many of you know, a joke won’t translate from language to language. The meaning is somehow lost in translation.
When St Paul wrote about the persons of the trinity, he wrote in Greek and used the word, prosopon. This word is used to describe the face or mask that actor would wear in a stage production in ancient Greece. It is meant to represent the face that is seen by the audience, the mask the actor wears, the prosopon.
Paul’s meaning and intention, I believe, seems to indicate that there is one God, but with different faces that we see and come to know. There is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. That they are in effect one, but with different faces for us humans to see and experience. The actor beneath of of course is one person, being of one substance.
When the bible was translated into Latin there was no word that was equivalent to prosopon in Latin. Instead the word persona was chosen and used to represent the Trinity. Which then lead to the development of three separate personas or three persons once the text arrived in English. Separate, distinct but related. And this translation miscue has lead to theological debates and arguments in Christianity for centuries but more importantly it has led to a separation between God and us.
Seeing each person of the Trinity as separate and distinctly other has lead far to many people to seeing the Trinity in certain was. God as separate and other, Jesus as someone who came, died and rose again and then ascended to heaven and is gone, for now. Our relationship with God comes through the Spirit only. That God sent Jesus and Jesus sent the spirit and this spirit joins us to God in a covenantal relationship through baptism.
We focus on the spirit in our times and not on Christ. We forget that God acts in the world today, like he did when he first created it, when he freed the Israelites from Egypt and led his people to the Promised Land. How he continued to send them prophets and to work in their lives. And finally how he incarnated himself in the form of Jesus Christ, to walk among them, heal them, and die for them and for us on the cross and then rose again so that all may have eternal life.
And while it may seem confusing at times, we must at all times remember that we come together to worship not God, or Jesus or the Spirit, but one God. We worship a God who is active in our world and in our lives today. We worship a God that incarnated himself so that we may be joined to him in baptism and who continues to incarnate himself through us each and every time we join another to us in baptism.
Today we come to worship the triune God. Three faces, three prosopons, but one actor beneath, one substance, one God.