Trinity Sunday

Alyona Knyazeva, Old Testament Trinity, 2008, Museum of Russian Icons, Clinton, MA

Gathered through the power of the Holy Spirit, we worship God with gladness. We encourage you to pray over the words that follow, and follow the links within the liturgy. Prayers in this service are adapted from Celebrate God’s Presence (UCPH). Thanks this week to Cor and Heather!

PRELUDE: “Freely, Freely” (Owens)

OPENING PRAYER:

Holy One,
Holy Three,
Holy One:
Find us in the mystery
that is the Holy Trinity.
Help us create, as we are created.
Help us redeem, as we are redeemed.
Help us sustain, as we are sustained.
Find us in the mystery
that is the Holy Trinity.
Open our minds, to all you have made.
Open our hearts, to all you have loved.
Open our souls, to all you have blessed.
Find us in the mystery
that is the Holy Trinity.
Amen.

HYMN OF PRAISE: “All creatures of our God and King”

All creatures of our God and King,
lift up your voice and with us sing,
alleluia, alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
thou silver moon with softer gleam,
Sing praises, sing praises, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
ye clouds that sail in heav’n along,
alleluia, alleluia!
Thou rising morn in praise rejoice,
ye lights of evening, find a voice,
Sing praises, sing praises, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Dear mother earth, who day by day,
unfoldest blessings on our way,
alleluia, alleluia!
The flow’rs and fruits that in thee grow,
let them God’s glory also show,
Sing praises, sing praises, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

And ev’ryone, with tender heart,
forgiving others, take your part,
alleluia, alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
sing praise and cast on God your care,
Sing praises, sing praises, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Let all things their Creator bless,
and worship God in humbleness,
alleluia, alleluia!
To God all thanks and praise belong!
Join in the everlasting song:
Sing praises, sing praises, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

Heavenly Maker,
You have made us a little less than divine,
but you would hardly know it.
Made in your image, we distort it,
and fail to see the divine in each other.
Gracious Redeemer,
You have saved us from ourselves,
and taught us how to love,
but we often forget that love means forgiveness
and forgiveness means love.
Generous Sustainer,
You surround us and animate all that we do.
Your Spirit blows through our lives
if we can only see it, sense it, and show it to others.
Holy One and Holy Three,
surround us and make us one, we pray,
Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

God will give us what we need:
strength for today,
hope for tomorrow,
and forgiveness
for all that is past.
Amen.

SPECIAL MUSIC: “We praise you, O God” (Dutch Traditional)

FIRST READING: Psalm 29

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,[a]
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,[b]
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!

SECOND READING: Isaiah 6.1-8

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[a] 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!”

HYMN OF PRAISE: “All people that on earth do dwell”

All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the LORD with cheerful voice.
Serve him with joy, his praises tell,
come now before him and rejoice!

Know that the LORD is God indeed;
he formed us all without our aid.
We are the flock he surely feeds,
the sheep who by his hand were made.

O enter then his gates with joy,
within his courts his praise proclaim!
Let thankful songs your tongues employ.
O bless and magnify his name!

Because the LORD our God is good,
his mercy is forever sure.
His faithfulness at all times stood
and shall from age to age endure.

“Three hares window” by Martin Cooper Ipswich is licensed under CC BY 2.0 The three hares is a motif found across Europe. The intertwined ears suggest the Holy Trinity.

REFLECTION

It’s easy to get lost in the image of the three hares.

Three hares appear to be chasing each other in a circle, and their ears form a triangle in the centre of the image. Looking closer, you see that there are only three ears for three hares, with each ear doing double-duty as the ear of the other. If you focus again, this time looking at each hare, they clearly appear to have two ears.

So, a unique image, but also a unique story. Or maybe I should say lack of story. For you see, the image of the three hares appears from the Far East to Britain: in China, Nepal, Iran, Southern Russia, Switzerland, Germany, France and the UK. They appear in caves, on sacred artifacts, and on medieval church decorations. In Devon alone, there are 29 examples found in 17 churches.

Theories abound about the source and origin of the symbol, but it remains a mystery. Rabbits and hares are common enough symbols, with some obvious associations and others that are less obvious. The ancients believed that rabbits reproduce spontaneously, and could therefore be associated with the Virgin Mary. This might explain why some of the examples in Devon place the hares near the equally ancient symbol of the Green Man, which in a church setting may represent our fallen state—sort of a point and counterpoint idea.

Point and counterpoint. One of the great ironies of church life is that this place we associate with holiness and purity is also a place built for sinners. This is where we confess, this is where we seek to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters in the faith, and this is the place we hear of the life and death of our redeemer. The healthy are in no need of a doctor, Jesus said, and therefore we find a home in his church.

And this point and counterpoint is also at the heart of our reading from Isaiah. On the surface, it’s a rather elaborate call story, where the prophet appears in the presence of the Most High and takes up his vocation. But ritual action tells us that this is also our story, the story of entering a sacred space to be redeemed.

Everything is the story is meant to overwhelm: the almighty seated on a throne, the six-winged seraphim, and even the song that sounds familiar to our ears as the seraphim call to each other: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The threshold of the imposing doors shook, and the temple filled with smoke.

And then the counterpoint. You might imagine our future prophet would have joy to sing or praise to extend, but instead we get dread. “Woe to me!” he cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” This, of course, is a reference to Exodus 33, when Moses asks to see God but is warned off. “No one may see me and live,” is all God says, a bit of divine legislation that need not be repeated twice.

So Isaiah braces for the worst, but then the extraordinary happens: from the brazier a seraphim retrieves a burning coal, and this coal is skillfully carried to the lips of the prophet. With this his sin is removed, and his feelings of guilt taken away. Then finally, the call and response: 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!”

In our context, it’s hard to miss the movement here. A very human prophet is created, approaching the Most High with all his limitations and flaws. Through ritual he is cleansed of his sin, redeemed to do the work he is called to do. Then this call is formalized, with the pledge to go to the world and speak for God, to tell-forth through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I think you see the shape of this movement. Created, redeemed, sustained—God in three-persons, blessed Trinity. And it all seems straightforward enough until someone asks you to explain it. And for this purpose another symbol emerged during the Middle Ages, that of the “Shield of the Trinity.” Developed by a French Theologian (Peter of Poitiers), the shield has God in the centre circle, with three others circles surrounding the first. The three outer circles are labelled Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with lines connecting all of them. On each line you find writing, with the lines connecting the outer circles to the inner circle labelled “is” and the lines between the outer circles labelled “is not.” Reading the lines and circles, you get this:

God is God
The Son is God
The Spirit is God
God is not the Son
God is not the Spirit
The Son is not the Spirit
(and so on)

It’s not as intriguing as intertwined hares, but it serves a purpose. The persons (personas) of God are separate, but all part of God. Each has a role to play in the unfolding of our life with God—creating, redeeming, sustaining. Each helps us arrive at the place where we enter the picture, speaking for God, through the Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ.

Speaking of those hares, it truly is more than a clever design. Like our circles and lines, the missing or not-missing ears underline the interconnectedness of God. You don’t need six ears to see that each is a hare, each is linked to the others, and each is connected to the whole.

Outside the church there is a surprisingly durable vinyl sign that says “Seeing Christ in Others Since 1821.” Again, not as intriguing as the three hares, but showing us (in words) the same interconnection. Together, God made us and made us one in our humanity. When we see Christ in others, we see evidence of our redemption, and we know that Christ is in our midst. And when we see Christ in others, and we speak to them, we speak through the power of the Spirit, the same Spirit that asks “Whom shall I send?” And the answer—with God’s help—is “Send me!” When we see Christ in others we never see strangers, only friends. We speak to them and for them, making us one.

May you be surrounded by evidence of the Three-in-One God we worship. And may you always trust the words when you answer the call, saying “Send me!” Amen.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-10.png
“Triquètre aux trois lièvres” by Ji-Elle is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

God of peace,
help us to remain in your image.
Help us to look within and confront the parts of ourselves,
that do not conform to your mercy, your grace,
and your desire that everyone be free.

God of compassion,
help us see Christ in others,
help us see Christ in the wounded,
the oppressed, and the vulnerable.
Help us to help others,
as your hands and feet in this world.

God of transformation,
blow through us with your Holy Spirit,
and blow through our community.
Help us overcome the divisions of race,
Help us overcome systems that diminish some
and lift up others, 
and help us to listen, truly listen,
to everyone in pain.
Amen.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

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.

HYMN: “Christ is made the sure foundation”

Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and cornerstone,
chosen of the Lord and precious,
binding all the church in one;
holy Zion’s help forever,
and her confidence alone.

To this temple, where we call thee,
come, O Lord of hosts, today:
with thy wonted loving-kindness
hear thy people as they pray;
and thy fullest benediction
shed within its walls alway.

Here vouchsafe to all thy servants
what they ask of thee to gain,
what they gain from thee forever
with the blessed to retain,
and hereafter in thy glory
evermore with thee to reign.

Laud and honor to the Father,
laud and honor to the Son,
laud and honor to the Spirit,
ever Three and ever One,
One in might, and One in glory,
while unending ages run.

BLESSING

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way,
and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless
until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. Amen.
—1 Thessalonians 5:23

God be with you till we meet again;
loving counsels guide, uphold you,
with a shepherd’s care enfold you;
God be with you till we meet again.

2 thoughts on “Trinity Sunday

  1. You never cease to amaze us!!!!! Never in our lives had we heard about those rabbits. How about establishing some sort of “Daily Growth with Michael” and you could keep telling us facts we never heard of!!! After all, you will have lots of free time LOL.
    Seriously, you have expanded our understanding of the Trinity beyond St. Patrick’s clover. Thank you, once again, for inspiring us.
    There is a personal lesson with those “lines” – God can be in me but I should stop trying to be God and let him solve people’s problems alone. How’s that for growth!!!!
    God bless

  2. The Holy Trinity is confusing. How can one God, be the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit? God says His ways are above our ways and understanding; we are only to know in part and to trust in Him. A way to think of the Holy Trinity is God is our Heavenly Father that we can’t see. He created everything, including us in His image. He is all powerful, all knowing and everywhere. Jesus is the part of God that was seen living on earth as a man, teaching God’s way and redeemed us. The Holy Spirit is the part of God that can live in us sustaining us in His way. God works in mysterious ways!

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