There’s Something to This Trinity Thing

St. Philip Lutheran Church
30 May 2021 + The Holy Trinity
John 3.1-17
Rev. Josh Evans, preaching




In case you ever wondered what it’s like to write a sermon for Trinity Sunday… well, why don’t I just show you…

Why yes, I did spend an hour of my Friday afternoon this week making that clever TikTok video — thanks for asking!

Even if the Schitt’s Creek reference is lost on you, you get the point – and the effect is the same. Trying to explain or understand the doctrine of the Trinity is a dizzying spiral where most roads lead to heresy and all others lead to a headache not unlike a brain freeze from eating your ice cream too fast.

Let’s face it: Today is a weird day about a weird doctrine that no one really understands or can ever fully explain. Yet, at the same time, the Holy Trinity is so foundational to who we are as church. When we recite the creeds, we confess what we believe about each person of the Trinity. When we are baptized, we invoke the presence and blessing of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We even name congregations after it.

There’s something to this Trinity thing — or at least that’s what I told myself when I decided to get a tattoo on my arm of one of the symbols for the Trinity. For 18 years, growing up at Trinity Lutheran Church, I never really thought about what our church name meant — it was just the name of our church. Several years later, when I found myself in a community connected to a First Trinity Lutheran Church — and then later a Holy Trinity Lutheran Church — I still never really gave much thought to what those names meant. They were just the names of the communities I belonged to.

For me, my tattoo of the Trinity reminds me not so much of the creeds and doctrines of the church but of the relationships I’ve experienced in those Trinity communities.

That, I think, is what the Trinity and this weird feast day come down to: relationships. The way God is in relationship with God’s self and the way God is in relationship with all of us.

At first glance, it’s easy to overlook any mention of the Trinity in the late-night conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. But, if we really pay attention, we notice that Jesus is telling Nicodemus about the ways God relates to God’s creation: God the Creator is the one who so loves the world God has made that God sends the Son to redeem the world, a world which is reborn through water and the Spirit.

And it’s God’s rationale and end-game in all of this that is most remarkable: that God so loved the world… that the world might be saved through the one God has sent. Love is the beginning and the end of what God is up to in the world!

In a sermon made famous at the royal wedding of Harry and Meghan, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Michael Curry preached about the power of love and a world where love is the way:

When love is the way, unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.
When love is the way, then no child would go to bed hungry in this world ever again.
When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.
When love is the way, poverty would become history.
When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.
When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more.
When love is the way, there’s plenty good room. Plenty good room. For all of God’s children.
And when love is the way, we actually treat each other – well, like we’re actually family.
When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters. Children of God.

This love is the way of the Trinity. There’s something about this love thing that the writer of John’s gospel names more than forty times – and there’s something about this Trinity thing, too.

As an alternative to “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” St. Augustine has famously referred to the Trinity as “Lover, Beloved, and Love.” Love is the way of the Trinity. We know love. The love between spouses, the love between parents and children, the love between lifelong friends, the love of this faith community every time we gather together. Those kinds of love are powerful – and God’s kind of love is even more powerful still.

Under the cover of night, Nicodemus comes to Jesus and gets to glimpse a vision of the God of love beyond anything he could comprehend as a teacher of Israel. So too in our night, we encounter:

A God who so loves us and refuses to give up on us,
a God who becomes one of us in the flesh and offers healing and wholeness and salvation to all of creation,
a God who continually invites us into the work of love and healing through rebirth — baptism! — by water and the Spirit.

God is Trinity, and God is love. If there’s one Trinity buzzword you take away today, let it be love. Extravagant, precious, incomprehensible, powerful, earth-changing, invitational love.

I’m not sure I understand the doctrine of the Trinity any better today than when I was growing up at Trinity Lutheran Church in Utica, Michigan. But I do know there’s something to this Trinity thing because I have experienced it to be true in community and in relationship.

Whether we understand all the theological buzzwords or not, whether we think we’re qualified or not, whether we feel that love or not — that love is for us.

The God who creates, redeems, and sustains us, pulls us into community with one another and sweeps us into the work of love, the way of love, with the power to change the world.

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