THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST: TRINITY SUNDAY
One of my favorite theologians, Frederick Buechner, wrote in his book Wishful Thinking: "The much-maligned doctrine of the Trinity is an assertion that, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, there is only one God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit [or Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer] mean that the mystery beyond us, the mystery among us and the mystery within us are all the same mystery. Thus, the Trinity is a way of saying something about us and the way we experience God. The Trinity is also a way of saying something about God and the way God is within Godself, i. e., God does not need the Creation in order to have something to love because within Godself love happens."
So, the Trinity is all about love and relationship! What has been considered a basically incomprehensible theological concept is actually quite simple: the three persons of the Trinity are in a loving relationship with each other - so much so that it is impossible to tell where one begins and another ends. And this helps us to understand our human nature better, because we have a model in the Trinity for our own relationships. If we embrace the African concept of Ubuntu, the idea that all of humanity is inextricably linked to each other, then like the Trinity, we no longer can tell where one of us begins and another ends. But instead of God in three persons, we have humanity in 7 billion persons! All of us in perfect union, perfect harmony with each other. This is what God intended for us in Creation. This is unity in diversity! And this is what our discipleship calls us to help bring about.
Father Michael +
THE DAY OF PENTECOST
My Gospel Reflection for this week isn’t about the Gospel at all. If anything, it’s about what is recounted in our lesson from The Acts of the Apostles. So, let’s just rename this post - for this week only – as my New Testament Reflection.
We read this week about that first Pentecost after Christ ascended into heaven. Pentecost was always an important feast in the Jewish tradition, but this Pentecost in particular gave us something quite new: a Church, the body of Christ! So, I understand our reason for celebrating, but why all of the Red? I get the liturgical color – red, the color of fire, symbolizes the Holy Spirit’s descent in “tongues of fire;” but why are people who attend services on this day encouraged to wear red? We aren’t expected to wear purple during Lent, Blue during Advent or Green or White in their liturgical seasons. What’s all this fuss about wearing Red? Well, because it’s fun, that’s why.
Pentecost is a party – a birthday party! So, we dress up in Red to show our joy. But not all churches follow this joyful tradition. I am certain that some more self-styled “serious” Christians might either renounce or poke fun at our little symbolic gesture. Some might say that it is just a gimmick. Others might add that this practice is childish or foolish. To this I say: “Oh, lighten up!” The sea of red brings a special ‘togetherness’ to our worship. It symbolizes our celebration of community on this day. It is joyful. So there! After all, it’s the Church’s Birthday! The explosion of the Christian faith into the hearts and lives of people more than 1900 years ago on that First Pentecost signaled the coming of the Holy Spirit into human lives; and so the Church was born. The Spirit has been in the church ever since!
On that first Pentecost, God literally changed the course of history; and the power of the Holy Spirit continues to drive the Church and Christ’s mission to this very day. Wearing red this Sunday is a simple, symbolic gesture; it doesn’t mean much in the whole scheme of things, but the coming of the Spirit to us in Word and Sacrament now that is worthy of our attention! And that is worthy of celebration! Happy Birthday!