And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” –Matthew 28:18-20
This Sunday is Trinity Sunday, and as many a colleague and theologian has admitted, it strikes fear in the heart of most preachers. The Trinity. What is it? How is it? Who is it? Will someone ask me about it during coffee hour? However do you explain this heady doctrine that mystified the church for centuries and why should I even care?
I often quote Rev. Dr. David Lose (who recently was named President of the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia) as a favorite theological guidepost for preaching and Lose has nailed it yet again this week in his blog, “Dear Working Preacher.” He suggests that rather than trying to explain the inexplicable concept of the Trinitarian “one God in three persons” that we would do better to preach about what a faith community look and acts like when it is living as a Trinitarian congregation. Lose’s “short definition of a Trinitarian congregation is one that sees itself as called and sent by the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed for the sake of the world God created and loves so much. (…“the Trinity backwards.” We believe that God the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to recognize and believe the good news of God the Son who, in turn, reveals to us the loving heart and mission of God the Father…) So a Trinitarian congregation is, in essence, one that sees itself called into mission by the Trinitarian God we confess.”
This make so much sense to me—and I pray that it helps you to get your head wrapped around this theological notion. How wonderful then that the authors of the Revised Common Lectionary (that system by which we follow a series of assigned texts through the church year) offer us the “Great Commission” text from the gospel according to Matthew. Here as Jesus is getting ready to leave them, the disciples are called and commissioned into mission and sent by the Holy Spirit for the sake of God—with Jesus’ promise to be with them (in the form of the Holy Spirit) guiding, energizing, and encouraging them ‘to the ends of the age’.
As followers of Jesus we too are called and commissioned, we too are sent for the sake of God, and we too can be assured that the Holy Spirit is with us – there before us beckoning us forward setting the direction for our calling like a GPS; behind us watching our back so that we do not fear the challenges of discipleship; over our heads offering a vision of what God needs from us; and under our feet providing the courage and energy to propel us into the mission – the Holy Spirit with us…every step of the way, to the ends of the earth, to the ends of the age. What a blessing it is to know this given the risks and challenges of being a follower! What a blessing to know this given the bold decision that we have just made as a congregation!
Beloved, we have been commissioned for greatness, to be a Trinitarian congregation that goes OUT into the streets, shares the good news in order to witness to God’s love and forgiving grace, and encourages others to know of this amazing grace. We have been commissioned for greatness, to be a Trinitarian congregation that teaches everyone the things that Jesus taught us so that the everyone might see that God loves them and the Earth. We have been commissioned for greatness, to be a Trinitarian congregation that lives God’s love through worship, community and mission – not to grow a church, not to gain members or pledges, but to form faith in people’s hearts. We have been commissioned for greatness so that we might be a channel for faith, growing in God’s beloved people the knowledge and assurance that the Triune God can be trusted to love them unconditionally, be with them through thick and thin and forgive them to the ends of the age. May it be so.
Rev. Wendy Miller Olapade (firstname.lastname@example.org)