A Sermon on the Trinity: Doomed from the Start?

Icon by Andrei Rublev, three angels hosted by Abraham. Some imagine the three angels as the Persons of the Trinity. Via Wikimedia Commons

Preaching on the Trinity—is this sermon doomed from the start? Is it even possible to talk about the Trinity in 20 minutes and have it be relevant to a congregation?

I preached on the Trinity this past Sunday, May 31, at Webster Groves Baptist Church. I went beyond the lectionary passage in Romans, using Romans 8:12-25. You can listen to the sermon here, beginning at around 25:00 minutes. Here’s some points I highlighted:

  • We need to make sure that we don’t use words like “flesh” and “body” as only sinful. Failure to do so can be harmful to bodies and reify the mind/spirit dualism. Our bodies are good, because they are created by God. Therefore, I interpreted Paul’s use of flesh as something narcissistic—living as if others did not exist. An opposite of loving your neighbor as yourself, so to speak.
  • I attempted to look at how our lives reflect the Trinity—we are the imago trinitatis, after all. In particular, I looked at community, hospitality (including adoption), and groaning/suffering. I connected each theme to the Romans passage, to the experience of the Triune persons, and to our own experiences. We realized the congregation already reflected the image of the Trinity in how they were practicing community, hospitality, and supporting one another in suffering and grief.
  • In the benediction, I called Jesus our brother (based on the adoption motifs in Romans), and the Holy Spirit our companion. Someone came up to me and asked about it. I got to thinking—what does it mean that Jesus is our brother? The Baptist hymnal in the church, in its topical organization, had topics such as “Jesus as Friend,” “Jesus as Savior” and “Jesus as Triumphant,” but not “Jesus our Brother.” I imagine most hymnals are similar. How might emphasizing Jesus as brother make a difference in how we think (and act) on Christology and the doctrine of the Trinity? (I have some ideas, connected to perichoresis, participation, and divinization).

My Great Cloud of Witnesses (aka, resources used for the sermon):

  • Kasemann, Ernst. Commentary on Romans. Translated and edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980. The reason why I used this commentary is that Kasemann emphasizes Paul’s connection of creation with anthropology (177), implying that Paul’s notion of the person is not the modern “I”. Plus, he highlights Paul’s attention to paradoxes.
  • This commentary from Working Preacher. Working Preacher offers commentary on the lectionary passages usually from seminary professors. Audrey West encouraged me to think about the dualisms present and to focus on the “nitty-gritty realities of life.”
  • Shannon Johnson Kersher, “Slanted Truth,” on Day 1. I appreciate her honesty in describing the mysteriousness of the Trinity.
  • Craig C. Hill, “Romans,” in John Muddiman et al., eds., The Pauline Epistles, updated selection. ed., Oxford Bible Commentary (Oxford England: Oxford University Press, 2010). His brief explanation about the purpose of writing Romans, and some details about the city of Rome itself, were helpful.
  • Having helped teach on the doctrine of the Trinity more than once, I had many theologians who were my “great cloud of witnesses” swirling in the background as I wrote: Leonardo Boff, Julian of Norwich, Jürgen Moltmann, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Augustine, Paul Fiddes, and of course, my mentors from my MDiv and PhD studies.

I’ve enjoyed preaching at Webster Groves Baptist Church.  I find preaching as one of the more difficult tasks for someone studying theology, as it forces me to make sure I can communicate what I’ve learned in an accessible and meaningful way. I’m not serving as pulpit supply in the near future, so I’ll be writing on what I’m reading.

Advertisements

Author: Kate Hanch

I like to laugh, study theology, the church, & Missouri sports. Sister, daughter, wife, Baptist, Christian feminist, friend, minister, PhD student in theology, Weird Al fan, wanderlust.

2 thoughts on “A Sermon on the Trinity: Doomed from the Start?”

  1. I arrived here via your sister’s sharing of your “theologians whose names I would not give my pets” post. Thank you for reminding us that our flesh, along with all of creation, was found good. I will think differently about that word’s meaning when I read it.
    The Trinity is one of those beautiful mysteries of God that I sometimes, somehow, think I begin to understand- and then it blows my mind again. But that keeps me wondering about it, and it would be foolish of me to ever expect to fully understand God. And now I’m off to google “perichoresis.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Meghan, thanks for replying, I’m glad you found this helpful! Perichoresis is the mutual indwelling of the three persons of the Trinity with one another. It has been used as a doctrine to emphasize the equality of the three Persons, realizing the Trinity as a community, and as a result, can help us think about how we think about church and the world. If you think of the Gospel of John and Jesus’ prayers, where the Spirit is in Jesus, and Jesus and the Father are in one another and are one, that can help us think about perichoresis. Some have likened perichoresis to a dance.

    I hear you on the mysteries of God. I’ve found the doctrine of the Trinity one of the most difficult subjects to teach, and continue to learn and be amazed.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s