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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Geometry Edition

***I apologize for the lateness of this post. I tried to do this at church, but Blogger was oppressing me there. ***

We come today to Trinity Sunday, which for me ranks right up there with T-Fig as one of the difficult-to-preach Sundays of the liturgical year.

True story: I did my neutral pulpit for St Stoic on T-Fig, and my ordination was on Trinity. (I preached my first 'regular' sermon at St Stoic that morning.) And yet, they called me and I am still there, so maybe they aren't as un-preachable as I think...

I have never preached Proverbs before, but I am intrigued by an idea I find in that passage for this week's lectionary.

Proverbs 8: 23 ...before the beginning...

We humans tend to think that reality is what we can see, hear, taste, touch, remember. In that vein, we try to explain the Trinity in concrete human ways. I have always found those to be very unsatisfactory. And so instead of explaining the concept of the trinity, I think I will explore how we can grasp the mystery of what came "before the beginning."

"What did your face look like before your mother was born?"

How about you?


  1. First? Me? Oh My.
    I'm really looking at Proverbs also this Trinity Sunday. I started looking at it even closer when I ran across the hymn "Holy Wisdom" - wonderful trinitarian images in the lyrics centered in Wisdom.
    I've selected all the music for Sunday, now all I have to do is come up with sermon ideas that do justice to it. :-)

  2. It's Children's Sunday for us, so we are headed in another direction (in part to support Part 5 of a series on Christian Formation, in this case our Images of Jesus). We'll borrow from the Good Shepherd Sunday texts, using Psalm 23, and Luke 15:1-7, with the back half of John 21 informing the Communion invitation. The centerpiece will be not a sermon but an enacted story entitled "Left Behind: the Story of a Few Good Sheep." It will feature a sign telling the congregation when to say "Baaaa."

  3. CHEESE! I too did my neutral pulpit on Trinity Sunday.

    It was ALSO on my theology ordination exam after they SWORE to us that the questions were never on the Trinity, whatever.


  4. I'm not preaching--dropping Trinity in the deacon's capable lap.

    I'm off to TO's graduation--miracles do happen!

  5. Rev. Maria--where can I find that hymn? It sounds wonderful.

  6. NO preaching this week--annual meeting of Conference. But I did want to share my new nominee for the worst metaphor for the Trinity I have ever heard.

    WE have an Easter Donut REpair CLub video. At one point they are talking about colouring eggs and someone asks what eggs have to do with Easter. Instead of the truth, which is that eggs are a sign of new life, a source of protien that was one of few available in the spring, and that it is the Christianizing of a pagan symbol they gave this one.

    AN egg is like God because it has three parts--a shell, a white and a yolk--just like GOd has three parts. They then go into a song about "God is 3-in-1". EVerytime the girls watch it I find myself wondering which part of the Trinity is the protective shell, which part is the nutrient providing white and which part is the yolk that will grow into a baby bird...

    AS if the Trinity made little sense as it was.

  7. I'm not preaching -- our synodical assembly this weekend -- and I'm with you Cheesehead, I have a hard time with Trinity Sunday. In part because I gravitate to stories, and the Trinity is not a story... unless we say that the Trinity is the WHOLE story of how God has revealed God-self... and you can't preach on the whole Bible! Anyway... I've never preached on Proverbs either and would count it a challenge. Lord the Hymn title rev maria...

  8. But look at it this way - if everyone is already so confused that they really think the egg thing is a good metaphor - how much damage can my sermon do? ;)

  9. hey all! i tried to get a jump on my prep yesterday because i'm taking a quick getaway to a friend's ordination this weekend- getting back LATE Saturday night.

    it took me awhile to decide, but I'm going with Romans. the proverbs passage is captivating, but long, and i needed something easy to chew on.

    i posted my earliest musings on desperate preachers, but they're caught up in the place of suffering in christian life and no one has responded to my random ramblings over there. so, anyone mind if i post them here? does this sound like craziness or is there something there?

    btw- the trinity, i think, can be a story- especially if you look to eastern ways of articulating this doctrine.

    "While I struggle with some of the same elements of the place of suffering in Christian life, I am
    captivated by the image of "standing in
    grace". I am compelled by the notion that we
    can stand proud and confident in a place called
    grace, a state called grace. Grace as a location.
    This is just a different way of thinking about
    grace for me, and if grace is a space- what is
    that space like? Wide open, room to breathe, to
    move, to dance..

    I want to focus on trinitarian theology this week-
    one week of the year to dive into the glorious
    mystery of the holy community that is God. Do I
    come back to that Eastern image of perichoresis?
    The divine dance of love, which spilled over and
    made a world, and saved a world, and sustains a
    world... is our existence in the center of the
    holy dance?

    I'm thinking of a dance I witnessed in Germany
    last summer. It was a protest by some Kurds and
    they were joyfully engaged in a circle dance.
    Some children became caught up in the music and
    started dancing in the center of all the rest,
    until an older man took their hands and brought
    them into the circle. Might this be a metaphor
    for Christian life held within the triune

    Totally random ramblings..."

    anything there????

  10. Like MCTP I think I am headed in an Eastern thought for this Sunday. I may use the Andre Rublev's Icon of the Trinity, which I have hanging in our narthex. (I have it there because the church is named after a saint who wrote about the trinity...). Anyway. I'm musing on the idea of a Taize kind of service with the icon, candles, and incense...I love the image of the dancing too...So. I think I am noodling on trying to create a place for the mystery of God to be present instead of aiming to "describe" it...Then the sermon can just be an unpacking of how we humans struggle to understand the mystery that is God, always have, and probably always will.???? So yes. We stand in place of grace. I like where you are going with this MCTP...and it's blowing a little breeze onto my tiny flame of an idea...

  11. Hmm. I'm going with the John, but having had a week off, I'm already rusty (hosted the glorious neutral pulpit last week). I too was thinking the perichoresis idea, more cows--relational aspect of the Trinity, what that understanding of God calls us to. Still a good bit of pondering to do. I believe this is my first Trinity Sunday sermon.

  12. MCTP - have you heard the song "Fields of Grace"?
    There's a place where I love to run and play!
    There's a place where I sing new songs of praise!
    Dancin' with my Father God in fields of grace...

    It goes on to talk about grace as the place where we
    lose ourselves within & find ourselves again
    Where we lose our selfish pride & religion finally dies...

    Everytime I sing it, I feel that freedom and joy that grace brings. I want to spin and cry out "again, again!" to my Abba. And the cool part is, He doesn't get dizzy or tired like we earthly parents do.

    It's funny that Amazing Grace gives me a totally different feeling... it's release from bondage, hope in the midst of Darkness. But Fields of Grace has me there already. hmmm....

    Maybe that's a musical musings post than helpful here. But I totally got your dance metaphor.

    I'm off this week, but working on VBS stuff for next week. Teaching our young'ns about worship! Anyone have some fun Spirit & Truth metaphors that work for Pre-K to 5th graders?

  13. yay, thanks guys for encouraging me on. no, i don't know that song, ellbee. think i can get it on iTunes?

    glad i could gently blow the flame, mompriest!

    i'll keep checking in. y'all rock!

  14. OOOH.. Fields of Grace - great song! Yes, it is on iTunes... Big Daddy Weave sings it. I think Darrell Evans wrote it.

    If you need guitar chords, I am pretty sure I have 'em. Just write and ask... this week I am being a studious Greek ignoramus...

    debovau "at" regent "dot" edu

    (take out the spaces and quotes... you know what to do!)


  15. I like your image of a dance, MCTP. It reminds me of a spontaneous dance I saw once at Disneyland of all places. A man and a woman were together, she was walking, he in a wheelchair. some great music was playing, and suddenly, she whirled him around and did a little two-step, holding his hands. It was lovely.

    Totally different than another common scene, a dad walking and his son struggling to keep up. He keeps falling behind because his legs are too short. that's a kind of a dance, too.

  16. Oh, also MCTP and other "dancers", there's a medieval song called "Tomorrow shall be my dancing day"... do you know it? the troubadors used to sing it. I think the words are: "Tomorrow shall be my dancing day/I would my true love so to chance/to see the legend of my pray/to call my true love to the dance./Sing, oh my love/oh my love/This have I done for my love." ...And the verses go through the history of Christ from incarnation through resurrection. It might be in the big red Carol book if anybody has that.

  17. I love the perichoresis slant on Trinity. In fact, that was the theme of my very first sermon at St Stoic: Come,Join the Dance! was the title.

    You remember your first, you know...

  18. Mother Laura, the hymn Holy Wisdom is in the Chalice Hymnal but I'm sure can be found elsewhere. Lyrics by Patrick Michaels 1989, Copyright held by Hope Publishing Co 1989, 1991. The tune is Salve Regina Coelitum so everyone should be familiar with it from Sister Act if not from church. :-)

  19. I'm jumping on board late though I am preaching this week, at a church in a neighbouring circuit- I love the wisdom passage and will run with that bringing in the mystery of God- and how we cannot explain/ contain Her/ Him!

    as for that hymn- thanks it looks great....

  20. I am still not preaching lectionary. And actually I have really not preached the lectionary from trinity Sunday yet. I am preaching on the Fourth purpose of the Purpose Driven Life. Two more sermon on the Purpose Driven Life and then I am done. Whatever will I do after that?

    How many of you go on retreats or take time away to plan out your sermons for the year?

  21. wow Abi a retreat to plan sermons series what a wonderful thought- we are suposed to take quarter days for reading etc, so they could be translated into retreats I guess... do you do that???

  22. Revabi- I dream of doing this on a regular basis...truth be told I do this sporadically (with many intervening months even years between them) But I keep moving on with the great plan...and I am going next week!

  23. Some nascent Trinity thoughts ...

    I think what is significant about the concept of Trinity is that God is always in relationship, that She always exists in community ... and that, if we are created in God's image, then we too are intended be always in relationship, always in community.

    Pardon my wonkiness... let me slip on my long-discarded pocket protector and my taped up geek glasses ... According to Wikipedia, the triple point of a substance is the temperature and pressure at which three phases --gas, liquid, solid-- of that substance may coexist in thermodynamic equilibrium. H2O is always H2O, but at a certain temperature and pressure, some of the H2O is ice, some steam and some liquid ... and the ice isn't changing to another mode of water existence, nor is the liquid, nor is the steam ...

  24. The newest ELCA hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, has a hymn called "Come, Join the Dance of Trinity." The first verse is "Come, join the dance of Trinity, before all worlds begun--the interweaving of the Three, the Father, Spirit, Son. The universe of space and time did not arise by chance, but as the Three, in love and hope, made room within their dance."

    Text is by Richard Leach, Music is an English Folk Tune--Kingsfold, text c.2001 Selah Publishing

    Hopefully that's enough info if you want to find it.

  25. Silent--we are using that for our hymn of the day, although we don't have ELW yet. Just wrote to get permission. :) It's a great hymn and a well-known tune (Kingsfold).

    I actually like to preach on Trinity (not that I've done it a lot though). But this image of a dance is one that I hadn't really thought of as meat for a sermon, and now I'm very intrigued!

    All I had before today was a BBT quote from The Preaching Life: "We are not, at heart, believers in an institution or an ideology but in a relationship that changes from day to day and year to year." And a general thought that because we follow a God who is constantly in community, that we too are called to constantly be in community.

    Oh, and all my Proverbs notes from my wisdom literature class at seminary. I'd love to just preach on this Proverbs text. Hmm...guess I should pick one of those themes at one point!

  26. Love all the dancing images, and the triple point thing esp, DQ.

    The Taize style sounds perfect, mompriest. Experience the community of love that is God rather than talk about it/try to wrap our little mind around it...

    Catherine LaCugna (whose article, Making the Most of Trinity Sunday, is a nice one for this preaching dilemma) used to say that primary theology is the love language of prayer and worship and academic theology just reflects and clarifies that...

    And thanks so much Rev Maria--I can't wait to track down the Wisdom hymn. How appropriate to put it to a Marian chant. Will it be sung peaceful and then rocked out like Whoopi and the gals? :-)

  27. Mother Laura, I have clearly been out of seminary too long and in the church of plain language...I forgot all about primary theology and (as we called it) secondary theology, or as you call it academic theology...I guess I am really a primary theology person. Give me the experience...but explain it, oy....(ok, I admit I strive to do that too, but I am much more experiential)...

  28. Is it pathetic that I had to look up perichoresis on wikipedia? great word and fun to say, so thanks - I'll keep it.

    I'm going same direction as semfem - Proverbs with Romans and God's yearning toward community and ours, too. And talking about friendship with God. And now I'm trying to figure out how to talk about suffering - I have a great story to end it.

    That dance story is gorgeous, MCTP.

  29. Don't fret Juniper68 ... I looked up perichoresis in wikipedia also. ;)

  30. I'm going with Psalm 8. I love preaching the Psalms,and none of the other texts had anything for me.

  31. I am filling in for a vacationing pastor this Sunday and will preach on the Trinity in a place where that is rarely done. My intention is to offer a way of entering the mystery of God through the artist and poet as a kind of corrective to the "above the eyebrows" rational approach. The sermon is titled "Sacred Circle, Sacred Dance" and will use both the dance imagery and the Rublev icon leading into the invitation to the Table. Also am using a Ruth Duck hymn from "Welcome God's Tomorrow," GIA, called "Give Thanks to the Source" with trinitarian language of Source, Word, and Spirit.

  32. If you are going to focus on the Proverbs reading try using the New Jerusalem Bible. Proverbs 8 is particularly beautiful in this translation. This passage is of course an excellent doorway to challenging notions of God's, and even Christ's gender. So close on the heels of Pentecost with the increasing acceptance of the feminine pronoun for the Holy Spirit, the preaching could be quite lively tomorrow.

  33. First time ever checking out this site .... it is great fun with lots of superb preaching ideas, y'all are now bookmarked and I will check in regularly!


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