Call to Worship (from Psalm 8)
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
HYMN 111 Holy, holy, holy
The earth belongs to the Lord,
the world and all its people.
How good and wonderful it is
To be one in your name.
As we worship you this day
move among us, giving us life
that we may rejoice in you.
Make our hearts fresh within us;
renewing us in mind and spirit.
Before you we confess our brokenness:
to the ways we wound our lives,
the lives of others,
and the life of the world.
Father forgive us;
Christ renew us;
Holy Spirit grow us in love.
You have made us in your own image,
befriended by Christ,
empowered by the Spirit.
Set us free this day,
to know you,
and to serve you
to whom alone belongs all praise.
The Lord’s Prayer
II Corinthians 13: 11-13
Final Greetings and Benediction
Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Matthew 28: 16-20
The Commissioning of the Disciples
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 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.’
HYMN 596 Breathe on me, Breath of God
Today is Trinity Sunday. It’s one of those dates in the church calendar that doesn’t tie in to an event in the life of Jesus. Rather, it’s a day to reflect upon one of the teachings of the church. That teaching is that Jesus was not only God in human flesh but that he was also one with the Holy Spirit of God too. That’s three persons but only one being! Does your head hurt? This may be why it has often been said that the subject of Trinity should only be preached upon once per year. Any less and people will forget; more and they will be confused.
Trinity seeks to find a way through the impasse created when the world of Greek and Roman thought collide head on with Jewish notions of the uniqueness, holiness, and unity of God. Abstract theological notions designed as a stop-gap answer to the problem of just who and what Jesus is are not always helpful. Neither are the often practical. So, what are we to do with it?
The answer to that question may, in part, be found in our reading from Matthew’s gospel. It recounts the last encounter between Jesus and his disciples. The ending is sudden. There is no drawn out goodbye. There is also something different going on; something has changed since the resurrection. The disciples are said to ‘worship’ Jesus. We see this word used once before in this chapter, in reference to the women encountering the risen Jesus. No self-respecting Jewish man would get down on his knees to prostrate himself before another man or an idol. The disciples are Jewish men, so something must have changed. Did Jesus seem different? Was it how he looked? Was it the way he spoke? Perhaps it was something less tangible. Perhaps they were thinking of various texts from their scriptures and, putting two and two together, saw Jesus as the Son of Man spoken of in the book of Daniel. This person would come from God and have the full authority of the divine on earth. Is that what they saw or thought? Jesus takes this connection further, stating that he also had ‘full authority in heaven’ too.
Without having a chance to ponder what’s going on the disciples are given an instruction. They are to go into the world to makes disciples, to baptize, to teach, and to obey God’s commands. As the church we have often strived to fulfil the last part of the command yet we have struggled to make much progress with the first three. In almost his last words to them, Jesus instructs the eleven with a mission imperative. In the time of a shrinking church these words of Christ should make us sit up, and take stock of what we are doing. But these are not the last words he utters.
In the gospel according to Matthew the last words of Jesus are these: “ … surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” As we seek to follow God, as revealed to us in and through Jesus, we are not left alone. We are not abandoned. We are, rather, accompanied and resourced. In the last three months many have found how truly difficult it is to live, let alone thrive, alone. By ‘alone’ I mean without the human contact and fellowship that is necessary for life to flourish. Digital communications are fine for sharing information, but not for growing in our mutual humanity. Jesus does not leave his followers alone. Having the authority of God, he accompanies us through the Holy Spirit that he sends upon us. He is there in the highs of celebration. He is there in the depths of despair and solitude. Only God can be relied upon to be ever present in this way.
The doctrine of Trinity may leave you confused, and with a headache. The reality of a God who is ever present with us will not. The practical value of this doctrine is that it reminds us that God exists in relationship. From the beginning that has been as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet throughout history God has offered relationship to people like you and me. This is a relationship that extends throughout the whole range of human experience. He doesn’t desert us when the going gets tough. That is the point of Trinity.
Lord of life, grace and truth
may all creation come to know your peace.
God of love, you are at the root of all creation;
deepen our awareness of your presence among us.
Everlasting God, let us lift high your name in all the world.
God of grace, you reach out to touch our lives.
We set our concerns before you, seeking your vision for our world.
As you share our life, so may we come to see your glory.
Holy Spirit of fellowship, move between us to unite all people as one.
Strengthen all that builds true community both near and far.
We pray for places of unrest, especially today in the United States.
God of peace, be present in our midst.
Eternal God, you hold creation from its beginning to its end.
Sustain in your love all who are faint or whose strength is failing.
In our current pandemic be with our healers, our scientists, and our leaders.
Restore our faith that you are with us to the end of the age.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you make us a little lower than the angels.
Remind us of your love for us, remind us that you have a plan for each of us.
In love we give thanks to you for all who have died;
may they know the glory and honour of your eternal presence.
Father of mercy, we pray for ourselves.
When we are weak, may we find strength.
When we despair or doubt, may we find hope.
We pray, as ever, in the name of Jesus.
HYMN 200 Christ is made the sure foundation
May the Lord who created the earth
by the power of his Word and Spirit
reveal to you his love
made real in Christ Jesus.
And as we move from this time of worship
may that same Lord,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
remain with us
now and evermore.
Acknowledgement: Scripture Readings are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.