Every year on Trinity Sunday, a plea is made to the worship teams planning for this day that you avoid the inclination to try to explain the Trinity. The church has wrestled with the precise meaning of this theological concept from the very beginning. So, freed from the expectation of trying to make sense of the Trinity, worship can be engaged in experiencing the Trinity. That’s where the doctrine comes from anyway, from our experience of God and the experience of God’s people from the beginning.
So, how do we experience God the Creator in worship, and how do we address this aspect of God in our liturgy and music? At the same time, how do we address and/or experience the Redeemer and the Sustainer? What terminology can we use to describe each dimension of our experience of God? Certainly, there is the traditional, which still speaks to many: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But there is no need to be limited by those words. The Bible is full of ways of describing each “person” of the Trinity. Perhaps a good preparatory exercise would be for the worship planning team to dive into the Bible to discover some of those descriptions and then find ways to incorporate those images in liturgy or visual arts. This does not diminish the tradition but enhances it, even as it enhances our understanding of God, as much as any human community can comprehend the totality of God. But we come closer, if only closer to knowing what we don’t know with this exercise. And we provide new and broader means for others, particularly new believers, to draw closer to God.
The white color for this week stands in contrast to the bright red of Pentecost and points toward the purity and majesty of the God we worship. But we must also remember that white, when you are talking about light, is the blending of all the colors. So, this liturgical whiteness does not elevate some people over others, but instead invites all people to join together in the whole that is the people of God. We celebrate the multicolored palette that is the church, even if we don’t yet see it in our local context.
Like the God we worship, Trinity Sunday worship can be grand and majestic. But it can also be intimate and personal. Perhaps there is a way of blending the two, the transcendent and the immanent, in dialog as we worship together. A creed like the Nicene, for example, can be paired with a prayer written by a child. A hymn like “Holy, Holy, Holy,” (United Methodist Hymnal, 64), a perfect Trinity Sunday hymn, can be followed by a simple chorus like “Jesu, Tawa Pano” (“Jesus, We Are Here,” The Faith We Sing, 2273) or “Dios Esta Aqui” (“God Is Here Today,” The Faith We Sing, 2049). Our purpose is to expand our experience and understanding of God as we worship together on this day.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.