The first Sunday after Pentecost is also called Trinity Sunday. One explanation reports that this is the Sunday where you explain the Trinity. Good luck with that. The Trinity is one of those concepts that defies explanation. Oh, we can get close; we can provide hints or glimpses of the reality of the totality of the God we worship. But can we ever say to have explained the complexity that is the interrelationship of the Godhead? Probably not.
What we’re left with then, is describing God the way God consistently self-describes: In relationship with us. Notice that the Trinity Sunday Gospel text was chosen because of the Trinitarian formula that Jesus invokes: “[B]aptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (v.19). But the bulk of the passage isn’t about God; it’s about us. It’s about what we will do in the name of God. It’s about what we’ll do because we belong to Jesus. When we focus on God, we always understand ourselves better. That’s how this works.
So, how do we worship on Trinity Sunday? We attend to the glory of God first and foremost. We sing the songs of God’s glory: “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” or even “¡Santo! ¡Santo! ¡Santo!” if you’re feeling adventurous. The first verse of this hymn ends with “God in three persons, blessed Trinity!” (bendita Trinidad). Use the Trinity Sunday prayer in The United Methodist Hymnal (76). Check the recommendations in the hymnal or in this worship package for more ideas. But find ways to celebrate the God we worship with as much glory as we can muster.
After the splash of red for Pentecost, the shining white of Easter comes back again along with the gold that speaks of the preciousness and the purity of our God. Let our sanctuaries be treasure houses of beauty because the God we worship is an artist and an inspiration of awe and wonder. Let there be a breathtaking glory about the space we create that points to the source of all that is good —not in lavishness or excess, but in the beautiful simplicity of purity. A simple white cloth on the table, perhaps, or the gold unadorned cross can be the visual centerpiece for worship.
Look for symbols that represent the Trinity — the triangles and circles and Celtic knots that speak of the diversity and the unity of God that point to our varied experience throughout scripture and the history of the people of God. This is not to be a prelude to what we really want to talk about. We don’t give God glory as an introduction to our real subject, ourselves, and our mission. No, the worship of God is an end in and of itself. The attention to the glory and the wonder and the fullness of our Trinitarian God is enough for any worship event in the life of the church.
Yet, like the crowd at the Pentecost sermon we remembered last week, we can’t help but ask, “Brothers and sisters, what shall we do? What do we do because of the wonder of this God? How shall we live? Who shall we be? Where shall we go? Whom shall we include? Whom shall we see because our God is Trinity?” This worship must spill out into the world around us; it must transform our living every day, not just on this day, not just in this place. How do we point beyond us as we pronounce the benediction? How do we send the people out with a desire to share the variety of our God experience with the world that hungers to know what we know? How do we embody the love of God the creator, the hope of the redeemer Christ, and the sustaining faith of the ever-present Spirit in ways that are life giving in our own communities?
This series is about taking the inward focus of Trinity Sunday and turning it outward to the world in which we live. It is about remembering that we aren’t just looking after our own souls, but are in the business of transforming the world. While it is always true, we could say it is especially true in this post-Pentecost season that our worship cannot end in the sanctuary. It must spill out into the community around us. Rethink the benediction as no longer an ending but a transition from worship inside to worship outside, from worship in word and song and ritualized movement to worship embodied in our hands and hearts and demeanor as we live in a distracted and distracting world.
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.