First Sunday after Pentecost/Trinity Sunday/Peace with Justice Sunday
See the texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.)
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Para obtener más recursos leccionario, Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
Lecionário comum revisado (português)
The temple furnishings come suddenly alive for Isaiah as he experiences the realities behind the symbols, living cherubim ascribing triple holiness to "Lord God of Hosts." In that encounter, he hears himself claimed and called by the Holy, Holy, Holy One. In the action of the paired wings of the seraphim we see an image of Trinity. One pair covers the face (Father), another the feet (Son), and with the third they fly (Holy Spirit).
Psalm Response: Psalm 29 (UMH 761).
In a polytheistic world, this temple song proclaimed that YHWH rules over all other gods in the heavens and on earth. If you do not sing the psalm itself, be sure to sing a rousing refrain! In addition to the setting in the hymnal, consider The Faith We Sing 2007, 2015 (refrain), 2019 (refrain), 2023, 2026, 2033, or 2039, with the music playing more quietly in the background during the reading of the psalm and rising as the time for the entire congregation to sing the response approaches.
As children of God, we are led by the Spirit of God, calling out to the Father, and being made joint-heirs with Christ the Son.
The Trinitarian nature of our salvation. God the Father loved us and sent the Son. We are drawn to and believe into the Son. We are born anew of and by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Today is Trinity Sunday in the Christian Year. It is a day for celebrating the mystery of the Triune nature of our God. All of the Scriptures are chosen to relate to and support such celebration today.
It is also the First Sunday after Pentecost, one of the two “bookend” Sundays of this season (or three, if you consider the option of Extended Advent). These “bookend Sundays” are ways to begin and end the season powerfully and to segue into what comes next. In the case of Trinity Sunday, use this day of high celebration also as a way to kick off your first series for the Season after Pentecost, whatever that series may be for you (following OT readings about David, Epistle readings about conflict, or Life of Jesus readings about the way of discipleship and ministry, or something else). Making what you do today truly launch what you’ll be doing over the next weeks might help today’s “high day” be less likely to be followed by a “low Sunday” next week, even in the midst of graduations, annual conferences, and other big events that may be happening at this time of year.
This season offers many options for readings and emphasis, but it does so with a singular purpose: to support disciples in living out the ministries the Spirit has empowered them and the church has commissioned them to offer (as of last Sunday, Pentecost). This is not a season of “the random emphasis of the week” or merely “the preferred series of the month.” It is a time for ongoing accountable support and growth of disciples of Jesus Christ. Choose the series you will pursue prayerfully, wisely, and well. Planning Worship for Discipleship and Ministry after Pentecost, Year B, may be a helpful guide as you and your team do so.
Today is also Peace with Justice Sunday on the program calendar. These two are intentionally paired together. The Triune God calls us into the Eternal Community of love, justice, and peace with God and each other and sends us out to work for peace with justice here and now.
Peace with Justice Sunday is a United Methodist Special Sunday that includes a special offering. Half of the funds collected in this offering stay in your annual conference to support peace and justice projects where you are. The other half supports the advocacy, peace and justice work of the General Board of Church and Society across our global church. Funds collected through the 2014 special offering on this day helped support the work of The Reunification Committee of Korean United Methodist Churches, the Kalamazoo Peace Center at West Michigan University, and the second annual Lion and Lamb Festival in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a weekend multigenerational gathering of worship, spirituality, justice and the arts.
This is Trinity Sunday. It is not a day for explaining the “mathematics” of the Trinity, or even, necessarily, for trying to unpack the complexities of the “homoousios” (of one being) clause of the Nicene Creed or the “neque confundantes personas, neque seperantes substantialem” (neither confounding the persons, nor separating the being) of the Athanasian Creed. If these are questions folks are asking where you are, by all means address them today. Just be sure you know what you are talking about when you do. One ends up rather deep in the waters of technicalities of philosophy and theology that can quickly move the novice into any of a variety of heretical streams if one is not well-versed and careful. Be prepared—and if you are not, don’t go there!
The heartbeat of Christian theology, our understanding of the nature of God, is that God is God-in-relationship. There is relationship within the Being of God, toward humankind, and with (and beyond) all creation. Christian theologians have captured the idea of Relationship-within-God in the Greek term “perichoresis” (parry-kor-E’-sis) from the time of the “church Fathers” (John of Damascus and Gregory of Nanziaznus, among others). In Greek, perichoresis means, literally, “dancing around.” Perichoresis originally referred most specifically to the circle dance performed by the chorus of a Greek play. As Christians used this term to describe the nature of the Trinity, they did so also to speak of the ways in which the Father offers himself to the Son with the Spirit, the Spirit offers himself to the Father with the Spirit, and the Spirit flows between Father and Son and the whole of creation, bidding us to join the dance of God, the dance of Love.
The image above looks little like a dance. At first glance. it probably looks more like stasis— Father and Son seated on the eternal throne, Spirit eternally in one place and attached to eternal rays that have already moved into the universe. If we have a static idea of God, that is probably exactly how we would read this.
But that was certainly not how the artist who created this sounding board in this space intended it to be read. And my strong hunch is, if you have Trinitarian images in your worship space today, they were probably not intended to be read in a static way, either.
So what’s going on with this sounding board?
Look at the larger motif—a motif of concentric circles in the board and the larger space, of which this piece is a part. There is the circle around the Trinity, the circle of angels and apostles around them, the circle of the board itself, and around the pulpit itself, there is another circle in the form of the pulpit rail. These circles draw the eye in motion both into and around the pulpit, and the radiating beams of the Spirit portray the Trinity as flowing out and reaching into the whole of the gathered community, as part of the universe, in this ever-radiating circle of the Life of God. Think of it as ripples on a pond. The Scripture proclaimed from this place and radiating out into the gathered community, thanks to the function of this board, does this, too.
So what are the symbols that radiate Trinity where you worship? Look in stained glass, or on the chancel furniture, or maybe in embroidery or on the sides of pews. Look in banners, or on the processional cross you carry, or table cross you may display. How does your worship space already proclaim that we are surrounded in and by our Triune God? (Or does it? And if not, what will you do so that today, and hereafter, it does?).
Above all, look in the three "Great Places" that order all our life in worship — the Font, the Table, and the space for the assembly of the people. Using the traditional language, we would say of the font that by the Father's blessing, the Spirit is poured out upon water to birth us anew into Jesus Christ. Of the Lord’s Table, we would say that by the Father's blessing, the Spirit is poured out upon bread and wine to transform them and — through them — us-- into the living body of Christ renewed by the Spirit and redeemed by Christ’s blood. And what is this space in which we gather but a sign of our life together as the body of Jesus Christ, listening for the Word of the Father, the Teaching of the Son, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as we travel from font, to Table, to the world to bear witness to all that we have known and seen and experienced in the deep fellowship of this Triune God.
What about such symbols where you live and work? Consider sending your worship planning team on a “Trinity hunt” to take photos of images of the Trinity they find in their workplaces and in the world during the course of a week, and include them in worship this Sunday. Then, after Trinity Sunday worship, cast the net wider, and encourage all attending worship on Trinity Sunday to take such photos in the coming week, and use them throughout the rest of this Ordinary Time as a reminder that we are always surrounded and invited into the Circle-Dance of the Trinity in worship and in our ministries in daily life.
Atmospherics: The Texts
The reading from Isaiah reminds us of the power of long-standing symbols in their proper places. What symbols where you worship function like the cherubim over the ark of the covenant in the temple, radiating holiness? What happens in your congregation or community that radiates holiness? Consider accompanying the reading of this text with images collected by your worship planning team as suggested above.
The reading from Romans alludes indirectly to baptism. We have received the Spirit of adoption through baptism, that Spirit that makes us cry, “Abba, Father!” So consider reading this text from the location of your baptismal font, where we receive God’s covenant for us in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
John’s conversation about the new birth by water and Spirit addresses baptism directly. Though you may read Romans from the font, for the reading of the gospel, consider inviting everyone to join in a circle around the font.
John reminds us that we who are born of the Spirit should expect to be led in worship and mission to places we didn’t expect, for the Spirit blows where it will. And we should also expect nothing less than the vulnerability and power of new birth in our midst all the time. We humans are never born as adults, but always as very needy, and vulnerable, and therefore often demanding infants. What we learn most in our infancy is trust in a wider community to help us, feed us, nurture us, and even correct us until we can do these things on our own, and then help other infants in the way do the same.
If everyone is gathering around the font for the reading from John, and perhaps even for the preaching today (and if so, be mercifully succinct for the sake of those who may have difficulty standing!), where will this be? An increasing practice ecumenically is for the font to be placed every Sunday near the place where most people enter worship, rather than by the pulpit, up front, away from where most people may be likely to access it. For the sake of today, think about locating the font where people actually can assemble around it, perhaps closer to the middle of the seating area. After today, though, think seriously about locating it near the entrance, and keeping it filled with fresh water, so that week after week people can use the water to remind themselves of their baptism and identity as those born anew by water and the Spirit in the life of the Triune God.
In Your Planning Team
Today is both a celebration in its own right and a “launch Sunday.” So celebrate and launch well!
We are everywhere swept up and surrounded in the Eternal Community and can be moved and transformed by it most powerfully if we will but open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, our hands to serve, and our hearts — plural! (no solitary Christians with a Trinitarian God!) — to the fullness of God's love and power in and through us.
The imagery and the soundscapes of this week’s texts, especially in Isaiah 6 and Psalm 29, are powerful and awe-inspiring. Don't let your congregation "wimp out" by merely reading these texts in a ho-hum way. In Isaiah 6, seraphim cry out to one another, in full voice, “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God of Hosts!” Psalm 29 declares “All in the temple cry, ‘Glory!” Offer honor and glorious praise not just by choir or band but with all present and with every medium available (instruments, voices, artwork, video, even incense if you have it) as you move through the entrance today.
Proclamation and Response
Consider not only how you will read and respond to today’s readings with honor and praise, but where they will be read. Consider reading Isaiah 6 from the Lord’s Table where you often lead the “Sanctus” (Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of power and might). Then read the Epistle lesson, which indirectly refers to baptism, from the font (and if you have a Paschal Candle by the font, light it today!). Then, for the gospel, which explicitly links to baptism, invite everyone to circle around the font. (This probably means you’ll want to place the font near the center of your seating area). And after or before and after the gospel, sing a Trinitarian baptismal hymn or refrain containing Alleluias, such as “You Have Put on Christ” (UMH 609), or “We Know That Christ Is Raised” (UMH 610).
Confess the historic faith of the church in the Triune God today. There is perhaps no better Sunday in the church year to use the Nicene Creed (UMH 880). And in addition to saying it together, consider using one of the literally thousands of musical settings the church has developed through the centuries. You can find a couple dozen classic settings here. Credo is the Latin for the first word of the Nicene Creed, “I believe,” and was and remains one of the five “ordinary” (that is, constant) parts of the Mass, both West (Catholic and Anglican) and East (Orthodox).
On this Peace with Justice Sunday, we proclaim that the peace, justice, and love we know in this Triune God cannot be contained in any place of worship. This is because life in the Triune God is never static, never still, but constantly sending forth love, radiating peace, and pouring out justice like a mighty stream.
Let justice flow in your worship today! Pray it down! Pray it fervently, with full voice, either as a response to the word or, as suggested below, as part of the Great Thanksgiving. Give plenty of space for prayer today for justice and peace with our whole church.
Thanksgiving and Communion
Don't just collect an offering! Be the offering in the Great Thanksgiving at Table, where we most regularly experience the presence and offer ourselves in Trinitarian praise. The Great Thanksgiving for Trinity Sunday, with its “alternate” Sanctus based on the refrain from “God of Wonders” (Worship and Song 3034) may be just the text and tune to guide today’s celebration with reverence, awe and joy at once. This form of the Great Thanksgiving includes powerful prayers of the people within it, appropriate both for Trinity Sunday and for Peace with Justice emphases. If you use this, you may not need to provide another form of intercessions earlier.
Greeting: BOW 300 (brief version of Psalm 29)
Greeting: BOW 391 or BOW 411 (Trinity Sunday)
Opening Prayer: BOW 392 (John)
PROCLAMATION AND RESPONSE
Prayer: BOW 412 (Trinity Sunday)
Prayer: BOW 513, For Justice (Peace with Justice)
Prayer: Worship & Song 42 (Worship Resources/Leader’s Editions)
Response: BOW 195, "O Lord, Deliver Us" (Peace with Justice)
Canticle: UMH 80, "Canticle of the Holy Trinity"
Affirmation of Faith: UMH 880, The Nicene Creed (Trinity)
Sung Affirmation: UMH 85, "We Believe in One True God" (Trinity)
Statements of Faith: Worship & Song 76, 79, 80, 81 (Worship Resources/Leader’s Editions)
THANKSGIVING AND COMMUNION
Prayer of Confession: BOW 428 (Peace with Justice)
Doxology: BOW 182, "Doxology" (John, Trinity)
Great Thanksgiving: BOW 70-71
Blessing: BOW 563 (Trinity)
Blessing: BOW 521, A Vision of Hope (Peace/Justice)
Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland
For additional hymn and prayer suggestions, see UMH 938 and 953.