Trinity Sunday: Get to Work!
By: The Rev. Canon Lee Curtis
I have preached every Trinity Sunday of my ecclesiastical career.
I don’t say that to boast—Simply to mark the fact that my ecclesial career has a) not been very long and b) has been spent by and large either as Seminarian, or as an Associate. I remember joking with friends about “Seminarian Sunday,” the last big day before we all head out the door to our respective summer routines, which (at least in many Episcopal churches) means dropping all activity to an idle and taking things slow(er).
It might be that the school year, as it currently stands, was the worst possible thing that could have happened to Trinity Sunday. The Deacon gives the dismissal, and we head for the doors with the same sense of relief as the last day of grade school. The text seems to fit—at least in this Lectionary year. Jesus has risen and has taken his place at the right hand of the Father. Matthew is winding down his Gospel. A nice tidy bow is being wrapped up on the narrative… right up until the last 2 lines:
“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.” (Matt 28:19-20)
We act like the passage ends with “Go therefore”, but what we’re getting is the Great Commission. The call to do the work. The Church’s raison d’être.
Trinity Sunday is an invitation. An invitation that we frequently miss. We treat ordinary time like its ordinariness has nothing to offer us. We speak pejoratively about the “Green Seasons” like they’re chores to be performed until we get back to the high points of Church life. The big feasts. The Christmases. The Easters. (We blow right past a number of Marian feasts that occur every summer, but that’s a different rant for a different day…)
We get so wrapped up in the moments of Ecclesiastical performance, that we forget where and why the work is. The work is named. Go Baptize. Jesus makes it clear: I am with the Father and I am with you. So go. Baptize in the name of the God who lives in community and calls us to do the same. To receive the charge and then to step off the gas is precisely what we’re not supposed to do.
That does not mean, however, we simply program more. Program is not what we’re charged with here. Program is not mission. The change of pace that comes naturally in our common life gives us a chance to open up to engaging in our neighborhoods. To forgo a bit of the rigors of performing “church,” to get into the business of community, and to do so in the name of the Trinity.
The Trinitarian bit might be, at least for us in the Mainline, the trickiest spot. It is also the most crucial. I’m blessed to have a job description which demands that I’m out engaging in a neighborhood as a regular part of my work, and what I’ve come to know is that the Trinity is foreign to the way in which the common American conceives of the God they increasingly don’t care about, or flat out don’t believe in. The average “None” is nominally Deist, Arian in what Christology they do have, and practically pantheist in Pneumatology. Jesus as good teacher is not news, and therefore cannot be Good News.
Jesus is part of a God that lives in community with Godself, that speaks to and moves with us in the Spirit. Now that’s news. That’s the Gospel we proclaim. That’s the Gospel that gets communicated when we take the room that the Ecclesial calendars give us, and get on with the work of being in a community, with a community, and for a community.
Trinity Sunday sets us up for a different kind of work. It launches us into the Green Season with the assurance that God is with us, and it demands that we live like it. Rest can very well be a part of that season, but it cannot define it. The world no longer operates on the agrarian patterns that made space for the “summer slump,” and the Church had little business following the academy’s lead in the first place.
Building community is the work. The reality of the Triune God is the good news we carry. If we heed the Great Commission and read well the signs of the season that we’re in, then we can’t help but live into our call. Go therefore. Make disciples. Set the liturgy on autopilot for a bit, sure, but then get on with the work. Maybe even enjoy it. It is Summer, after all.
The Rev. Canon Lee Curtis, Episcopal Priest and native Floridian, received his Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in 2013 and serves as Urban Missioner at Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he works to build community for the city’s booming downtown, and curates the Cathedral’s neighborhood satellite Circle South. He and his wife are the exhausted parents of two young boys. Feel free to follow the madness on IG @thebrokechurchman. Lee also (rarely) blogs at thebrokechurchman.wordpress.com.