Sunday, June 15, 2014

Holy Trinity Sunday, preached at Christ Memorial Church by Sr. Constance Joanna, SSJD

Homily: Trinity Sunday Year A
Christ Memorial Church, June 15, 2014

Sr. Constance Joanna, SSJD

Genesis 1.1 - 2.4a Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13.11-13 Matthew 28.16-20

I remember when the Sky Dome first opened in Toronto in 1989 – hard to believe that was 25 years ago. (I realize that it has officially been known as the Rogers Centre since 2005, but most people still think of it as the Sky Dome.) I was lucky enough to go to some of the Blue Jays games because I was working at St. John’s Rehab Hospital and the staff were occasionally offered free tickets.

But my first time at the Sky Dome was the most memorable – it was the 150th anniversary of the Diocese of Toronto in 1989. It was one of the first events to be held in the Sky Dome and there was even some question about whether it would be finished and opened in time. But it was. All the Sunday-morning church services in the diocese were cancelled, and busloads of Anglicans from as far away as Cobourg and Orillia came to join in the Sunday-morning celebration of the Eucharist with nearly 50,000 other Anglicans, including a massed choir of 1500 singers from church choirs all over the diocese.

It’s just hard to imagine if you weren’t there, but there was such an amazing sense of the Spirit moving in that place as we sang hymns, listened to scripture, and celebrated communion together. Clergy and chalice-bearers carried the bread and wine from the altar on the stadium floor to strategic locations in the stands. And we knew that the Spirit had gathered us together as a witness: a witness to the love of God in a secular society, a witness that we are each created in the image of God but forged into a Christian community sent out to bear witness to that truth. All of this in the Sky Dome, not in a church or cathedral – in the midst of one of the greatest symbols of our secular society. I believe our presence and our prayer there blessed the Sky Dome and blessed our city in ways we will never know. And we were sent out from there to spread the good news everywhere.

Do you know how the Sky Dome got its name? The Toronto Sun ran a contest and 2,000 different people suggested that name. When it was chosen, one of the officials remarked, "The sky is a huge part of the whole roof process. The name has a sense of the infinite and that's what this is all about."

The infinite – God – is indeed what it is all about. What our lives are about, and our mission as Christians. Both the creation story from Genesis and Jesus’ commissioning of the Disciples from Matthew are directly related to this.

The account of creation in Genesis is a story we are all familiar with and don’t always notice the details. Let me read you the beginning:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

Every time I hear that passage read I think of the Sky Dome. “God called the dome Sky.” The official who explained the Sky Dome’s name said “it has a sense of the infinite.” As in the scripture, the dome of the sky separates heaven from earth, the infinite from the finite – and God said “that is good!”

Notice how each day has the same pattern: God says something – “Let there be light, “let there be a dome to separate earth from heaven,” and on the third day, “let vegetation appear.” God speaks creation into being. And each time we are told “And God saw that it was good.”

By the time we get to the fourth day, God says “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky” – and God creates the Sun and the Moon. The Dome of the Sky continues to be the separation between heaven and earth, creating a safe place for living things. And so on the next two days God creates birds and sea creatures, mammals, and vegetation.

And finally on day 6, God says “Let us make humankind in our image” (he’s using the royal “we” here!). After each other day of creation, God says “it was good.” But after creating humans, God says “it was very good.” We are all created in God’s image – how good is that?! We are embued with the creativity, the love, the joy and peace of God. Other things get in the way (and that’s part of another story in Genesis). But our destiny is to live in the image of God. We are separated on earth from the heavens, by the Dome of the Sky. But in the fullness of time, God sent Jesus, who opened that dome and brought heaven and earth together.

That is one reason we listen to the creation story on Trinity Sunday, which is the day of the church year when we celebrate the three-fold nature of God. One God, but in three manifestations: God our creator, God who comes to earth in the person of Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit who came on the day of Pentecost as our comforter and advocate when Jesus returned to heaven.

And the Holy Spirit was also there on the day of creation. In older translations Genesis begins “the Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters.” In our modern translation it reads “a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” The words that we translate wind, breath, and spirit all come from the same Hebrew word, ruach.

The Spirit is a creating Spirit. This whole reading from Genesis is about the creative activity of God, and God’s desire to create. And we are created in the image of God – that is with the ability to create, to invent, to dream and vision a world in partnership with God. That means that creation is not just something that happened once upon a time – it continues to unfold. God’s vision of the universe continues to unfold, and we are partners in that creative process. In the language of the New Testament, we are building the Kingdom of God.

And that brings us to the gospel reading for today. It is the account of Jesus commissioning the disciples to carry on his mission just before he ascends to the Father. It’s interesting to notice where they go. First, it is in Galilee. Jesus’ public ministry began in Galilee. On the day of the resurrection Jesus told the disciples to meet him in Galilee. And so this gathering on the mountain in Galilee brings the story of Jesus full circle. He is about to leave the disciples, and after he ascends, the Dome of the Sky will separate him and his friends once again. But they have the commission of Jesus to become his body in the world. And they have the presence of his Spirit with them as well. He says:

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.”

The Sky Dome represents the infinite, we are told. And in scripture the Dome of the Sky
represents the boundary between heaven and earth. But the continued presence of God our creator, Jesus our Saviour, and the Holy Spirit connects us spiritually and allows us to bring the message of Jesus to those who long for the knowledge of God’s creative and saving work but don’t know or understand how to connect with it. People in the Sky Dome who have never been inside a church may look up at the sky when the dome is open and think of the Infinite – long for the Infinite. But they will only know what that means if we can share our own experience of God with them.

On this Trinity Sunday, let us remember that our commission is to make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That commission is for all Christians not just the clergy.

So I will leave you with a question: What can you do to open that dome between earth and heaven and give someone a glimpse of who our wonderful God is?