Journeying through the Revised Common Lectionary
Readings, Commentary, and Discussion Questions for May 27, 2018
First Sunday after Pentecost; Trinity Sunday
First Reading: Isaiah 6:1-8
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I; send me!”
Worth Noting: Just as the Spirit comes with fire on Pentecost, so on the inauguration of Isaiah’s vocation his sin is burned away with a live coal from the altar of the LORD of hosts. Purified, Isaiah can now prophecy for the LORD. Do you think one must undergo trials to speak credibly for God?
1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name;
worship the LORD in holy splendor.
3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD, over mighty waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl,
and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the LORD give strength to his people!
May the LORD bless his people with peace!
Worth Noting: Enthusiastic readers of ancient poetry suggest that Psalm 29 was written taking images and themes from the Baal worship of the Canaanites and turning them to praise the LORD. On what images and themes would a modern poet draw? National anthems? Consumer ads?
Second Reading: Romans 8:12-17
12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Worth Noting: The element of explicit choice in adoption highlights the need to choose to be parents in a meaningful way for others. It is a choice both birth and adoptive parents must make. Paul reminds his audience that God has deliberately, explicitly, formally, and eternally chosen them to be God’s daughters and sons. What does it mean to be joint heirs with our Brother Jesus Christ?
Gospel: John 3:1-17
1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”
3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”
4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”
10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Worth Noting: How does your community view the claim that Jesus came not to condemn but to save? Are condemnation and salvation only about life hereafter? If not, what does salvation in Jesus look like?
CONNECTING WITH THE SCRIPTURES
Entering into the Scriptures
The Mystery of the Trinity, that the one true God is one God with three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, took centuries to develop in an even rudimentary form. Scripture describes this mystery not in terms of God’s essence or personality, but obliquely in describing God’s actions. The Hebrew Scriptures are so focused on affirming the oneness of God, that it is difficult to see even a hint of the Trinity in them. In chapter 8 of his letter to the Romans, Paul refers to the mystery: the Father adopting Christ followers, the Spirit bearing witness to this adoption, and adoption making the chosen joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:14-17). In its final edition, the Gospel of John set out the belief in the eternal divinity of Jesus (John 1:1-14) but also Jesus’ subordination to the Father (for example, John 3:16-17) as well as the benefit to the world if Jesus leaves and the Spirit comes (John 16:7).
The Church thus had Scriptures’ witness to three distinct beings and an emerging consensus that Jesus Christ was divine. Trying to hold this revelation together with a belief in one God surely caused many sleepless nights among the earliest Christians. The formulation in the creeds of the 4th and 5th centuries offers a framework within which to explore the meaning of the Trinity.
“Give Me Love/Give Me Peace on Earth”
Throughout the Eastertide Scripture readings, the Lectionary chose the Gospel of John and the epistle 1 John to proclaim that God is love and we abide in God’s love. It is that insight that gives meaning to the Trinity. In our reflection on the mystery of the Trinity we contemplate a God who exists as a dynamic, loving relationship. Creation abides, resides, exists within this relationship.
Holding that they are created in the image of this Triune God, Christians also know that they, like God, are themselves both products and producers of this loving, dynamic relationship: products in so far as they are created; producers in so far as they participate in the love of God, and in that participation somehow add to the love that is God.
Christians see themselves living within an eternal web of love. It is a web that encompasses and supports all creation. As they respond to love or not to love, all creatures strengthen or weaken that web. As a consequence, Christians view rampant individualism as inimical to their belief and way of life, for individualism denies the very nature of God and God’s creation of a web of life-giving love.
Questions for Discussion
Psalm 29 sees the work of God in all creation. How (if at all) does the natural created world speak to you of God’s love and providence?
Christian preachers shy away from sermons on the Trinity, fearing accusations of inadvertent heresy. Do you recall ever hearing an adequate description of the Trinity? Does the doctrine of the Trinity have any purchase in your life?
We at Journeying are fearless about accusations of heresy (with nothing to lose, why not?). How does your community express belief in a God of loving relationship?
Ramadan Kareem! Have an abundant Ramadan! In the North America, Ramadan, the month Muslims devote to fasting (including fasting from road rage), prayers, and works of charity, began Tuesday May 15 and runs to the evening of Thursday June 14. How can Christians participate in this month of heightened spiritual energy? While Muslims do not profess belief in the Trinity, do their Ramadan practices align with the Christian mystery of the Trinity?
For a PDF version of this week’s Journeying, click here.
Dennis Haugh has enjoyed working with adult seekers for over 20 years. He aims to engage academic and general audiences for the New Testament. To hone his skills and burnish his credentials, he earned his PhD in Biblical Studies in the University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology joint program. He appreciates any correspondence: firstname.lastname@example.org.