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The Holy Trinity | Sunday Sermon by The Reverend Irene Maliaman

June 05, 20238 min read

Holy Trinity | Sermon for June 4, 2023

And there was evening and there was morning, the 11th day. In our first reading from the book of Genesis, we heard this refrain when God created: “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day, the second day, up to the 6th day.” Today is the feast of the Holy Trinity. But for us here in Guam, today is the 11th day after typhoon Mawar. While the line in the gas stations and groceries have improved and some have their electricity and water supplies restored, most parts of the island still have no power and water. In the church compound, as you can see, we do not have electricity yet, but it is such a blessing that we never lost water supply. The on and off rain may cool us some, but it also hampers the drying of clothes, repairs and clearing. The weak or total lack of internet signal is still a challenge for many. But each day is a new day, and each new day brings some new blessing. I do believe this and I hope you do too.

Trinity Sunday invites us to reflect on the nature of God

Our readings this Trinity Sunday invite us to reflect on the nature of God. Who is God? It is important for us to know God for the obvious reason that we cannot begin a relationship with God if we do not have at least a clue of who God is.

Genesis 1 tells us that God is the maker of all that is, calling forth into existence things that did not exist before. In addition, the Genesis story suggests that there is a community at work in God: The Wind or breath or Spirit of God, “swept over the face of the waters,” God spoke the Word, and the Word called forth things into being. After creating the land and sky and water, and filling them with living creatures, God made humans saying “Let us create humankind in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Our second lesson from I Corinthians echoes this community in God in Paul’s parting blessing: “The grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

In Matthew's gospel, the image of God as a community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is presented to us in Jesus’ last marching order to his disciples before he ascended to heaven: “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.”

Celebration of the Holy Trinity

This is what we celebrate today: the gift of the Holy Trinity, the image of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are other languages in the Bible that describe God. One of my favorites comes from the encounter of Moses with God in the burning bush, where Moses asked God’s name and God said “I am.” Other variations are “I will be who I will be;” or "I am what I am." Which tells us that God somehow is not just a noun, but also a verb and that we cannot pin down God in a neat formula or creed. As the late Episcopal bishop, John Shelby Spong wrote in his book "A New Christianity for a New world” : "The Trinity is not a description of the being of God," rather, the Holy Trinity is an “attempt to define our human experience of God." Further he wrote: “The Jews understood that God does not dwell in temples or altars made with human hands. Twenty-first-century Christians must now come to understand that God does not inhabit creeds or theological doctrines shaped with human words.”

In short, the Holy Trinity or any human language is inadequate to describe God. Still, the Trinity is helpful in making God relatable and accessible to us by bringing down God to our level using human language. Additionally, the concept of the Holy Trinity is helpful in our self-understanding as creatures made in God’s image and the mission we are supposed to be doing.

The first reading brought home to me the missional component of the Trinity through the insight that God creates everyday. On the seventh day God rested but it did not say that God stopped creating after the seventh day. Not only do we see this ongoing work of God in creation in the evolution of the earth and species, but through our work as co-creators with God, as we innovate and use the tools and materials God has already provided, the creative work of God continues. In other words, when we reflect God’s creativity through our innovative work as a community for the common good, we multiply and diversify and we become closer to the image of God that we see in the Holy Trinity.

Holy Trinity in Action

In the past few days I had the great blessing and privilege of seeing this creativity in the different peoples I worked with in response to the need in our community. Working with different peoples teaches us to adapt and innovate as each situation is different and has its own challenge. The work consists of connecting those in need to the people who have the capacity to help, collect donations and distribute food, clothing, toiletries, diapers, etc. In addition, we set up 11 temporary shelters in Agat and in Dededo last week, thanks to the generous sponsors of Tent sets from our members at St. John's Church, friends from St. John's school and friends from the interfaith community. It was great to work with the owners and staff of LYT restaurant in Tumon who prepared the hot meals that were distributed yesterday. Will Wong and Jose Castro from Touch of Kindness have become adept at putting up tents in less than an hour. We still have people who want to donate but the hardware store ran out of the needed supplies yesterday.

Meanwhile, it was good to visit with our parishioners by phone, by text, or in person last week. It was great to know that you are coping well, although some are really struggling financially and emotionally as a result of the damages to your properties. Some of you have indicated eagerness to help volunteer. Thank you so much for your willingness to share your time. Please be patient as we figure out a better way to be more organized in our response. Meanwhile, you can always, in your own imaginative way, do something to help someone in need. the important thing is to not assume that there is no need, just because you are handling your situation well or that your neighborhood is relatively okay. If you have the time, drive beyond the familiar, see what you can find, and it is a good idea to have some bottles of water to give away. This is the 11th day after the typhoon, yet most of the people we have visited told us we were the first ones to visit and give help. Their smiles are priceless.

I am also happy to let you know that bishop Bob and our family in the wider Episcopal Church continue to offer their prayers and financial support. Last week we received from Bishop Bob, churches and individuals from the diocese of Hawaii, more than $12000 for the repair of the damages to our facilities and to help enhance our capacity to respond to the community. Through the intervention of Bishop Bob, who wrote the PB to assist our youth to attend EYE, we received a commitment of $10,000 from the PB’s discretionary fund. All this to say, there is a lot to be thankful for in the midst of our struggles. And there is a lot of good we can do when, like the Holy Trinity in whose image we were created, we work together.

And so as we celebrate today the gift of the Holy Trinity, may we discover again our great potential as God's co-creator when we innovate and create something new everyday. May we also be jolted into action by our Lord Jesus' commission to go to the world and make disciples. For a long time, this mandate has been narrowly interpreted to go and convert people to join the church. You might be surprised to know that the individuals who started going to the depressed communities to offer help are not your regular church goers. They embody sacrifice and compassion for neighbor and it is such a joy to know and work with them.

The Rev. Irene Egmalis-Maliaman

The Reverend Irene Irene Egmalis-Maliaman

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