Finding the Lessons

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Trinity Sunday, Year A

And Jesus Himself, in raising the minds of His disciples to higher thoughts of the Son of God, says: “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of you.”32413241 Matt. xviii. 20. And of the same nature is His promise to His disciples: “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.”32423242 Matt. xxviii. 20. And we quote these passages, making no distinction between the Son of God and Jesus. For the soul and body of Jesus formed, after the οἰκονομία , one being with the Logos of God. Now if, according to Paul’s teaching, “he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit,”32433243 1 Cor. vi. 17. every one who understands what being joined to the Lord is, and who has been actually joined to Him, is one spirit with the Lord; how should not that being be one in a far greater and more divine degree, which was once united with the Logos of God?3244

II.IX, Against Celsus, Origen. (c.246)

Matthew 28:16-20
16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Prayer: St. Patrick's Breastplate

I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever,
By power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan River;
His death on cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the Cherubim;
The sweet 'Well done' in judgment hour;
The service of the Seraphim,
Confessors' faith, Apostles' word,
The Patriarchs' prayers, the Prophets' scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun's life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, his shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart's idolatry,
Against the wizard's evil craft,
Against the death-wound and the burning
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Translation: Cecil Frances Alexander

Some Thoughts
As so many of you know I the doctrine of the Trinity is the primary doctrine that informs my theology and ministry.  So, I was struck by William Loader's comment, "This is such an important text in the context of Matthew's gospel that there is a danger that its use on Trinity Sunday will lead to too much focus on its tenuous links with the Trinity..."  This sense of the importance of pausing and re-engaging the text in a fresh was was reinforced by these words from the Matthean scholar Warren Carter, "The scene has significant Christological elements. It is the risen Christ who commissions the disciples."  (Matthew and the Margins, 549)  So let us look again at this passage with fresh eyes and seek the testimony being proclaimed by Matthew.

Let me begin by relying heavily on Allison and Davies (Matthew, vol III, 687):

"28.16-20, which was so important to William Carey and the nineteenth-century Protestant missionary movement, is from the literary point of view, perfect, in the sense that it satisfyingly completes the Gospel: we cold hardly improve upon it.  Nothing is superfluous, yet nothing more could be added without spoiling the effect.  The grand denouement, so consonant with the spirit of the whole Gospel because so full of resonances with earlier passages, is, despite its terseness, almost a compendium of Matthean theology:
Galilee fulfils the prophecies in 26.32 and 28.7 and creates a literary arch with 4.12 that spans the Gospel
Mountain recalls other mountain scenes, especially 4.8 (where Jesus refuses to accept from the devil what he will later accept from the Father) and ...(where Jesus gave them commands.) 5.1
They worshipped him, but some doubted has been foreshadowed by 14.31-3
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me echoes 11.27 as well as a prophecy (Dan 7.13-14) which Jesus has elsewhere applied to himself (24.30; 26.64); it further brings to completion the theme of Jesus' kingship (1.1; etc)
Make disciples reminds one of 13.52 (cf 27.57)
All the nations terminates the prohibition of 10.5-6 (cf 15.24) and announces the realization of the promise made to Abraham (cf 1.1; also Gen 12.3; 18.18; 22.18)
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit' in connexion with baptism reminds one of chapter 3, where the Son is baptized, the Father speaks, and the Spirit descends
Teaching recapitulates a central theme and gives the disciples a task heretofore reserved for Jesus
All that I have commanded you is a sweeping retrospective of all Jesus has said and done
I am with you always forms an inclusio with 1.23 and is similar to 18.20
The end of the age is a phrase used earlier (13.39, 40, 49; 24.3) and puts one in mind of Jesus' teachings about the end
...The climax and crown of Matthew's Gospel is profoundly apt in that it invites the reader to enter the story: 28.16-20 is an open ended ending.  Not only does v.20a underline that the particular man, Jesus, has universal significance, but 'I am with you always' reveals that he is always with his people.  The result is that the believing audience and the ever-living Son of God become intimate.  The Jesus who commands difficult obedience is at the same time the ever-graceful divine presence.
One can not more clearly see the power of the ending of Matthew's Gospel; it is almost and exclamation point to the driving force of the narrative.  Such connections can often only be seen when one reads the text in one sitting as so many people now are doing.  (This is a great Advent event which I cannot more strongly recommend!)

The literary import of this passage is very interesting. But so are the words of Jesus that all are sent (doubters in the midst of the believers).  That we who find ourselves in different places along the Way are invited into the missionary work of God for God's people. 

We used this passage this week as our bible passage for the Executive Board of our diocese.  One of the people in my group had a wonderful saying.  He invited us to consider and hold precious our doubts, wrestle with them, and seek enlightenment; however, he challenged that we not stand on doubt as the guiding principle of life or the guiding principle of following Jesus.  We are challenged to make the Way and Jesus the road map of our faith pilgrimage along with the doubts that come as conversation partners along the journey.

Warren Carter wrote:
The small, minority, marginal community of disciples is commissioned to nothing less than worldwide mission in proclaiming obedience to Jesus and his teaching.  But this mission is carried out in a dangerous and resistant world as the passion narrative and the immediately prior scene in 28:11-15 have made clear.  There are rivals for human loyalty, who are, like this gospel's vision, intolerant of other claimants.  There are competing understandings of what God and/or the gods want from humans.  Post-70 Judaism struggles with diverse visions of its future without the Jerusalem temple, but many do not find the Matthean vision convincing.... [Jesus announcement and commissioning] calls people to recognize God's sovereignty as "Lord of Heaven and earth" (11.25).  And it proclaims that God's purposes are supreme. The future is not that of eternal Rome, but of God's just and life-giving empire established over all (chs. 24-25).  It is to this mission that the community of disciples is again sent by the one who claims "all authority in heaven and earth." (Matthew and the Margins, 550ff)
We are the inheritors of this mission. We have received it from all the mothers and fathers and grandparents who dared to give us the expectation and opportunity of faith. We have received it from as a sacramental blessing from all the priests and deacons who have given countless ours at the altars of God and at the altar of our dining room tables.  We are inheritors from the apostles who have gone before us: Wimberly, Payne, Benitez, Richardson, Hines, Quin, Kinsolving, and Gregg.  We are inheritors of this sacred journey from saints who with a Mother Teresan mixture of faith and doubt have paved the imperial road of God's kingdom for our pilgrim journey.

What blessings are bestowed upon us; to be brought into the divine community by Jesus Christ, commissioned and handed the privilege of serving as a missionary in God's plan. 

The Lambeth Bible Study Method
This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.

Question #5: "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website:

 Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process.

2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.

3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.

4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.

5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.

6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.

7. Each person responds to the questions, "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"

8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.

 9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father..."

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