Trinity Sunday (Ages 9-12): The Great Gathering-in
(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
We have spent fifty days celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus, his Ascension into heaven, and the gift of his Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We know that death is not the end, that we have been commissioned to build the Kingdom of God, and we have the Holy Spirit for help. Now what? The feast is over. What do we do now? The church knows we might feel a little lost, and so we have another feast--a mini-feast, let's say--on the Sunday after Pentecost. It is the feast of the Holy Trinity, and it gives us a chance to consider where we go from here.
The reading for Trinity Sunday this year is from the Gospel of Matthew. We are taken to the moment just before Jesus ascends into heaven to oversee the building of the Kingdom of God.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him but some doubted.
All of them worship Jesus. They kneel, they bow their heads, they show that they know deep down that he is God. They have known him as a human like themselves, but in these forty days following his rising from the dead, they have come to know that he is also so much more.
All of them worship, but some of them doubt. Even though they have experienced Jesus in his Risen life for forty days, it is all so strange. Their hearts might believe, but their heads are not convinced. Or the other way around. Sometimes, they are just not sure.
Jesus tells all the disciples,
“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.
Jesus does not seem to mind that some of them doubt. He gives these instructions to all of them. It is possible to have faith and doubt at the same time. They are not opposites.
Jesus lays out the plan for them. It is to be a great work of gathering-in. All nations are to be baptized, all nations are to become disciples--followers of God. He gives them the formula for baptizing:
In the name of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit
The disciples are to baptize
in the name of the Father who sends Jesus into the world,
in the name of the Son who stretches to the farthest extreme away from God--into death,
in the name of the Holy Spirit who gathers up the Son into the Father again.
And then Jesus says something interesting:
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
People who study the Word of God get very excited when Jesus says "I am" because that is the name of God. Actually, it is the name that God gives himself. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, early in the history of the Jewish people, God calls Moses to lead the people out of slavery in Egypt. Moses wants to know by what name to call God. And God says:
“I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
I AM is God the Father. So Jesus is saying:
And remember, God with you always, to the end of the age.”
God with you. God with me. God with us.
God-with-us is a name we may remember. It is the name the prophet Isaiah heard for Jesus: Immanuel. "God-with-you" is God the Son.
I AM and Immanuel; the Father and the Son. Their names intertwine and cannot be separated. The names are One name because they are One. One God. Inseparable.
And yet, at the same time...
The way St. Matthew writes Jesus' words in Greek is interesting. Jesus actually says, "And remember, I with you AM..." I AM is opened up, and we are gathered in. This can only be the work of the Great Gatherer, the One who gathers the crowd on the day of Pentecost, who gathers the Son into the Father in the Resurrection, who will gather together disciples of all nations. This can only be the work of the Holy Spirit.
I with you AM. The community of the the Father-Son opened by the Holy Spirit to include us. It is a Trinity name.
What does this name mean?
I with you AM the True Vine (John 15:1).
We know this, don't we? The True Vine needs us, the branches, or else there would be no vine. We are Christ's body here on earth. We do the work of the building of the Kingdom of God, but not on our own. We can only build within the life of God.
I with you AM the Light of the World (John 8:12).
Jesus tells us that he is the light of the world, but he also tells us that we are the light of the world (check it out: Matthew 5:14) Within the life of God, we can be light for the world. We have to consider what this means. How can we be light for others? Light helps people see, it helps them understand. Light is comforting when people are scared, warmth when people are cold. Light is beautiful. We have to ask ourselves, how are we being called to be understanding? comfort? beauty? This gives us something to think about when we make choices; it gives us a way to examine our day before we go to sleep at night.
I with you AM the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25). By our baptism, we have been gathered into Jesus' Risen life, into the life of God. We are sent out into the world, stretching to the farthest extremes, to gather everything together into God again. We will be shown how, because we live within the life of I AM, because we live within the Trinity.