Trinity Sunday

A sermon for Trinity Sunday, May 22, 2016

Trinity Episcopal Church of Morrisania, Bronx, New York

Out of the mouths of infants and children your majesty is praised above the heavens.

Today is Trinity Sunday. The feast of the Holy and Blessed Trinity, God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the name day of this church and congregation. Fundamentally it is about our worship and adoration of God, who gives us life. And mercy. And hope.

We celebrate God, but we also celebrate this Trinity Church. I have been with you a little over a year and a half, pretty much every Sunday. Here’s what I have seen: a congregation with life and courage. From the outset, I noticed how important respect for one another is here.  There is a joy in being together, worshiping God and sharing in meals and our times together. There is particular joy in the nurture of children in this church. Easter 3Young people are taught the faith and they take leadership roles in the services. And everyone enjoys hearing our youth choir sing.

I arrived here the day after Fr. Allen Newman died and shortly before the death of Keith Warren. Besides grief over losing two beloved brothers in Christ, Trinity lost two major leaders. Which meant there was understandable anxiety: How would things get done? How could the church move forward?

On this Trinity Sunday, a year-and-a-half into my ministry, I am here to report that Trinity Church got the important things done and it is moving forward. I will tell you what I have seen, but first I want to say something about my role as priest here.

There’s a part of my ministry that everyone sees here: On Sunday, I preach the Gospel and celebrate the Eucharist with you. Those are very important things, and there are things I do here that not everybody sees. But there are also important things I don’t do that are often done by clergy when a parish has a full-time priest. I don’t manage the budget or supervise employees. I don’t choose the music or put together the liturgy or service bulletin. I don’t manage the Sunday School and I don’t round up the stewardship and fundraising programs. In the beginning, I didn’t even attend vestry meetings, though that has changed recently. Yet that has all been done. How? You have done it. You, the members of this body, took responsibility for being the church and making it run. And this isn’t just a question of the nuts-and-bolts of what it takes to make an organization run. Each of the groups and families in this congregation works hard, with generosity of spirit, to make this a place of spiritual awakening, respect and hope.

What have I seen in my time with you? I see outreach to this neighborhood, through an after-school ceramics program, which gives possibilities in artistic expression and positive attention for kids who really need this enrichment. I see women from a local homeless shelter welcomed at Christmas time as our guests—receiving dignified respect as well as a festive meal.

And our sick and homebound are not forgotten. Our pastoral care committee and others visit the sick, and Jeannie Seaman is a lay Eucharistic visitor who brings communion to the shut-ins. And when Jeannie was in the hospital, she herself received visits, organized by parishioners. When I have gone to visit those who are sick or in hospital, I have never gone alone—Trinity members have always gone with me because it is in their DNA to be community together.
Then, we have an acolyte core that includes young and old—we have our altar guild—we have our choir. It’s not only their serious dedication to the tasks of preparing our Sundays for worship, it’s also the reverence displayed toward God that makes it possible for us all to enter into the mysteries of faith—together.

This is a family that loves being together. I once described it as a group that would have a feast at the slightest provocation. We rejoice in God’s love, and in this short time we have baptized Logan, Ethan, Aiden, Jael, Demetrius, Amiyah, Savannah, and Zyhir into the body of Christ in our midst. The Body of Christ is alive and continues forward into the future.

These things that I have seen are the manifestations of the spirit of this Trinity Church of Morrisania which is enlivened by the Holy Spirit to bring forth Christ’s love into the world. It is not a fearful spirit or one that is only worried about its self-preservation. We have received God’s generosity in Jesus Christ and we look to share his hospitality with all his children.

At the parish meeting a couple of months ago we discussed together a new project that grows out of this spirit. The New York Internship Program of the Episcopal Service Corps will be working with Trinity to bring interns in residence here, beginning in 2017. This is a big project, and it takes a lot of preparation. Paula Roberts and Eleanor Chesterfield are leading the way on this and participating in the steering committee of the project.  One of the things that the project will do is provide a certain amount of revenue to offset the costs that the parish has been incurring to maintain the rectory where the interns will be living. In itself, that is important, because it helps to stabilize the finances of the parish.  But as a priest and a theologian, what is more important to me is that half-a-dozen young adults will be here and learn from the spirit of this parish, to learn how you live out respect, love and joy here in the south Bronx. And they will share that forward, in this part of the city that so much needs to receive respect and hope, they will share this spirit—in their work assignments, and in being resident seven days a week here on this block, and in their participation in the congregation. The interns will be enlivened by their contacts here in this church and in turn they will contribute to the life and ministry and hope of the congregation that is already here.

This is what YOU do, and who YOU are: God’s people, living in the joy of God’s presence. It may feel at times like we are small, or have few resources. But God is not small, and the abundance and riches of God outstrip all the opulence of the most wealthy places in the city.

The Trinity is how we know God: the Father and creator of all things in the whole of the universe, in Jesus manifesting God in demonstrating how to be human, and the Holy Spirit transforming us and incorporating us into the life of God. It is here at this Trinity Church that I have seen the Holy Spirit doing this.

As our psalm says:

Out of the mouths of infants and children your majesty is praised above the heavens.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

What is man that you should be mindful of him?

The son of man that you should seek him out?

You have made him but little lower than the angels;

you adorn him with glory and honor;

O Lord our Governor, how exalted is your Name in all the world.


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