The Holy Trinity (C/RCL)
May 21-22, 2016
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Manasquan, NJ
When newborn babies arrive very early or are very sick, parents sometimes ask the hospital chaplain to baptize them. It’s a sacred charge, reaching one’s hand through the little porthole in the side of the incubator, laying a little gauze pad or two under the baby’s head to catch the saving run-off of distilled water poured straight from the bottle three times, a trinity of holy trickles pronounced “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” I was usually alone on neonatal baptismal duty, the nurses busy about other duties. Yet I have always believed “the great cloud of witnesses” that St. Paul talks about was also in attendance, gathering in wonder around the newest member of the Body of Christ, and sometimes beckoning them towards heaven.
Occasionally a call would come in to the pastoral care office at the hospital, once the home parish was notified of the baby’s baptism. The question would be, “What formula did the chaplain use?” Does anybody have any idea what the caller was talking about? This wasn’t a reference to what the baby was fed, but to what words were used to baptize him or her. We teach the confirmands that any Christian can baptize in an emergency; you don’t have to be a pastor. Who knows the sentence you would say as you poured the water if you were ever called to baptize someone in an emergency situation?
“I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Callers asking about the baptismal formula wanted to confirm those were the words used, rather than “I baptize you in the name of the Creator and of the Redeemer and of the Sanctifier,” non-gender-specific references to the 3 persons of the Holy Trinity. (My personal opinion is that it doesn’t matter to God which formula we use, though I always chose to use the traditional one.)
This weekend we celebrate the festival of the Holy Trinity, which always falls the weekend after Pentecost. (This is the last time we’ll see the white paraments until All Saints weekend in early November.) It’s a natural time for us to reflect on and rejoice in our Life Together here at Holy Trinity. Our identity is built into the décor and the architecture of this sanctuary. How?
· The 3 panels of stained glass over the altar depict Father, Son and Holy Spirit. From left to right we see the Father’s hand in blessing, IHS signifying the first 3 letters of Jesus’ name (as spelled in Greek, transliterated into Roman letters!), and the dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit who hovered over chaos “In the beginning” and who descended on Jesus at His baptism.
· Equilateral triangles and 3 interlocking circles carved into the pediment over the chancel.
Trinity, 3 persons in 1 God, is a theological mystery we will never fully understand. St. Patrick used the shamrock as his teaching tool, pointing out that there is one plant with three leaves, a unity of separate parts. Others have used the 3 forms of water as their illustration: liquid water, solid water (ice), vaporized water (steam). St. Augustine, a brilliant guy, was getting a migraine trying to figure out the Trinity. As he walked along the beach he saw a child with a pail, who filled it up with water from the Mediterranean and then poured it into a hole he’d dug in the sand, time after time after time. Augustine asked the boy what he was doing. The child responded, “Emptying the sea into the hole.” Augustine smiled and said, “But that’s impossible.” The little boy answered, “I’ll finish this before you figure out the Trinity” – and then He disappeared!
We’re welcoming new members into our faith family this weekend. Is anybody willing to share [with them] what you love and value about this Holy Trinity community of faith?
Our Holy Trinity faith family is near and dear to our hearts. It’s such a blessing to have a church home, a faith family where we’re known by name, drawn ever closer to the Lord through Word & Sacrament, helped to identify the spiritual gifts God has given us, where we’re invited to share those gifts, to “go and tell what God has done for [us],” to reach out to the last, the lost, the least, whom He counts as precious members of His family.
This is what we want for our children and youth: a life-giving, life-saving connection to our Lord, to our faith family, to the larger Body of Christ. Our Youth & Family Ministry team is interested to know: what experiences did you have as a child or as a teenager that made faith real to you? That bonded you to the family of faith? That nourished your soul? That resulted in you being here today?
Martin Luther said that he made the sign of the cross to remember his baptism. In The Small Catechism he wrote:
In the morning, as soon as you get out of bed, you are to make the sign of the holy cross and say: “God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit watch over me. Amen.”
In the evening, when you go to bed, you are to make the sign of the holy cross and say: “God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit watch over me. Amen.”
On this Feast of the Holy Trinity remember and rejoice that wherever you were baptized, whether one chaplain-on-call or one faithful nurse was in attendance in the NICU or a whole congregation full of family and friends filled a sanctuary, the company of heaven looked on as water washed over you and you were claimed “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen
Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham