Trinity Sunday/Memorial Day 5/27/18 Epiphany, Norfolk

This morning we have another double celebration, one secular, and one religious. On the Church Calendar, today is Trinity Sunday. On the Secular Calendar, this is Memorial Day Weekend, tomorrow being Memorial Day. I’m going to say a little something about each of them.

Let’s start with Trinity Sunday. When I came in on Wednesday, Marcie said something to the effect of: “I picked a bulletin cover for Trinity Sunday. I don’t think you’re going to like it, but I really hope you do because I think it’s great.” That translates to: “I picked a bulletin cover, and you’d better damn well like it.” In fact, I did like it. It’s simple – almost childlike – but it communicates the Trinity.

The Trinity is a doctrine. It’s not a person, or an event, or a place. It’s also the only doctrine that we celebrate. It’s never mentioned in the Bible, although the elements of the doctrine are all over the New Testament. Jesus often refers to “God the Father”, or the “Heavenly King”, or the “Creating Father”, represented on our bulletin as a crown.

And Jesus is often referred to as “The Lamb of God”, the “Pascal Lamb” from the Passover, the “sacrificial lamb.” Jesus is seen as “our savior” who intercedes on our behalf with the Father, the creator. Jesus is the redeemer who redeems humankind and saves us from destruction. He is depicted as the cute little lamb on our bulletin, with its curly wool.

Then we have the dove, representing the Holy Spirit, the Holy Wind, the Holy Breath. Last Sunday on Pentecost we celebrated the gift of the Holy Spirit, interpreted as a dove, sent to us by “The Father” to sustain us, and keep us energized, and help us avoid becoming discouraged. These three elements of the Trinity are referred to as “persons”, the “three persons of the Trinity,”

Well, where in the world did that come from? It came from the Council of Nicaea, which was the 1st Ecumenical Council, convened by Constantine in 325 ad  to try to sort all of this stuff out. And the end result is the Nicaean Creed that we will say right after this homily. I can tell you that there is not a word of that creed that has not been debated since 325.

One of the things that they tried to do was describe how God – “the one God” – functioned, and how those functions related to each other. In other words: “What is God?” and “How does God work?” The council thought that if they could pin this down and describe it, it would stop all the heresies, it would stop wars, it would give a common theology throughout Christendom. So they looked at the “functions of God”, as they understood God, and said: “God does 3 things. God creates. God redeems – or saves. And God sustains – keeps it all going. So they arrived at: God the Father – the creator, God the Son – the redeemer, and God the Holy Spirit (or Holy Wind) – the sustainer that keeps it all going. And thus; the Trinity was born and described in the Nicaean Creed. And in our church calendar the Sunday after Pentecost is always Trinity Sunday, when we “hold up” the Doctrine of the Trinity. Just remember that the Nicaean Creed never talks about three Gods. It talks about one God with three functions, three ways of relating to the creation, three ways of relating to us.

Well, how about Memorial Day? Last year I talked about the fact that I was born in November of 1941, almost on Pearl Harbor Day. I also mentioned that I spent my young childhood “on post” in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where my father was stationed. After his death, when I was 4, we moved into town where I stayed until I was about 10. I spoke last year of what a very somber day it was during my childhood. It was called Decoration Day, and it had started after the Civil War to decorate and honor the graves of the war dead who had given their lives for their country. I mentioned that most church registers of the day show the highest attendance of the year during and after WW II on Decoration Day, which is what Memorial Day was called until 1967, when President Johnson got it renamed. By the way, it was an unofficial federal holiday until 1971.

Well, when I was a kid, we all wore the little red paper poppies, representing the Poppy Fields of Flanders, where so many Americans are buried. And we went to church, then to the cemetery to place flags on the graves of the war dead, including my father. We then went home to somber stillness for the rest of the day. It was not a happy time. It was not a time for picnics. It was not a time for travel. It was a very serious day.

It certainly is something different today, for many people. Today, it’s a 3 day weekend to get away, or go to the beach, or have a cookout, or whatever one can do to celebrate.

Last night I checked Face Book and I found many references to Memorial Day, and pictures of the flag, and pictures of cemeteries posted by old timers somewhere around my age. But there were no posts like that from younger people. Younger people were posting their fun activities for the holiday.

We’re moving away from the awful memories and somberness of 70ish years ago. And I can’t help but reference that this holiday originally honored the dead of the Civil War. Just in very recent years we’ve seen the Civil War heroes “put away” – their statues being taken down or moved to museums and cemeteries. Schools and streets are being renamed. Those names say something different today to many people than they did 150 years ago.

That seems to be a very human anomaly. We out live, or out grow our heroes, our memories, and they have to be removed or put away. I assume that each year there will be fewer and fewer people observing Decoration Day, or Memorial Day, unless something else comes along to rekindle the fire.

 One of the great hymns of the Christian Church says it best. I’m referring to “O God, our help in ages past.” It’s a paraphrase of the first 5 verses of Psalm 90. The 5th verse of the hymn says it all: “Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all our years away; they fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.”


Posted June 6, 2018 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

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