A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin and sermon.


PRELUDE                                          “Sheep May Safely Graze”                                      J. S. Bach


GATHERING SONG              “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!”             red book # 413


KYRIE                                                                                                                  red book # 157

CANTICLE OF PRAISE                                                                                  red book # 167



ISAIAH 6:1–8                                                             


ROMANS 8:12–17                                                       

JOHN 3:1–17                                                                    .

SERMON                                                                                                             Pastor Chris Halverson

This was another week in which I preached without a manuscript. What follows the basics of my sermon.

Introduction: There is a tradition of not preaching on the Trinity on Trinity Sunday because pastors often say stupid things while trying to explain the trinity—but I’m young and perhaps still a little stupid, so I’ll try anyway

Point 1: Historical Background about the Trinity

At no point do we find the Trinity explicitly mentioned in the bible. We do however find plenty of references to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Most plainly we find these elements at the end of Matthew’s Gospel—we are to Baptize people in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Trinity was first really struggled with after the Church determined that the right way to understand Jesus is both Human and Divine. After they concluded that Jesus was completely human and completely divine they then started to ask “How does Jesus relate to God the Father, and for that matter how does the Holy Spirit relate to the Father and the Son?”

Eventually Eastern and Western Christianity disagree with one another’s views of the relation between Father and Son on the basis of a single i. That is, the West said the Father and the Son were Homo-ousios—of the Same Essence, whereas the East said they were Homoiousios, of a similar essence. Additionally they disagreed on whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father only (the Eastern tradition) or from the Father and the Son (the Western tradition). The West eventually set all of this down in the Athenasian Creed. The sticky point of the Athenasian Creed is that it says those who disagree about that i are going to hell.

During one of the Crusades it was reported that some knights, stopping near Constantinople, got lazy and deciding Jerusalem was just too far away and began stopping random peasants and asking them “Homoousiou or Homoiousios.” If they said the latter one, they would kill them and take their stuff, justifying it with the Athenasian Creed.

All this is background to why we no longer have the Athenasian creed in the Red book. When the ELCA was in discussion with Orthodox (Eastern) Christians one of the things that they felt was a barrier to greater unity between fellow Christians was our condemning all Eastern Christians to hell by reading the Athenasian creed on Trinity Sunday. In other words, once a year St. Stephen Lutheran of South Plainfield was, not realizing it, declaring that all the members of St. Stephen Orthodox of South Plainfield, were going to hell.

Point 2: Other formulations of the Trinity

Eastern and Western Christianity are not the only traditions that have wrestled with God’s tri-fold presence in scripture. In Islam Jesus is relegated to the status of Prophet and the Holy Spirit is the breath of angels. On the other extreme is the Mormon tradition, which wholly separates Father, Son, and Spirit into three physically distinct beings.

Point 3: Why the Trinity matters

We affirm that God is one, because we trust in the God of which it is said in Deuteronomy 6:4 “Here O Israel, the LORD, our God, the LORD is one.” We put our faith in the same God who led His people out of slavery into freedom, the same God who went with His people to Babylon, the same God who has proved His trustworthiness time and time again.

We affirm that God is three because we have experienced God as Father, Son, and Spirit. For that matter we practice our faith in a triune way, Baptizing in the Triune name.

Finally, we affirm the Trinity because it expresses an ongoing interdependent relationship that existed before creation. We affirm that God didn’t create us because God was lonely, but because God was so pleased with the dance and the harmony of the Trinity that He called us into being to join in that dance and sing that song.

We find ourselves caught up in this dance/song when Isaiah is made holy so that he might sing Holy Holy Holy, when Paul tells the Romans that they are adopted into God’s family, heirs in the same way Jesus is, when Niccodemus is told that the Spirit blows where it wills and the link between Father and Son has descended to earth, not to condemn the earth, but because God so loved the world.

When, as well, we come before the table, singing with the Angels Holy Holy Holy—bread and wine touching our lips—declaring us forgiven. When Mallory Autumn Szylar was washed in water and word in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Amen and Alleluia.

HYMN of the DAY                           “Come, Join the Dance of Trinity”                          red book # 412






OFFERTORY ANTHEM                  “I Have Called You By Your Name”               Emily Crocker



COMMUNION SONGS                      “Lamb of God”

Also, “Let There Be Peace On Earth”, red # 456, red # 595


SENDING SONG                “Praise to You, O God of Mercy”             red book # 208