We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Sermon, Trinity Sunday, June 12, 2022

Sermon, Trinity Sunday, Year C 2022

Today’s sermon is  almost completely taken from the first sermon I preached on Trinity Sunday here at St Peter’s.    

The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the ways that we Christians try to understand the nature of God.    In today’s reading from Proverbs, the woman called Wisdom gives us some insight into God’s nature.   

Ellen Davis, who teaches at Duke, and is one of our most important  Old Testament theologians  and Hebrew scholars, says that “the picture of Wisdom playing, even giddily, before God, must be allowed to stand as the important theological statement it is.” 

Davis offers this translation of Wisdom speaking about herself at the end of today’s reading from Proverbs. 

 “And I was delights daily, playing before him continually, playing in his inhabited world, and my delights were with human beings.”

Davis says that here the writer of Proverbs emphasizes the element of play in God’s nature.

After all, God didn’t have to create this world, or us, for that matter! 

Davis points out that God’s decision to create the world was a matter of absolutely free choice, and in fact, creation, and especially humanity, God created simply for “the sake of God’s own pleasure.” 

The freedom to create and delight in what is created belong together, in divine play just as in child’s play.  In  this “boisterous” image we see Divine Wisdom freely playing with, and delighting in human beings!

The fact that God plays in creation reminds us that God is here with us and is intimately involved with every aspect of our lives, just as God is intimately involved with all of creation. 

And the fact that God is intimately involved with us and with all of creation finds expression in the doctrine of the Trinity,

because as Davis goes on to point out,  we “Christians confess that God not only created the world but dwelt in it as a human being and God now continues to be present in our midst through the Holy Spirit, one of whose seven gifts is the wisdom of God.”

An understanding of the Trinity that was popular in the first few centuries of  the church captures this playful nature of God.  

This understanding  is known as perichoreisis.

Catherine LaCugna, a theologian who wrote about the Trinity, tells us that perichoresis expresses the idea  that the three divine persons mutually exist permanently in one another, draw life from one another, and are what they are by relation to one another.

If we take the Greek  prefix peri (around) and  link it with the root of the verb choreuein (to dance), we get a lively  metaphor that describes  the “one nature in three persons” of the Trinity. Literally God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit “dance around.”  The choreia or dance of God is “the choreography of the cosmos—it’s the interrelationship of Creator, creation, and life itself, the holy creativity of the All in All.” (from notes on Perichoresis from The Rev. Susan Sowers)

And LaCugna goes on to add that we, yes, all of us, all of humanity, have been made partners in this divine dance, not through our own merit, or because we’re good dancers,  but because God has chosen us to join in this cosmic dance of love.  We have been made partners in the divine dance, because everything comes from God, and everything returns to God, and this coming and returning happens through Jesus Christ in the Spirit—“the choreography of the divine dance which takes place from all eternity and is manifest at every moment of creation.”

LaCugna  points out that this “one mystery of communion includes God and humanity as beloved partners in the dance.”

Dancing is good for us.  A recent article in The Washington Post, “Anxious, lonely, or angry? Try Dancing,” quotes Lucia Horan, who teaches a specific kind of dance that helps people to deal with stress.  She says that the “beauty of dance is that it addresses these quadrants of healing—the physical, the emotional, the mental and the spiritual.”  She goes on to say that dance works for many people because if forces people to focus on the present moment, which can bring relief from worry, grief, and emotional pain.  

The early church fathers used the metaphor of dancing as a way of elevating the soul. 

St Augustine says this about dancing.

“I praise the dance, because it frees people from the heaviness of matter and binds the isolated to community.  I praise the dance, which demands everything:  health and a clear spirit and a buoyant soul.  Dance is a transformation of space, of time, of people, who are in constant danger of becoming  all brain, will, or feeling.  Dancing demands a whole person, one who is firmly anchored in the centre of his life…I praise the dance.  O Man, learn to dance, or else the angels in heaven will not know what to do with you.”   

Brendan O’Malley tells us that in the Christian Church for the first thousand years Christians danced in procession to and from the church.  This dance was known as the “Tripudium, which means three steps or transport of joy… The dancers linked arms and danced in row after row, three steps forward, one step back, moving through the streets and into the church and around it during the hymns of the service, and then out through the streets as a recessional.” 

Three steps forward, one step back, three steps forward and one step back—this is how we move toward God in this lifetime, stepping backward periodically, but then advancing again. 

So the early Christians danced into, and in, and out of their churches, and felt in their bodies the pull of the divine dance of the Trinity, a dance of mutual love, breathing in together the breath of life, and pouring out to one another in mutual giving. 

So what does this understanding of the Trinity, this divine dance  that we’re a part of, have to do with how we live our lives today?  

Brain McLaren, a current theologian, offers this simple thought experiment. 

Imagine God as “this loving trinity of perichoresis, a sacred choreography of self-giving, other receiving; honoring, being honored; fully seeing the other, fully revealing the self.”

Now imagine the universe that this God has freely and playfully chosen to create.  Imagine dancing to the music of this universe—“a wild and wonderful symphony, full of polyphony and surprise, expansive in themes, each movement inspiring the possibility of more movements as yet unimagined, all woven together with coherent motifs and morphing rhythms, where even dissonance has a place within higher more comprehensive patterns of harmony and wholeness.” 

And finally, McLaren asks us to “imagine how people in this universe would manifest trust in this triune God—with undying creative love toward creation, and all of humanity, and even love toward those people who hold differing beliefs.”

This doctrine of the Trinity as perichoresis is a gift to us, because it allows us to imagine God-in-God, dancing in community, God electing us, choosing you and choosing me, to join in God in this divine dance, stepping with joy into God’s dance with the rest of humanity and all of creation.    

And because God has no limits, we know that God has elected all of humanity, not just us, to dance divinely,  our arms outstretched and  linked in love  to one another, taking three steps forward, one step back, and three more steps forward,  in a transport of joy, as we learn to dance this divine dance with one another and with God  right here in God’s good creation.

And if we fully enter into this divine dance, then  surely, as Clement of Alexandria said, even now, “we raise our winged souls to the heavens.” 


Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs,  by Ellen Davis.  Westminster John Knox Press, 2000. 

God for Us:  The Trinity and Christian Life, by Catherine Mowry LaCugna. HarperSanFrancisco, 1973.


Lord of Creation:  A Resource for Creative Celtic Spirituality, by Brendan O’Malley.   Morehouse Publishing, 2008.

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?  Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World, by Brian D. McLaren.  Jericho Books, 2012. 

Notes on perichoresis from The Rev. Susan Sowers

The Nicene Creed, line by line

We say this creed every Sunday in the Eucharist service.  It is the central creed or belief of Christianity and goes back to 325AD.  On Trinity Sunday it is good to break it down into its essential meaning. 

Walls of Nicea

“I believe in one God

The Greek, Latin and proper English translations begin with “I” believe, because reciting the creed is an individual expression of belief.

the Father Almighty

God the Father is the first person, within the Godhead. The Father is the “origin” or “source” of the Trinity. From Him, came somehow the other two. God the Father is often called “God Unbegotten” in early Christian thought.

Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible:

Everything that is was created by God. Some early sects, the Gnostics and Marcionites, believed that God the Father created the spirit world, but that an “evil” god (called the demiurge) created the similarly evil material world.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,

Jesus is Lord and Master of all this creation. No tyrant, Jesus is Lord, teacher, counselor, friend and servant.

the only-begotten Son of God

Jesus is in a unique relationship with God the Father, His only Son. While Hebrew kings were sons of God symbolically, Jesus is the only Son of God by nature.

Begotten of his Father before all worlds

Begotten has the meaning of born, generated, or produced. God the Son is out of the essence of God the Father. The Son shares the essential nature of God with the Father. Since God is eternal, the Son, being begotten of God, is also eternal. Jesus was begotten of the Father before this world came into being and was present at its creation.

God of God, Light of Light

God the Son exists in relation to God the Father. The Son is not the Father, but they both are God. Just as a torch is lit one to another, the Father and Son are distinct, but both light to the world. Add in the Holy Spirit. Three in one. One of three. Not one, three, yet one. Scriptures have all three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in action at the same time at Jesus’ baptism. Scripture has the Father and Son as two as well as one.

In John’s gospel, the Father and Son testify as two witnesses, not one (John 8:17-18). St. Athanasius, writing during the Nicene era, said that the Father and Son are one as “the sight of two eyes is one,” probably the best analogy. Another analogy is the musical C-chord. The C, E, and G notes are all distinct notes, but joined together as one chord, the sound is richer and more dynamic than had the notes been played individually. The chords are all equally important in producing the full, dynamic, sound of the chord, but the sound is lacking and thin if one of the notes is left out.

Very God of very God

God the Son is fully and utterly God, distinct but not separate from the Father.

This was to counter thoughts of the Arians under Arias (250-336AD). They believed that Jesus could be called god but not true God. In other words, they believed the Jesus was a creature – the first creation of God, necessary to mediate between the unknowable distant God (a concept borrowed from Platonic thought) and creation. There was a time “when Jesus was not.” Because God knew that the Logos would be perfect, the title god could be bestowed upon the Son “by participation,” but “true God” was a title reserved only for the unknowable Father

Begotten, not made

Some today (Jehovah’s Witnesses) and in the past (Arians) have suggested God created Jesus like God would an angel. The creed tells the Son is not created out of nothing. Since the Son’s creation from the Father occurred before time was created, begotten refers to a permanent relationship as opposed to an event within time.

Being of one substance with the Father

Father and Son share the same substance or essence of divinity. That is, the Father and Son both share the qualities and essential nature that make one in reality God. However, sharing the same substance does not mean they share identity of person. They share a common nature, the essential qualities and essence of humanity, but are not the same person (although unlike the persons of the Trinity, humans do not share one will).

By whom all things were made

Through The Son, as Word of God, all things have been created. As Logos, the Son is the agent and artificer of creation.

Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven

Jesus came from heaven, from a reality other than our own.

And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man

God the Son became incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He was born of a virgin through the Holy Ghost. God truly became human in Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was and is a real human being, not simply a spirit or ghost. The incarnation of God in Christ is the ultimate act of love, because rather than sending an angel or good human to accomplish the redemption and restoration of creation, God Himself became human.

And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried

Jesus died on a cross, suffered as humans do, truly died, and was laid in a tomb. Notice that in addition to being “true God from true God,” Jesus is fully human as well. The early Docetists” believed Jesus only seemed to be human, but was not, and simply went through the motions of being human. Thus, when Jesus ate, they said, he only pretended to eat. Docetism was a very early heresy, addressed by the Gospel and Letters of St. John, as well as in St. Ignatius’ letters in AD 110 AD.

And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures

Jesus was resurrected bodily as the Scriptures say. Just as Jesus truly died, he truly rose from the dead three days later. The bodily resurrection is the keystone of Christian doctrine and experience. However, Jesus was not just physically resuscitated (as was Lazarus), but rather his body was transformed at the resurrection. Rejection of the bodily resurrection is a rejection of the foundation of Christianity.

And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father:

Jesus left this world after His resurrection. In ancient science, heaven was thought to be above the sky (notice how on a starry night the sky looks like a dome that one could pierce through). In the Scriptures, Jesus is said to ascend to heaven. Luke had to render the event into his own scientific paradigm, so he said Jesus “went up” to heaven. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, i.e. sharing authority with the Father, and not just literally sitting next to the Father.

And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.

Jesus will come again to judge both the living and dead. His kingdom will not be destroyed, despite all of humanity’s efforts. Jesus, like God the Father, is timeless. He is, was and always will be. Likewise His Kingdom.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord, and Giver of Life

The Holy Ghost is the “breath” God breathed to give life to the world in Genesis. His light illuminates our path after our birth as Paul’s New Man in Christ.

The original Nicene Creed of 325AD ended right here with the Holy Ghost. The remainder of the Creed was approved at the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD. However, most scholars believe that the text of the full creed dates prior to this council, and that the bishops simply gave their approval to a local creed already in use. The reason these additions were included in the Nicene Creed is that some 4th century Christians denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. The names given to these heretics were Macedonians (named after a heretical bishop) 

Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son

The Son is said to be begotten, while the Spirit is said to proceed. Both words convey that the Son and Spirit are in special relationships to the Father, yet also fully divine.

Filoque Clause – the phrase “and the Son,” in Latin, filioque, was not in the original text of the creed, but was added in Western Churches over time as a tool against Arians who believe Jesus is “not of one essence with the father” and came into existence when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The Eastern Churches opposed the addition of the filioque, while Western churches accept it. The inclusion of it by the West led to a split with the Eastern churches in 1054 which continues to this day.

John 14:16 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.” John 14:26 tells us, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name…” John 15:26 tells us, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about me.” See also John 14:16 and Philippians 1:19. These Scriptures seem to indicate that the Spirit is sent out by both the Father and the Son. The essential matter in the filioque clause is a desire to protect the deity of the Holy Spirit.

Eastern Church – opposed the filioque clause object because they believe the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son makes the Holy Spirit “subservient” to the Father and Son.

Western Church- upholds the the filioque clause believing that the Holy Spirit proceeding from both the Father and the Son does not impact the Spirit being equally God with the Father and the Son. “Proceeds from the Father and the Son” means “proceeds from the Father through the Son.”

Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified

The Holy Spirit is God as are the Father and the Son, and is due the same worship as the Father and the Son.

Who spake by the Prophets

As the Holy Ghost gives us insight and understanding today, so it is believed He gave the same to the Old Testament prophets.

And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church

The creed affirms the belief in the Catholic (universal) Church, whose origins are ancient and historical, going back to the Apostles themselves. This is the universal church tracing its ancestry, roots and beliefs back to the apostles themselves. The ordained ministry claims an Apostolic Succession, wherein apostles appointed leaders, who themselves appointed new leaders to replace them, a process continuing to this day. The claim to literal Apostolic line today is found primarily in the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins

Baptism or initiation has often been called Christening and the name we are given there is our Christian name, our last name being our surname. In Baptism, our life is dedicated to Christ. Hence the term Christening. Christians believe through the waters of baptism, God forgives us of our sins, and we are born again. This belief in baptism’s saving power is ancient and universally acknowledged in the early Christian writings.

And the Life of the world to come

The end of the Creed addresses the end of life here on earth and talks about the world to come. Christians have the promise of a bodily resurrection with a new and glorified physical body from Christ. The Creed affirms that bodily resurrection, as promised by Christ. Heaven is a place to look forward to, not to fear. Christ describes the experience of this world as “looking darkly, as through a glass.” This came from the time when “glass” was translucent, rather than transparent.


Visualizing the Trinity

Holy Trinity - Antonio de Pereda 
The Trinity is most commonly seen in Christian art with the Spirit represented by a dove, as specified in the Gospel accounts of the Baptism of Christ; he is nearly always shown with wings outspread. However depictions using three human figures appear occasionally in most periods of art. 

The Father and the Son are usually differentiated by age, and later by dress, but this too is not always the case. The usual depiction of the Father as an older man with a white beard may derive from the biblical Ancient of Days, which is often cited in defense of this sometimes controversial representation.  

The Son is often shown at the Father’s right hand.[Acts 7:56 ] He may be represented by a symbol—typically the Lamb or a cross—or on a crucifix, so that the Father is the only human figure shown at full size. In early medieval art, the Father may be represented by a hand appearing from a cloud in a blessing gesture, for example in scenes of the Baptism of Christ.  

Holy Trinity Master of Flemalle

Later, in the West, the Throne of Mercy (or “Throne of Grace”) became a common depiction. In this style, the Father (sometimes seated on a throne) is shown supporting either a crucifix[111] or, later, a slumped crucified Son, similar to the Pietà (this type is distinguished in German as the Not Gottes)[112] in his outstretched arms, while the Dove hovers above or in between them. This subject continued to be popular until the 18th century at least. 

El Greco

By the end of the 15th century, larger representations, other than the Throne of Mercy, became effectively standardised, showing an older figure in plain robes for the Father, Christ with his torso partly bare to display the wounds of his Passion, and the dove above or around them. In earlier representations both Father, especially, and Son often wear elaborate robes and crowns. Sometimes the Father alone wears a crown, or even a papal tiara. 

Trinity as 3 men

In the 17th century there was also a brief vogue for representing the Trinity as three identical men (example), conceivably influenced by Hospitality of Abraham images. This period coincided with the Spanish ascendancy in Latin America and the Philipines, so examples can be found in older churches in those areas. One odd example represents the Trinity this way in an image of the Coronation of Mary.

Holy Trinity 1

Soon, however, this type of Trinity image was condemned and supplanted by one in which the Father is represented as an older person, the Son as a younger one seated at his right and shouldering a large cross, and the Holy Spirit as a dove that hovers above the space between them. In the latter type the Spirit is represented as casting light upon the other two persons (symbolically, making it possible for humans to know them), but in one unusual variant he emanates from both their mouths simultaneously, a reference to the Latin trinitarian theology in which the Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son” (a phrase from the Roman Catholic text of the Nicene Creed that reads simply “proceeds from the Father” in the Orthodox and Anglican versions). 

Here is a slideshow of the above

Introduction to the Trinity – what it is and what it is not

The core belief

The doctrine of the Trinity is the Christian belief that there is One God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Other ways of referring to the Trinity are the Triune God and the Three-in-One.

The Trinity is a controversial doctrine; many Christians admit they don’t understand it, while many more Christians don’t understand it but think they do.

In fact, although they’d be horrified to hear it, many Christians sometimes behave as if they believe in three Gods and at other times as if they believe in one.

Trinity Sunday, which falls on the first Sunday after Pentecost, is one of the few feasts in the Christian calendar that celebrate a doctrine rather than an event.

A fundamental doctrine

The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most difficult ideas in Christianity, but it’s fundamental to Christians because it:

 -states what Christians believe God is like and who he is 

 -plays a central part in Christians’ worship of an “unobjectifiable and incomprehensible God” 

 -emphasises that God is very different from human beings 

 -reflects the ways Christians believe God encounters them is a central element of Christian identity 

 -teaches Christians vital truths about relationship and community 

 -reveals that God can be seen only as a spiritual experience whose mystery inspires awe and cannot be understood logically  

Unpacking the doctrine

The idea that there is One God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit means:

-There is exactly one God  

 -The Father is God  
 -The Son is God  
 -The Holy Spirit is God  
 -The Father is not the Son  
 -The Son is not the Holy Spirit  
 -The Father is not the Holy Spirit  

An alternate way of explaining it is:

There is exactly one God

There are three really distinct Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Each of the Persons is God

Common mistakes

The Trinity is not

 -Three individuals who together make one God  

 -Three Gods joined together  

 -Three properties of God 

BBC’s Trinity Page