Trinity Sunday: Power of Words

Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

First Sunday After Pentecost – Trinity Sunday

Isaiah 6:1-8, Psalm 29, Romans 8:12-17, John 3:1-17

May 27, 2018 (Year B)

Power of Words

I come to you in the Name of One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

         Last week, we talked about the roles stories have played in our lives as a people and as individuals.  We talked about how stories connect us to one another and to our past.  They are a means of sharing who we are.  This week we’re going to break that down a bit more.  We are going to move past stories and look at the words we use. 

         As many of us have learned throughout our lives, words can be powerful.  The simplest words strung together, can have a huge impact.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” (Declaration of Independence)  “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed…” (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Jesus of Nazareth)  “I am so proud of you.” (many parents) “You’re stupid!” (many siblings)  “I’m sorry.”  “Thank you.” “I love you.”

         Today is Trinity Sunday.  It is one of the seven principal feast days in our calendar year and celebrates our belief that we believe in one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three in one – the Trinity.   The Trinity is doctrine by which we attempt to understand God.  Doctrine, itself, is meant to be a way of understanding and describing our experience of the living God. [1]  Doctrines always involve words – and sometimes try to convey a difficult concept. 

         Words, like stories, hold a highly valued position for most humans.  They are a means of communication with one another, but words sometimes fail to capture what they are attempting to say.  The moment the child that you’ve dreamed about is born and you hold them in your arms for the first time…or the incredibly beautiful colors that shoot across the sky at sunset…or the indescribable love between two people…those are moments when words fall short and feelings take over.  So to expect words to adequately describe God or our experience of God’s love and grace…seems silly sometimes…let alone explain how God – Jesus – and the Holy Spirit are connected.

         Words are important though.  They help us to share with one another our experiences or to communicate an idea.  That’s important when talking about faith.  Too often though, it’s hard to use our minds to describe what our hearts experience.  Many, many people struggle to talk about faith, or fear sounding stupid or unintelligent.  Many people also struggle with prayer.  How do we come up with the words to say?  Praying out loud or even silently can feel like a daunting task.  What am I to say – what are the “right” words?  What if I get it wrong…or worse yet…never “hear” anything back from God.

         But here is some good news…it’s actually the coolest part ever…God doesn’t care about what words we use!  God doesn’t care if we stumble or pause in the middle of a prayer or even make a mistake with our words.  God’s love is SO big, SO encompassing that whether we pray out loud, pray in our heads, or pray in utter silence, God rejoices in our attempts!  And if

we are at a place in our lives where we doubt God is even there or we are angry as can be, God’s love can hold that too.  That is how much God loves us!

         So in our attempts to understand something that is that mind-blowing…that is unfathomable…we, as a people, have tried to use words.  Beautiful words have been written about God.  Both heartfelt and intentional words have been recorded in an attempt to share our stories and express our feelings about God.  Sometimes those words are a blessing in moments when our minds fail to produce anything.  We can turn to one another’s words for help. Or we can be silent and say the faithful prayers prayed many a time in the past… ““Thank you, thank you, thank you God”  or the simple words… “Help me please”….”[2]  God is right there with each of us – loving us unconditionally with or without words.       

         There is a Christian rock band by the name of Mercy Me. They wrote a song in 1999 called “I Can Only Imagine.”  You may have actually heard it before, because it was won the Billboard Music Award for “Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year,” and it was played on a variety of non-Christian stations.  I remember the first few times I heard it.  The lyrics are very clear, and they stopped me in my tracks.  And before I knew it – tears filled my eyes.

         Take a listen to these words…

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk, by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you, Jesus
Or in awe of You, be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all

I can only imagine[3]

         I too, can only imagine…will I dance with joy streaming from every corner of my soul to finally be in the presence of God…or will I stand in awe, speechless by the feeling of God’s peace, and not move a muscle…or will I, being before God, fall to my knees and sob.  All of those are possible.          What will you do?  How will you feel?  I ask, because after listening to that song a number of times, I realized something.  We are ALREADY in God’s presence!  We are already surrounded by God’s love and grace.  God isn’t waiting for us to meet God at the end of our lives – God’s love is available to us NOW!   And if you are in a place where you cannot feel it, then maybe the prayer is… “God help me to feel your love.”

         Whatever words we use – if the doctrine of the Trinity and the familiar words of,  In the Name of one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit brings you comfort or the Creeds bring you clarity as to what we believe, or the prayers in the Prayer Book give you solace – use them.  They are beautiful and have deep roots for us as a people.  And also know that we – no matter where we are in life or what words we say or don’t say -  are already deeply loved by God and we always have been!   Amen

[1] David Lose, “Love Yeah, Just Love,”, 2018.

[2] Annie Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow, 2012.

[3] Mercy Me, “I Can Only Imagine,” 1999.

Go to top