Unholy Trinity

This is good humor from Fr. Tim Schenck at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in Hingham, Massachusetts. Hat tip to Fr. Bosco Peters.

Trinity Sunday Sermon

“The New Paradigm of Homoousious”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (And I really mean it this time).

The Trinity [three intertwined circles appear on a giant projection screen]. It’s a confusing topic; one that I am not qualified to speak about because I failed the systematic theology portion of the General Ordination Exam. [Three circles morph into a green three-leaf clover] St. Patrick converted the King of Ireland to the Christian faith by using the clover [use awkward hand gesture to point to the screen]. As he held up the clover he enumerated (or is that renumerated?) about the Trinity telling the king that…[choir sings St. Patrick’s Breastplate to drown out the next few phrases. Twelve minutes later when the hymn ends and everyone has processed around the church nine times, the preacher continues].

The interplay between the Persons of the Trinity is like a dance. But not just any dance — a perichoretic dance of love. I once danced this way at a wedding of a good friend. My date left with a groomsman while I was doing my interpretive dance of the Trinity. It was at that moment that I decided to go to seminary.

But I digress. Where was I? Oh, the interpenetration of modality. Which sounds vaguely obscene until you remember that God loves you. Like a fox. But in a co-eternal, co-equal, co-habitating kind of way.

Did I mention I used to be a horrible acolyte back in the day? [After laughing at his own joke, preacher picks up three tapers and attempts to bring them together and then pull them apart. Unfortunately he lights the pulpit hanging on fire and puts them out with the three glasses of water he brought up to supplement the fire illustration in case it fell flat. He recovers by singing an a capella version of “Holy, Holy, Holy,” dramatically miming the line “Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.”]

In sum, we are all called to a hermeneutic of being immortal and invisible while still being led by faith and not by sight. Let me end by quoting from the well-loved Athanasian Creed; so beloved in church lore that it’s relegated to page 846 of the Book of Common Prayer. In the “Historical Documents” section that you may have covertly perused earlier in the sermon. “Blah, blah, blah Unity, blah, blah, blah Godhead, blah, blah, blah Essence.”



  1. Love it. This is all meant in good humour but it does point up a real malaise: I have heard too many preachers make so much of the “mystery” of the Trinity on Trinity Sunday and then blithely ignore the Trinity and the “mystery” of love, forgiveness, evil, divine providence, Eucharist, creation, hope, peace, joy, the Cross—for the rest of the year, as if these were all relatively straightforward. I don’t want lame apologies and weak jokes about shamrocks and “bad math” on Trinity Sunday; and I would really like genuine Trinitarian preaching, all year round.

  2. It’s hard to explain the doctrine of the Trinity in a sound byte or bumper sticker. It’s easier to put on your church marquee 1+1+1=1*

    * an actual marquee message last week from the Lutheran church up the street

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