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Trinity Sunday, Cycle C (2016)

An eternally living Triune God! Obvious attention to the Trinity on this festival can be elaborated on with reference to how the Trinity reflects God’s love and how human beings embody this triune/communal loving character (Anthropology and Sanctification).

Psalm 8
Today’s psalm is a hymn traditionally attributed to David celebrating God’s glory, his

infinite goodness, and humanity’s God-given dignity. We have previously noted it is unlikely that David is the author of the psalms attributed to him (Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p. 512). In fact, some scholars conclude that references to David in the psalms may be a way of using him to represent the inner life of all his subjects, and so of all the faithful (Ibid., p. 521). And so the psalm may aim to encourage the faithful to celebrate the glory of God.

Reference to the Gittoh in the psalm’s Preface may allude to a melody to be used with the song. It begins with an affirmation of God’s sovereignty and moves to an appreciation of the beauty of creation (vv. 1, 3, 9). Despite the awesomeness of God, he is yet proclaimed to be wonderful to human beings and to care for them. They are a little lower than God (or divine beings) crowned with glory [kabod, literally weight or honor] (vv. 4-5). They have dominion over all creation (vv. 6-8). In verse 4 the phrase Son of Man [enosh ben] is used to describe mortality. Or should we read these remarks prophetically as referring to the Messiah (Jesus as Son of Man)?

Application: The text invites at least two directions. This is an opportunity for sermons on anthropology (human greatness as God has created us in his image). Or reference might be made to the relation of Father and Son (Trinity) and how as human beings in God’s image we reflect a Trinitarian/relational character being created in God’s image.

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
The book is a compilation of several Wisdom sayings, aphorisms traditionally ascribed to Solomon, but some of which came from Gentile scriptures (chapters 30-31) that received final editing in the Post-Exilic period (sixth century BC and later). Some these sayings are indebted to other ancient Near-Eastern cultures (especially Egypt). Wisdom (at times personified as female) in the Hebraic context was the work of sages, generally equated with the way of righteousness. It was practical knowledge of life rooted in basic experience and faith. This Proverb is the most fully developed personification of Wisdom, and She is personified in a female sense. Different Hebrew terms are used for Wisdom.

In this case Wisdom [chokmah, also meaning “skill”] is identified in the female gender, as raising her voice and calling from the heights [marom] (vv. 1-3). Wisdom is personified in this Proverb perhaps more than in any other. This call is to all who live (v. 4). In the discussion which follows in the verses of the Proverb not considered in the lesson, Wisdom is also identified as craftiness (omrah, in v. 5) and as intelligence (binah, in v. 14). The final verses are a statement of Wisdom’s authority and antiquity. Depending on how we translate verses 22-24, Wisdom is either a child of the deity before creation of the cosmos or a pre-existent being aligned with God. Either way, Wisdom predates and is present in creation (a master worker) prior to the depths [tehom], water, the mountains, the fields, soil, the heavens. Wisdom is said to be Yahweh’s delight [shaashuim], his master worker (a role in creation), always rejoicing and delighting in the human race (vv. 30b-31).

Application: This Proverb offers insights into the nature of God (a God who delights in the human race and has a female component). The idea of the Son as Wisdom opens doors to elaboration on the relation of Father and Son (Trinity). Christian life as the pursuit of Wisdom (and so of Christ) might also be considered.

Romans 5:1-5
We note again that this letter of introduction was written by Paul between 54 AD and 58 AD to a church which to date he had never visited. The church he addressed at that time may have been comprised of mostly Jewish Christians. In this lesson Paul discusses the consequence of Justification.

He begins by noting that to be justified by faith [pistis] entails peace [eirene, unity or concord] with God (v. 1). Through Christ the faithful are said to have obtained access to the grace [charis] in which they stand. This gives hope of sharing the glory [doxes] of God (v. 2). Also, it is added, the faithful can boast in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance/

patience [hupomone], character, and hope [epis] (vv. 3-4). These comments may refer to End Time realities, present experiences, or both. Paul adds that hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (v. 5).

Application: This text invites reflections on the loving character of God, evidenced in how all three persons of the Trinity are loving, and how this love is distributed to all through the Spirit (Justification by Grace). The implications of this love for living the Christian life and a life that has the strength and hope to endure suffering might also be explored (Sanctification and Eschatology).

John 16:12-15
Again we note that this book is the last of the four gospels to be written, probably not composed until the last two decades of the first century. It is very different in style in comparison to the other three (so-called Synoptic) Gospels. In fact it is likely based on these earlier gospels. The book has been identified with John the Son of Zebedee, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and this claim was made as long ago as late in the first century by the famed theologian of the early Church Irenaeus (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 414). It is likely that it was written by a disciple of John.

Recently, though, some scholars have suggested an alternative account of the origins of John’s gospel. Appealing to the writings of a late-first/early-second century Bishop Papias, who may have implied that John’s gospel was the result of eyewitness origins, such scholars have argued that the book is in fact an authentic historical testimony to Jesus (Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, especially pp. 423ff; cf. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, pp. 154-155). Regardless of its origins, though, most scholars agree that the book’s main agenda was probably to encourage Jewish Christians in conflict with the synagogue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (20:31).

The lesson offers a report of Jesus’ teaching of the guiding work of the Holy Spirit in the context of his Farewell Discourse. As noted, such texts are unique to John. Jesus begins by noting that he has many things to say, but the faithful cannot bear them now (v. 12). But then he adds that when the Spirit of truth [pneuma tes aletheias] comes he will guide the faithful to all truth, not speaking on his own, but speaking whatever he hears and will declare the things to come (v. 13). He will glorify Christ, declaring what is Christ’s to them (v. 14). All that the Father has is Christ’s, he adds. Thus the Spirit will take what is Christ’s and declare it (v. 15).

Application: This lesson affords opportunity to proclaim the talkative, loving character of the Triune God (to understand the persons of the Trinity as in dialogue and sharing with each other).

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Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen