To hear, to bear, to believe, to be God’s Word

A sermon, based primarily on John 16.12-15 (with references to Psalm 8, Romans 5.1-5, and Proverbs 8.1-4, 22-31), preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on Trinity Sunday, June 16, 2019.


Since the 10th century in western Christendom, the Sunday following the Day of Pentecost is Trinity Sunday. The only day of the church year devoted to a doctrine, which is an articulation of belief; in this case, concerning the nature, the character, the being of God…

God who – and it takes all of our scriptural passages appointed for this, laboring in union to embrace and express God’s nature, character, and being – simultaneously is…

Transcendent, above and beyond us, as the psalmist sings, “O Lord, our Governor, how exalted is your Name in all the world,” and

Immanent, with us in Jesus through whom Paul, in Romans, declares, “we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand,” that is, “we have peace with God,” and

Within us through the Holy Spirit who Jesus describes as the source and speaker of truth and, according to Proverbs, is the wisdom of creation.

The Holy Trinity, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

If we accept the proposition that the reality to which we refer by the word “God” is infinite and that we, not being God, are finite, then it is reasonable to presume that we cannot (and never can!) understand God completely.

Therefore, it also may be reasonable, right now, at this very moment, for me to end this sermon. For, after my opening description or my attempt at an explication of how we might comprehend the doctrine of the Trinity, what else need I (or can I!) say?

However, today, I dwell not on theological abstractions, no matter how ancient and honored. Rather, referring to our gospel passage, I focus on what the Trinity can mean to us in the concrete circumstances of our daily lives.

It is the night before Jesus’ crucifixion and death. Throughout this evening of his last supper with his disciples, Jesus repeatedly has told them, “I’m leaving you.”(1) A message hard for them to hear and accept. They love Jesus. They had left everything to follow him. To listen to his teaching and preaching. To see his miracles. To stand in the reflected light of his glory. To believe that once they got to Jerusalem for the final showdown with the political and religious authorities that Jesus would win and God’s reign on earth would begin. But now that light of glory and hope is overshadowed by the looming, coming cross of his death. They know it. Perhaps it is the tears that fill their eyes and their muffled cries of sorrow that make it hard to see and to hear what he is saying. Perhaps this is why Jesus, sympathetically, says, “I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now.”

But perhaps they “cannot bear them now,” for the time for them to hear hath not yet come. For that time is not now, but later. That time is not when Jesus is with them in the flesh, but after he is gone. For when he has gone, he still will be with them, aye, within them through the Spirit who “will guide (them) into all the truth.” Whose truth? God’s truth. For the Spirit “will speak whatever he hears,” that is, the eternal conversation between God and Jesus.

What this means, I believe, is that the Spirit for those first disciples then and for us now speaks, breathes into our hearts the all-encompassing Word of the presence, the power, the peace, the life, the love, the liberty of God as revealed in Jesus.

Let us, then, daily hear that Word, bear that Word, believe that Word, be that Word; so, that others through us will experience and know the presence, power, peace, life, love, and liberty of God.

(1) See also John 14:16-17, 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7-11.

Illustration: The Holy Trinity, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). Note: Rubens portrays the Trinity as God the Father, God the crucified Son, Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit in the form of a hovering dove with the Latin inscription, hic est filius meus dilectus, “This is my beloved Son.”

2 thoughts on “To hear, to bear, to believe, to be God’s Word

  1. Paul,
    This is such an amazing sermon! I’ve read it several times. Each time… I take something different away. The gist of it for me is how clearly you present – the fact the God is Transcendent – above and beyond us, Immanent, that we have peace with God (how incredible is that), and that God is Within us through the Holy Spirit. It’s the Within us part that resonates most with me today. I’ve been struggling so much with feeling alone and overwhelmed – and this sermon was very helpful in the sense that I know I’m not alone. So the words I have to focus on this week are Hear, Bear, Believe and Be. I can do that…. and I thank you!! I’ll be reading several more times this week!!

    Much love!


    1. Much love back to you, Loretta, always and in all ways! For me, too, the “within us” presence of God via the Holy Spirit resonates most with (aye, within!) me. For, as I consider how I came to know God, is surely wasn’t at the dawn of the creation, for I wasn’t there. Nor was it during Jesus’ earthly ministry, for I wasn’t there. It was – it had to be! – through the Holy Spirit who, as Jesus promised his first disciples, brings to their remembrance – and, therefore, brings to my awareness – the words and teachings of Jesus. Moreover, Paul, in Romans 5, tells us that it is the Holy Spirit who pours God’s love into our hearts. So, it stands to reason that if I know God at all it is through the eternal and, therefore, continuing work of the Holy Spirit.


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