Trinity Sunday, Year B, Trinity Church, Clarksville

“The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice” (Ps. 29:4).

Can you hear the drumbeat roll in our psalm this morning? The phrase, “The voice of the Lord”, is repeated seven times here in Psalm 29, and I’m told that the words in Hebrew suggest rolling thunder. That’s called onomatopoeia, where words are used whose sound suggests the sense: “bang”, “crash”, and “sizzle”. “The voice of the Lord” sounds in the ear like the thunder gathering over the sea, stirring it up; it’s like a clap of thunder and a flash of lighting that breaks up the cedar trees and roots up the mountains of Lebanon.

This psalm was used in the worship of ancient Israel, in something more like a gathering at Titan Stadium, in the cheers and chants of the crowd. The “voice of the Lord” in this psalm has percussive force, like a band with a drum; “the voice of the Lord” wakes up the People of Israel and summons them to a processional march. The “voice of the Lord” wakes the whole creation up and sets it in motion, and it wakes us up too.

In Psalm 29, we’re in the presence of the God of Israel: a God of glory and majesty who’s knocking heads together and taking names. The appearance of God in our psalm, like Isaiah’s vision in our first reading, is attended by phenomena that recall the appearance of God on Mount Sinai. Storms arise suddenly on the sea, but they also rise quickly in the desert, in the wilderness traversed by Israel as it journeyed to the mount. There God revealed himself to folk who had been slaves but were now free; the People of God who had been freed by God at the Red Sea.

In this psalm we are in touch with some ancient strands of our theological tradition. Not to put too fine a point on it: we’re in touch with YHWH himself, attended by his heavenly posse, his angelic entourage who are busy singing his praises. “And in the temple of the Lord * all are crying ‘Glory!’” (Ps. 29:9), as our psalm puts it. Again, like Isaiah’s vision, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Is. 6:3). The “voice of the Lord” is shaking things up; it’s also setting the beat and commanding our praise.

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday: a feast dedicated to the Church’s defining doctrine of the Holy Trinity. If our psalm lays down the percussive bass line of God’s revelation of himself, summoning the People of Israel to worship, our feast day tells us there’s now a variation on the theme.

For here on this festival we are encountering God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not only the God who is revealed in cloud and thunder, but also the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ. A melody is emerging from the larger score, a new tune that tells a story. A human being, born as one of us; born for us to save us from our sins. As our Gospel proclaims: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jo. 3:16). God is not simply enthroned in heaven, distant in time and space; God is more properly in our midst as one of us, here and now. It’s a melody that sticks with us and which we can’t get out of our heads or hearts.

“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Jo. 3:8). In these words from our Gospel we also encounter God the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us that we hear the sound of the wind but we do not see it; and so it is with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit exists somewhere between the bass line and the melody, in the symbolic musical “rest” in a score. Music depends on silence; it provides space for reflection and dramatic tension. Without the space created by silence there would be no music, only noise. That’s where the Holy Spirit is at work in us, in that silent space between the notes, creating space for us to encounter God and to be born again.

How can God be Three and at the same time also One? One could just as well ask how a symphony can blend together the sound of many instruments, different tempos, melodic variations, into one piece of music, in which no part is lacking within the common score. Together, there is just one song, one hymn of praise, entire and complete.

Today the church sings its own praise of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We hear the music, like ancient Israel, and we set out in procession. Our baptismal candidate and our confirmands are leading the way. When it comes to God we’re not required to understand but rather to believe and to praise, to sing our own song to God. We have been born again and been given eternal life, as it says in our Gospel. Now’s the time to wake up and take action, propelled forward by the percussive beat that set the universe spinning in its course and that gets us moving as well.

  • The Rt. Rev'd John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee