Strater, Louis Joseph. Trinity, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.  https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56147 [retrieved May 27, 2021]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Detail_kazuifel_J.L._Str%C3%A4ter_drie-eenheid.jpg.

Year B, Pentecost 1: Trinity Sunday
Isaiah 6:1-8, Psalm 29, Romans 8:12-17, Saint John 3:1-17

We return to a normal schedule with a supremely important question. How does the corona virus square with a loving and merciful God? How does a virus infecting over one hundred and sixty-seven million people, and killing three and a half million of them, agree with the God we profess to believe in?

The answer I offer to you is provisional only. It shall have to be changed later when we know more than we know now. We believe by faith that God at the very least permitted this virus to ravage the world as part of a providence of love for the world God created. You heard it in the Gospel today: “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,”[1]the best-known verse in all the Scriptures. That verse either tells the truth, or it tells a falsehood. Either God loves the world, and the virus is part of God’s providence, or God does not exist, and everything that we know and perceive is simply an accident. In other words, everything just happens the way it does happen, and it certainly could happen some other way; everything does not necessarily have any meaning whatsoever.

But I declare to you that I am a man among you, a priest, a man of prayer, who believes that God loves the world and gave his Son so that all who believe in him may be saved.

Again, we do not know how this understanding of God and the world accommodates the virus and its rampage.

But there are some things that we do know. After the Exodus, it took the children of Israel four hundred years to begin to understand how the Exodus from Egypt was part of God’s providence. Four hundred years, twenty generations of twenty years each, were necessary for Israel to begin to understand that act of salvation and to begin to write it down with salvation woven into the story. But write it down they did.

We know also that Israel has not yet begun to be able to see the Holocaust as part of God’s providence. After all, it was only three and a half generations ago. But I believe that in time, they will see it as providential. It’s going to take a long time. Maybe in the end the providential understanding of the Holocaust will have to do with the founding of the state of Israel. Who knows?

We know also on the subject of today, Trinity Sunday, that God revealed to the church universal the doctrine of the Trinity. And we know that the Holy Spirit revealed it to us, because the Trinity in its full form is not revealed in the Scriptures. The full teaching that One God exists in Three Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and in One Substance cannot be found in the Scriptures except by report and hint. The word Trinity is not to be found in the Scriptures though the concept is figured in many narratives and teachings. But yet the doctrine was over centuries revealed to the universal church. The Feast of the Trinity was not proclaimed until the fourteenth century when it was already popular through the church and especially in England.

Think of that: the single most important doctrine or teaching of Christianity was agreed to universally though it is not in the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit revealed the Trinity to the whole church at about the same time. That revelation is a miracle.

Which brings me back to the virus. How the virus fits with God’s love and providence has not yet been revealed. But at any moment it might be revealed. Or it may take a thousand years. We do not know. There is no shame in not knowing. Shame, if we have to locate it, may be found under these circumstances in having certainty that the virus is random and accidental along with everything else that is. For my part I am willing to give God all the time necessary to make himself more fully known.


[1] Saint John 3:16.