Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC)

Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Lectionary Reflection New Testament Lesson Year C, Trinity Sunday

Revelation 4:1-11

After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads. Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God; and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal. Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, "Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come." And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."

NRSV Copyright Statement
Reflection on Revelation 4:1-11 by John Gibbs, Ph D

As we discussed for Cycle A, Trinity Sunday, there is no full-fledged developed doctrine of the Trinity within Scripture. What we see in biblical literature are, rather, the seeds of the later developed ideas about the interrelations between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Earliest Christians spoke of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on the bases of their experiences of God as Creator, Redeemer, and Reconciler or Sustainer. We may say, then, that biblical thought about God uses an incipient or “practical” Trinitarian language rather than a “systematic” or philosophical/theological language. [See, for example, R. Mehl’s outline of N.T. talk about God in the article “God” within J.-J. von Allmen, A Companion to the Bible (NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 1958), pp. 146-51.]

As a consequence of the incipient nature of biblical references to the “persons” of the Trinity, as they were later denominated, subsequent theological discussions about the Trinity have ranged far and wide, all the way from excluding this doctrine from any central importance in theology (a position difficult to support on biblical grounds) to, on the other hand, making this doctrine the centerpiece of one’s theology. Karl Barth may be foremost among those who have done the latter during the last century. For an excellent short article about his Trinitarian theology, see Cynthia M. Campbell, “Trinity,” within Donald K. McKim (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith (Louisville: WJKP, 1992), pp. 374-77.

The difficulties of the doctrine of the Trinity for laity, not to mention clergy (!), have led some folk to treat it with silence, especially within preaching. Before doing that, however, we might well recall what happened to the adolescent Carl Jung when he was in his father’s communicants’ class, his father being a Protestant pastor. Carl read ahead in their textbook, and awaited eagerly the forthcoming discussion about the Trinity. But when his father led the class to that chapter, his father remarked that the doctrine of the Trinity was very complex, and that he could not make anything of it himself. So he skipped over that chapter. The young Carl claims that his disaffection with the Church began at that moment.

What, then, do we find about the Trinity in the texts for this day?

Revelation 4:1-11 addresses eye and ear alike. “I looked,” “and I will show you.” “And the first voice, which I heard speaking…”

Again, as in Isaiah, the holiness of God is three times proclaimed, and God’s work of creating is “worthy…to receive glory and honor and power” (4:11). There is a political significance in God’s glory: when crowns are taken off and “cast before the throne,” clearly all sovereigns are subordinated to “the Lord God the Almighty” (4:8). This vision of God enthroned portrays, then, the order of the universe as given by, and dependent upon, its Creator. Any nation that claims to be “under God” must take off its crown and throw it in front of God’s throne. Otherwise, it would be disrupting the structure of the creation, not to mention dishonoring the Creator.

Copyright Statement
NOTE: All readings for this day may be combined into one reflection.
To Reflections on other Readings for this Sunday:
Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29
New Testament Revelation 4:1-11
this page
Gospel John 16:(5-11)12-15
Additional Reflections:
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John Gibbs, PHD, is a retired theologian, who attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. He originally wrote this reflection in 2004. He and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
MEESC Holy Trinity Church Box 65 Elk River, MN 55330-0065 USA

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