A Homily on June 12th, 2022 for Trinity Sunday by Richard Gray, St. John’s Director of Music
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your
sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.
When I was baptized as a four month old baby, my parents, my god parents, and I assume the entire congregation that morning were all told by our parish priest that because I was crying so hard, that meant I was to become a priest. Well, clearly I didn’t become a priest! But, I did become an Episcopal music director and now I’m giving my first homily. So, help me God.
Today is Trinity Sunday. And you are here with us, the ministry of music at St. John the Evangelist, to celebrate, through song, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – Mother, Daughter, Holy of Holies-God in three persons,
When the music commission team and I met last summer to design this season’s Winifred Bean Sacred Music Series, we knew that it was going to be important for us to plan a series that specifically spoke to what we needed as a congregation, as a music ministry, and as a community. Turning to the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, we assigned each one of the four priorities laid out by Bishop Loya, and adopted by our vestry and parish leadership, to one of our events. Discipleship, Innovation, Justice and Vitality are the four priorities as
many of you know.
Today, we gather together with an emphasis on Congregational Vitality with a reflection on the previous three. Let’s discuss vitality. By definition, vitality is the state of being strong and active. It is energy. It is the power giving continuance of life that is present in all living things.
The close of the Eastertide is as musically exciting for me as the beginning, maybe even a little more – for me there is so much life, energy, and, yes, vitality here in this moment of the church year. As we arrive at the end of the fifty days, we find ourselves face to face with three celebrations and feast days: Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday. The music you are singing and listening to today carry all of these themes.
Included in today’s program, regarding Ascension, is Gerald Finzi’s God is gone up, celebrating Jesus’ ascent and triumphant entry into heaven. “God is gone up with a triumphant shout. The Lord with sounding trumpet’s melodies. Unto our king sing praise seraphic wise.” So much of this unique text here gives me chills as it describes the physical act of Christ as he was assumed in body as in spirit into heaven. At its best, liturgy gives us glimpses into heaven, what it is like to dwell with God, and this piece does exactly that!
Moving to the feast of Pentecost, focusing on the Holy Spirit coming down from heaven, we are inspired and renewed by its life and breath – its vitality. “Come down, o love divine seek thou this soul of mine.” “O comforter draw near, within my heart appear.” (The favorite text and hymn tune of our Associate Rector. I don’t disagree there.) The fact that love is so strong here and the capacities that
it has to live and dwell within us is so beautiful that, sometimes, it is incomprehensible. The music again points to the vital and thriving life of love we can share by the power of God’s Spirit within us!
Putting all of this together, we finally arrive at the Holy Trinity – the Divine – the coexistence of God, the work and collaboration of God in each of their existing persons. Trinity teaches us that even God exists in community and so must we. Our music here at Saint John’s is an example of this communitarian ethos, our many musicians and leaders working and collaborating in making a living gift of song to the glory of God!
See the life and breath that is music at St. John the Evangelist. Handbells led by Haley Olson, our partnerships with The Artaria String Quartet and Chamber Music School, The Copper Street Brass Ensemble, our organist in residence Dean Billmeyer (who is, this afternoon, about to play Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand for the third time this weekend with the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall)…. additionally, the parish choir that you see here, and last but not least, you all – the congregation. This music, this is vitality. This is congregational vitality.
Along with that, let us remember that music is also a response! I think this is equally important to note. When a piece of music is created, oftentimes it is in response to something: an event in history, a feeling, an experience, a hope that one has, a look toward the future.
Our own experience of that response by singing, playing, listening to such a piece of music then has the capacity to become a reflection. And *that*, in turn, becomes an act of creative love, showing how we can make change moving forward, participating in God’s collaborative, creative, healing, and infinite love for the world!
An act of creative love that comes to mind is our choir rehearsing outside in the parking lot last spring – a fun time to be together making music with each other and for our neighbors that walked by. Not so much fun when my music blew off the music stand several times and into the street, but we made it work – creatively and lovingly! It is my firm belief that the vital work of the persons of the Trinity that is reflected in the music here today and in this Church, through each of you, all of us collaborating, creating, and loving! Just listen to the result – I think you’ll agree that together we have entered into what our tradition calls “the beauty of
St. John’s – thank you for making music such an incredibly significant part of your worship life here. Thank you for recognizing the essential place that it has in our liturgies and in our communities. As we conclude a program year of music and prepare for another exciting one, we are grateful as always to continue feeling your life, breath and love as we respond to that vitality through the joy of making music.