Lectionary Commentaries for June 12, 2022
Holy Trinity

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on John 16:12-15

Meda Stamper

The Trinity presented to us in John is a manifestation of God’s love for us, a way of opening a door to the mystery of God that allows us to see ourselves embraced by it.  

We can better understand the Trinity from this brief passage for Trinity Sunday when we view these verses as a window into all that Jesus says to his friends in John 13-17. Love is the overarching theme of the five chapters of comfort and instruction that Jesus shares with his friends on the night of his arrest. John 13 begins with a reference to Jesus’ love for his own to the end and builds to the threefold commandment to love. Love is linked to the giving of the Spirit in John 14. The vine/vine grower/branches metaphor of John 15 is interpreted as love, as Jesus’ unity with the Father throughout John has been understood to be love, and as the sending of the Son is because God loves the world. Those who believe in Jesus are explicitly drawn into the love of Father and Son in the prayer of John 17 so that the divine love story with the world can be made manifest in them. The passage for Trinity Sunday invites us to draw all of that together.

This text moves from Jesus through the Spirit to us and from Jesus back to the one who sent him (Jesus—us—Spirit—us—Spirit—Jesus—Spirit—us—Father—Jesus—Spirit—us) and paints a picture of the eternal love flowing from the one who sends, to the sent one, to the Spirit who dwells in us in abiding love and makes us love-bearers for, in, and with God—sent out ourselves into the world to bear witness to it with our love (for example, 13:34-35; 15:27; 17:18). The loving circle of God—the Father, the Son-Word, and the Spirit-breath—draws us into itself and moves us out into the world with it.

We might wish to imagine a Trinitarian triptych for this and the past two Sundays. In one panel Jesus comforts and prays for his own, including us, while in a second panel we lift off on the wings of the Spirit from Easter held in a love beyond time and soar into the heart of the Trinity with the risen Christ. Then in a third panel, as part of the Trinitarian dance of love, we also become bearers of God’s love for our neighbors and the world. 

As with the English word “bear,” the Greek word used in 16:12 is also used elsewhere in the New Testament to speak about bearing a physical weight. It is used of Jesus bearing the cross in 19:17, and Mary Magdalene uses it when she mistakes the risen Lord for a gardener who has carried away the body of Jesus. Jesus recognizes that the disciples cannot bear all that he is saying and reassures them (and us) that the truth-bearing Spirit, promised in 14:15-26, will carry it all for them and guide them into the truth of God.

The Greek word used here for “guide” includes in it the word for “way.” The Spirit guides us into the truth of the way, which we know already from 14:6 is not a set of instructions, but a relationship with a person who loves us. Even when we do not have the spiritual muscle to be as wise or as loving as we would like, the Spirit holds all the truth of God in us, and as we grow more and more in our love for the one who is truth, we are able to carry a greater weight of glory in and for the world (2 Corinthians 4:17)—because the Spirit in us declaring the things of God to us glorifies the Father and Son (16:14).

All that the Father has is Jesus’, we read here, and Jesus is embodied love for the world. We are invited into that love with the Spirit to teach us all we need to know.

Words for “say,” “speak,” and “declare” appear seven times in these four verses. The speech of God moves in this passage between the Father and Jesus (all that the Father has is his) through the Spirit of truth to us. Then the word is embedded in us so that we also can bear witness (15:26-27) in words and works as Jesus has done and says we will do (14:12-14). The creative, life-giving word moves from the one who sends to the sent one to the Spirit who dwells in us in abiding love and makes us love-bearers in, for, and with God to the world.

This Gospel presents the Trinity as a way of understanding God for, with, and in us and of understanding ourselves for, with, and in God as daughters and sons (1:12-13) who have seen what it means to be children of God in Jesus (1:14). Through Jesus’ example, teaching, and love, we are made to understand and to rejoice in God’s love for us and to learn to love one another as neighbors dwelling close to the heart of God with the Son in the unity of love.  And when we do this, we show the world, in loving words and works, that it also is beloved, by embodying God’s love for it. Meanwhile the Spirit is with us always, guiding us on the way of love, creating a space for us and in us to be part of the Trinitarian dance of God.

First Reading

Commentary on Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Sara M. Koenig

Where can wisdom be found? Proverbs 8—a text in which wisdom is poetically personified—begins with describing her in all sorts of locations. She is on the heights, where she could see and be seen. She is on a road or street, where people are traveling. She is in the public location of “the gate,” where business is done such as arranging marriages and selling land (see also Ruth 4) and where justice is carried out (see also Deuteronomy 21:19, 2 Samuel 15:1-5, Job 29:7-25; Amos 5:10-15, et cetera). She is in the entrances of doorways, where thresholds are crossed. In all these places, she raises her voice to call and cry out, and her message is inclusive for all humans (Proverbs 8:4). Proverbs 8:1-4 reiterates that it is not hard to find woman Wisdom, nor is it difficult to hear her voice. 

From where did wisdom come? The short answer to this question would be, “the LORD,” but the longer answer depends on how one translates the verb (Hebrew, qnh) in verse 22. According to the NRSV, NASB, and the CEB, woman Wisdom proclaims that the LORD “created me”; according to the KJV and the ESV, she says the LORD “possessed me”; and according to the NIV, she states that the LORD “brought me forth.” This same Hebrew root forms Cain’s name, and is also translated in even more various ways in Genesis 4:1: Eve has “produced” (NRSV), “obtained” (NASB), “given life” (CEB), “gotten” (KJV and ESV)), and “brought forth” a child with God’s help. Birth imagery continues in verses 23-24, and the idea that Wisdom is in some way God’s child is one reason why this particular chapter in Proverbs was utilized in the 4th century controversies between orthodox and Arian Christians.

Who (or what) is wisdom? Early Christians identified the description of Wisdom in Proverbs 8 with Jesus, and that identification factored heavily in the implications of translating verse 22. The Arians read verses 22-31 as demonstrating that Jesus was God’s first creation: unique and distinct from other creatures, existing prior to and even on a different level than those other created beings, but ultimately a creation of God. Therefore, they concluded that Jesus, as a created being, was not the same in nature and essence as God. 

The orthodox group came to different conclusions by reading the verb in Proverbs 8:22 either as “possessed” (as translated by KJV and ESV), or as meaning “to beget.” Therefore, Jesus was not created, but rather—as affirmed in the Nicene Creed—eternally “begotten, not made.”1 However, it is certainly possible to read connections between Jesus and Wisdom in Proverbs 8 without making a one-to-one correspondence between the two. Additionally, in Proverbs 8:1, the word “wisdom” (Hebrew: ḥokmāh) is placed in parallel with the word “understanding” (Hebrew: tĕbûnāh), suggesting that woman Wisdom is one who brings understanding, analogous to a teacher. Wisdom can also be understood as an attribute of God, a gift from God, or even a lifestyle that begins with the fear of the LORD (Proverbs 1:7).

What does wisdom do? Active verbs describe what Wisdom does in the first four verses: she cries out, shouts, takes her stand. In verses 23-25, the verbs are in the passive form: “I was woven” (verse 23); “I was brought forth” (8:24-25). In verses 30-31, Wisdom is again the subject of the active verb “rejoice” (Hebrew: śḥq): she is rejoicing before God (verse 30) and rejoicing in God’s created earth (verse 31). Not a verb, but a noun in verse 30 also speaks to Wisdom’s role and potential actions. The Hebrew root ʾāmôn has been understood as God’s 1) “little child,”2; 2) “master worker” (NRSV, NASB, ESV); or 3) a tool for artisans, such as a blueprint utilized by architects. One Jewish understanding of this word is that Torah functions as God’s artisan tool3, and thus Wisdom is connected with the Torah. 

Why was this text about Wisdom chosen for Holy Trinity Sunday? Without presuming to know all the reasons for the selection of lectionary texts, it seems clear that this pericope has a great deal to say about the triune God. 

First, it proclaims that God is the creator of the heavens and the earth. All three realms of creation—sky, waters, land—are identified, for God created the heavens (verse 27) and the clouds above (28), the deep (27-28) and the sea (29), and the earth (29). God’s acts of creation are described in detail, as God not only creates, but also sets boundaries for created things. God “shapes” the mountains and hills (verse 25); “makes” earth, fields, and dust (26); “establishes” the heavens and the springs of the deep (27, 28); “inscribes a circle” on the face of the deep (27); “makes firm” making firm the skies (28); “sets a limit” to the sea (29); and “marks out” the foundations of the earth (29). All this activity of creation, according to Proverbs 8:22-31, is done in the presence of Wisdom.

Second, as noted above, this pericope presents Wisdom as God’s child in ways similar to Jesus, God’s only son. In addition to that, Proverbs 8 affirms Wisdom’s presence with God in the beginning of God’s created world, similar to the description of the incarnate Word of God in John 1:1-3.

Third, Wisdom shares similarities with the Spirit of Truth referenced in John 16:13-14. In John, the Spirit declares what is to come, whereas Wisdom declares what happened in the past when God created the world. But both Wisdom and the Spirit glorify God.


  1. Athanasius, the champion of the orthodox position, did concede the meaning of the verb could be “to create,” but was careful to specify that it was not Christ who was created, but rather Christ’s position as “the first of [God’s] works” (Proverbs 8:22).
  2. Michael V. Fox, Proverbs 1-9, New York: Doubleday, 2000, p. 285.
  3. Cf. Genesis Rabbah 1.1 (https://www.sefaria.org/Bereishit_Rabbah.1.1?vhe=Midrash_Rabbah_–_TE&lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en).


Commentary on Psalm 8

Courtney Pace

This psalm is a hymn of praise for God’s love and care for humans. God created humanity with free will and gave them responsibility and dignity. Like many songs, the psalm begins and ends with the same phrase: “O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (verses 1 and 9), known as an inclusio, a type of bookend framing the psalm.

God has created the universe to reflect God’s glory, from the sky to the earth to the sea, and God has bestowed God’s image on humans.

Verse 2 does not have an obvious flow within the psalm, but likely refers to God’s power over that which threatens God’s creation. Even from the most vulnerable of humanity, God’s greatness is proclaimed, creating stability.

The psalmist marvels at God’s beauty, revealed through creation, particularly the moon and stars (verse 3), and wonders why such a God would care so deeply for humanity. How could a God capable of creating the sky and the weather also be loving and tender with humankind?

God has honored humanity by giving them responsibility over the earth (verses 5-8). God has trusted humanity to take care of the animals, the food supply, and the environment. Building on sharing in the image of God, and thereby the knowledge of God, humans will shepherd what lives on earth, participating in God’s love and care, which they both receive and offer as part of that image.

Psalm 8 seems to be aware of the unspoken possibility that God could have created humanity without free will, self-awareness, capability, or trusting relationship. Knowing what could have been makes what God did all the more precious. The psalmist treasures God’s creation as the gift that it is, as the gesture of love that it is.

The inclusio of the psalm begins with “O LORD, our Sovereign,” pairing celebration with acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty and leadership over humanity. Yes, humanity has been created with resplendence, and yes God trusts humanity to rule the earth. This freedom, however, is a responsibility rooted in worship of God in which right living is an expression of God’s love. Prostration and joy partner hand in hand.

Reading this psalm in the midst of daily mass shootings, multiple wars, ever-complexifying global pandemic, and looming climate crisis does not sit well. Humanity seems to have become complicit with all that God has given and abandoned its responsibility to care for the earth. Humanity has lost sight of the splendor with which God made them. What God made to reflect God’s majesty has become a horror scene. We have turned on each other. We have turned on our planet. We have turned on God.

  • What does it mean that the darling coos of our children were meant to manifest safety, and yet they are being shot in their classrooms?
  • What does it mean that we were meant to find the tenderness of God in the beauty of our planet, and yet we are destroying it and all its creatures with our greed for more and more resources?
  • What does it mean that God trusted the animals in our care, and yet many of them haven’t survived because of our neglect, or worse, our abuse?
  • What does it mean that we were created in the image of God? Out of all that God could have chosen to love, what does it mean that God loves humankind?

Proclamation from this psalm invites deep reflection of these questions, remembering God’s design for humankind in Genesis 1:27-30—“God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created in them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’” (Genesis 1:27-28).

We are the bearers of God’s image, blessed by God, and called to care for the earth. How do we live in faithfulness in this moment? How do we address climate crisis as God’s hands and feet in the world? How do we engage in our food chain and address access to food as those God has commissioned to care for all that live on earth? Are we sure God is still confident in our ability to fulfill this calling?

When we survey the heavens and the earth, what do we see? Who are we to that which we see, and what is it to us? How does God’s creation reveal God’s self to us? How does God’s creation reveal God’s love for us?

And how do the answers to those questions challenge us to transform the way we live in our present contexts? How can we more faithfully bear the image of God in the way we care for one another? How can we more faithfully bear the image of God in the way we care for the earth and its living things? How does recognizing the tenderness of God’s love for us in that which we see invite us to new ways of living and relating?

Finally, what does “dominion” really mean? Does it mean control over the earth, with authority to use the earth however we desire? Does it mean stewardship so that the living things on the earth may flourish? Or does it mean something else entirely? How have we conflated dominion with entitlement such that we have confused the gospel with our own intentions, and blamed our behavior on God?

What would it look like to see God’s creation—all of it—with wonder and let it transform us?

Second Reading

Commentary on Romans 5:1-5

Crystal Hall

Theologians of the church would develop the doctrine of the Trinity centuries after Paul wrote this letter to the church at Rome. Paul isn’t writing as a systematic theologian; that vocation did not yet exist. Paul is instead more of a pastor. He’s a pastor trying to solve the very particular and limited problem of how Jews and all other nations conquered by Rome can break bread at the same table together. 

Paul is working out how peoples radically different from one another in culture, legal and religious practices, language and history can be part of the church. He interprets his scriptures, now known as the Hebrew Bible, to argue that both Jews and other nations can claim the same faith ancestor in Abraham. He cites the prophet Habakkuk to claim that both Gentiles and Jews can be called into right relationship by the same God. 

In Romans Paul wrestles with how peoples so different from one another can share in the same church body, the same gathered assembly, when they had spent centuries, if not millennia, separate from and suspicious of one another. The Jews and Gentiles at the center of this story were far more likely to loathe one another, pitted against each other by the powers that be, than they were to worship together. 

What connects the contexts in which Paul writes a letter to the church at Rome with the doctrine of the Trinity? 

Both are a call into a deepened understanding of interdependent relationship. Who theologians would later name the three Persons of the Trinity are present in this passage. This passage describes these Persons in relationships flowing in and out of one another. Followers of the Anointed One know God’s peace through Jesus. They know God’s love through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit pours God’s love into the hearts of Jesus believers. 

The relationships described here are not just the ones among the three Persons of God. There is also a description of God’s relationship with God’s people. God’s interdependent relationship with Godself provides an example for humanity’s interdependent relationship with God. 

The Jesus people’s relationship with God is mediated through God’s relationship with Godself. Paul writes that God justifies believers, brings them into right and just relationship, through Jesus the Anointed One. God extends this relationship through God’s Child. It is through Jesus that there is access to the grace that is being brought into right relationship with God. 

God not only extends relationship to the church, but there is also hope in this passage that the church might also share in this relationship. Paul writes that we boast in our hope of sharing God’s glory. He continues that we also boast in our suffering. 

The shadow side of glory is suffering. Not only suffering, but endurance and character, which produce hope. This hope does not disappoint. 

Why does this hope not disappoint? God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us. 

What’s to be made of boasting? 

The repetition of boasting twice in two consecutive verses is noteworthy, and “boasting” is a theme that threads through Paul’s authentic letters. The Greek verb frequently translated as “boast” is kauchaomai, which can also mean “exult” and “rejoice.” 

From the perspective of the dominant Greco-Roman culture, Jesus peoples in Rome have little reason to boast. They were mostly poor, marginal, perceived by outsiders as suspicious, unpatriotic, even cannibalistic. The command to “eat my flesh” and “drink my blood” sounded very strange to outsiders. 

Beyond these reasons to be suspicious of the Jesus peoples, their so-called “god” had gotten himself killed by a Roman cross. From the perspective of the powers, Jesus was a laughable loser without a leg to stand on. From this perspective Jesus was no “savior” of his people. He could not even save himself, never mind lead an army that would liberate his people from the eternal Pax Romana

In this context it would likely seem counter-intuitive, even dangerous, to boast. Yet Paul has the audacity to do so, even when it seems foolish. 

From a modern perspective, one might think boasting would hinder relationship, that people don’t want to be seen as “full of themselves” or “too much.” 

But here’s the thing about relationships: they inherently require risk. There is a lot at stake in what Paul is trying to do in his own time, which can serve as a model for what kind of risk taking we might want to consider in ours. Not from a place of selfishness or foolhardiness, but from a grounded and loving self-confidence that reaches across the proverbial aisle to the other. 

How might we boast in our relationships? 

The kind of boasting Paul models here is inherently reliant on his faith in the Anointed One and his trust in the relationships he’s building among the Jesus peoples. In a US American culture dominated by self-reliance, how might Paul’s call into radical interdependence with the other, both human and Godly, serve as a model for the living of these days? 

As much as we humans would like to see ourselves as totally separate from and having nothing in common with one another, we breathe air, are reliant on the earth for food and drink water the world over. We are inseparably connected to one another. Godself, likewise, is inseparably connected with Godself. 

This text too points to humanity’s inseparability from God and one another, that no matter how the forces of sin and death condition us to think that we are not only separate from one another but could never break bread at the same table, that we are united in our humanity, called in right and just relationship with God. This text calls for a recognition that even the people we can’t stand, even the people we would rather see condemned than extended grace, they too are inseparable from their humanity. They too are inseparable from the call into right and just relationship with God. It is in these promises that Paul boasts.