November 26, 2020

Trinity Sunday: Pic & Cantata of the Week

1st Presbyterian Church, Columbia TN

(Click on picture for larger image)

• • •

Bach’s cantata BWV 194, Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest (O greatly longed-for feast of joy), written to mark the dedication of a new organ in Leipzig on November 2, 1723, is a forty minute long piece in two parts. It is one of Bach’s largest cantatas, and sounds like an orchestral suite. It is possible that the two parts framed the sermon in the service.

Today we hear the bass recitative and then a delightful aria for bass, both of which express the pure joy of coming before God in worship and reveling in his glorious presence.

• • •

Infinitely great God, ah turn
to us, to your chosen people,
and to the prayers of your servants.
Ah grant that before you
through our ardent singing
we may bring the offering of our lips !
We openly dedicate our hearts to you
at the altar of thanks.
You, who are contained by no house, no temple,
for you have no end or limits,
may this house be pleasing to you, may your face be
a true throne of grace, a light of joy.


What the splendour of the most high God fills
will not be veiled in night,
what the divine nature of the most high God
has chosen for his dwelling
will not be veiled in night,
what the splendour of the most high God fills.


  1. In retrospect, today as a personal churchless Sunday might be the number one choice of the whole year for me. I went to Working Preacher this morning and read the commentaries on the lectionary texts for today, Trinity Sunday, while listening to 24/7 Bach at the Global Bach Community. I would say this beats nine out of ten services I could attend within driving distance, especially today, as I learn it is often traditional to recite the Athanasian Creed on this day, which I regard as a vile abomination and would be greatly conflicted in even standing out of respect and consideration for the preacher and congregation.

    It always surprises me to find so many believers at Working Preacher, which is mostly staffed with seminary teachers and professors. Gives the “Evangelical” in ELCA some meaning and much needed integrity. The commentary on 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 by Matt Skinner was especially good, as evidenced by it being an oldie but goodie from nine years ago. On preaching a sermon on doctrinal Trinitarian theology he says, “I beg you not to do that.” He asks, “How many people hear sermons that try to explain the Trinity and then return home exclaiming, ‘Wow! That really helped!’?” He speaks of a sermon’s purpose as “leading people into an encounter with God as opposed to a treatise about God.” Amazing.

    There has been a growing push over the past twenty-five years or so to use Trinitarian doctrine as a shibboleth and loyalty oath, even in as nefarious ways as passing reference to “Holy Trinitarian God” as a title in addressing God in prayer. It makes me want to retch. Certainly there is a Law of Three at work in the Universe, little understood, and I would be most surprised if this did not stem from God’s very own nature, but not from a collusion or committee of three separate persons working things out. I regard an even higher law than the Law of Three as being the Law of One, as in God is One, neither principle accessible to religious lawyers or theologians or materialists, and would also be most surprised to find that God is not a modalist with many modes. If I were an action hero, I would sneak into the Nicene Museum in the dead of night with a sledge hammer and break the plate glass in the display case where God has been trapped and confined in three shoe boxes these 1700 years and open the tops and let Him free.

  2. At its best thinking about the Trinity brings out the wonder of relationships, the “dance” of love given and received, the celebration of unity and differentiation between the sexes (Genesis 1:27), the diversity and interrelationships in God’s work and world, and the mystery of a relational God who is still far beyond our comprehension.

    I don’t think we should ever imagine the Trinity needs to be “explained” or “understood.” This is a day to sing “Holy, Holy, Holy,” or listen to Bach, and bask in the wonder.

  3. Always look forward to Bach on Sunday morning, thanks!

    Going up to Silver Spring, MD this afternoon (I live in DC) to St Bernadette church to hear local choral group Chantry sing William Byrd’s Gradualia Propers for the Feast of Corpus Christi and Josquin des Pres’ Missa Pange lingua. A glorious day of music.