A Sermon for 22 May 2016 – Trinity Sunday
A reading from the wisdom of the Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 (NRSV). Listen for God’s word to us.
“Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth –when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.”
This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God!
It’s Trinity Sunday. The day every year when the church tries to explain the inexplicable. We’re ambitious like that! . . . Trinity: lots of people like to think of it as the Father who creates, the Son who redeems, and the Spirit who sustains. The God who is beyond us, the God who lived among us as one of us, and the God who lives in all. One God, in three persons. If you’ve studied up on all this ever, then you likely already know that in ancient acting, a few actors would play various personas throughout a drama. That’s where the three persons words for Trinity comes from. Our One God, who is known to us in three personas – three distinct characters in the drama of this thing called life. . . . As ancient creedal language puts it: the Father who begets the Son; and the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father, who with them is worshipped and glorified! . . . I remember protons, neutrons, and electrons from high school science, don’t you? We can understand that all living things are not solitary. Even before the explorations of modern science, anyone could look at the world and see things that were one, but three. Take a bird for instance. It has a beak, wings, and tail feathers. Three different parts; but it’s all one bird. And, in fact, without all three parts, it wouldn’t really be a bird. . . . God is kinda like that. Three distinct parts: Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer; YHWH the almighty One, Jesus Christ the embodied Word, and the Holy Spirit forevermore. God is all these. All these are God – three, but One: Trinity.
It’s a mystery. And I think a great children’s book gives us insight. It’s called: God is Like a Mother Hen and Much, Much More (by Carolyn Stahl Bohler). I wish I could show you the pictures, but it’s kinda a small book and I didn’t think you’d all be willing to scrunch up here together on the floor, so you’ll just have to hear the words today. “God is like a Mother Hen,” the book begins as the opposite page has a picture of a momma chicken with her chicks. Gently gathering them under her wings the page reads: “who protects her little chicks.” Turning the page we see: “God is like a Caring Daddy, who listens really well. God is like a Teacher, who smiles and says, ‘Try again’” – cuz the lil chic at the chalk board wrote four as the answer for one plus two. God’s like that. We’re all learners in this journey of life; everyone makes mistakes. “Try again,” smiles our Teacher God. As the book continues we learn that: “God is like a Best Friend, who plays and shares with you. God is like a Mommy, who kisses all your hurts. God is like the Air, right there, but you can’t see it.” The little chic on the drawing is skipping in the sunshine of the great outdoors saying: “The air keeps us alive!” The next page reads: “God is like a Child, who loves to have surprises.” Then “God is like You. Sometimes crying, sometimes laughing. God’s Love is like a Teddy Bear’s, ready for snuggling at night.” Then the book states: “Can YOU think of what else God is like?” The caption is: “Fill in using your imagination.” . . . “God is like a Mother Hen, a Caring Daddy, a Smiling Teacher, a Best Friend, a Mommy kissing hurts, the Air you can’t see, a Child loving surprises; You, crying or laughing; a Teddy Bear’s Love, blank” where you fill in what you named God with your imagination, “and much, much more!” God is like a Mother Hen and so very much more! . . . Solid rock, scripture attests. Good Shepherd. Forgiving Judge. Intimate Presence. The Way of Peace. And so very much, much more. All of these together; yet none of these in full. Known to us and Unknown to us all at the same time. The Triune God is so very much, much more. All the different metaphors give us a great way to experience – not to mention speak to others about this One-in-Three that we love.
In Proverbs we get a different kind of peek at our amazing God. That part of God which is wisdom. “On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals” – in other words: everywhere! “She cries out: ‘To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live’” (Prov. 8:2-3). . . . In the Hebrew language, wisdom is associated with the feminine. The Spirit of God that is a part with God at the very beginning. . . . In the Greek, wisdom gets linked with the Word, Logos, masculine and a foreshadow of the Word embodied in the male figure of Jesus of Nazareth. Proverbs links wisdom much more with what we might understand as God’s Spirit. The force with God in creation. She declares in joy that “when God established the heavens, I was there, when God drew a circle on the face of the deep, when God made firm the skies above, when God established the fountains of the deep, when God assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress God’s command, when God marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside God, like a master worker; and I was daily God’s delight, rejoicing before God always, rejoicing in God’s inhabited world and delighting in the human race” (Prov. 8:27-31).
What a beautiful tribute to God! Logically, we know God cannot just be One: nothing living is entirely solitary. If any of this magnificent creation ever was going to be, God has to be more than just one part. The creative force in synergy with itself causing something to come to be. It’s why in the first creation story of Genesis 1, God speaks thus: “’Let us make (humankind) in our image, according to our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Even then, we declare God is an us – One but more than one. Creating a whole world to be one – no single solitary thing – but beautiful in the distinctness of each. . . . Isn’t it a wonderful image of the Spirit of God creating while the wisdom of God is celebrating it all? . . . Maybe you grew up with the triangle view of God. One at the top point, typically what was referred to as God the Father, or God the Creator. The Son and Spirit, not quiet as important, were at the points down below. For centuries, it was a popular way for the Church of the Western world to visualize God. But tucked back away in the Eastern Church was a different kind of image. One that’s slowly making it’s way into the West, which I think is a really good thing as it seems a bit more biblical. You might have heard me say it before, and I first ran across this great truth in Shirley Guthrie’s book Christian Doctrine, which some of you have been studying all year. It’s the perichoresis of God. In this image of Trinity, God is like three distinct circles – equal is shape and size. (Kinda like the image on the front cover of the bulletin.) An interconnected one with all three. There’s really not one that predominates another. Rather this image of Trinity connotes the mutual dance of God. Love itself. Three intertwined dancers twirling about with each other in flawless delight. It gives us a better picture of the One God who is involved in every aspect of the God who is creating and redeeming and sustaining. For in truth, we can’t have one function without the other and still have God as we know God.
And so in mutual delight, we know the Almighty Creator . . . whose final word always is Life. Who makes covenant with a people to be a light to all the nations. Who speaks through the prophets to call us back to faithfulness. Who never-ever will let us go; even when it’s what we really do deserve. . . . We love God the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Who’s life, death, and resurrection sets us free from all that would bind. Sets us free for Life here and now and forevermore. Who shows us what it looks like to live as God. Who teaches. Who heals. Who feeds. Who celebrates every aspect of human living and welcomes the entire eclectic array – men, women, and children. Young, old and everyone in between. Not just those like himself of Jewish descent: but those of all lands, every tongue, all economic situations. We love God the Son who is our Way, our Truth, and our very Life. . . . And we celebrate God the Holy Spirit. Who powerfully comes among us. Who is our courage and strength. Who lives in every little finger and toe of our bodies. And who lives beyond us in all things living – sometimes known as the very breath of God enlivening all creation. The greening, viriditas force that is alive in all. Celebrating it all as does the Spirit of God, according to Proverbs. The Spirit of the Risen Christ, who guides us into all Truth that we might live in like manner. Who revives us when we are weary and gives to us that great zest for life. . . . Our God, the great Trinity; One yet three, and so very, very much more!
Whether we get it up here (in our brains) or not, it’s the One in whose name we all were baptized – the one in whose image we all were made. No single solitary thing, so that we know we too are not one entirely on our own – whether we want to be or not. Made in the image of the God who is in relationship in God’s very self, we are connected to everything else that lives: in relationship with it all, to be in mutual delight. One with all creation, even as is our God. . . . At the end of the day, whether we understand the mystery or not; our call is to give God praise. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer! The God who is beyond us, who lived among us, and who lives in all. To the Mysterious, Holy Trinity, we give praise forevermore!
In the name of the life-giving Father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit, Amen.
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