A Sermon for 16 June 2019 – Trinity Sunday
It’s Trinity Sunday. A day filled with hymns that declare the amazing work of the Godhead. Holy, Holy, Holy is our LORD God Almighty! All creatures of our God and King! This day is a day too to hear beautiful words from Scripture that proclaim the awesome nature of God. I mean, did you hear those words from Psalm 8?! “O LORD: how majestic is your name in all the earth!” How could we do anything but fall absolutely in love with the Creator as we look upon the grandeur of this world? When we gaze up into the night sky – noticing the twinkle of millions of tiny lights that would take millions of years to walk to! When we look at the ground – like how is it possible that we can take tiny seeds that within themselves are a brilliant, beautiful work of art. We put them in the soil, or a songbird just drops them somewhere. The sun shines, the rain falls. The ground gives way. Before we know it, tomatoes are popping out everywhere. Basil is filling the sweet summer air. Even while we’re caught up in the beauty that surrounds, other little marvels are toddling all around us. These human bodies in which we live are sheer miracles. Do you know that when I broke the bone in my foot a few months ago, a very accomplished doctor with a very impressive education working for a well-respected medical group told me that now that the bone (that had been giving me some trouble for a while) finally broke, the body will heal it and build it back even stronger. Sure it’s taking time and there are factors that can impede the process, but I couldn’t believe I waited all that time to have some fancy surgeon tell me the truth of these incredible bodies in which we get to live: it knows how to heal itself! Despite the aches and pains we encounter as we age – indeed, with the Psalmist we can proclaim: O what are human beings, LORD, that you care for us?!
As Christians we believe Christ to be a part of the Triune Godhead that we celebrate on Trinity Sunday. It’s what makes us different from Jews and Unitarians and a whole lot of really spiritually mature people. In Christ, we believe we hear the words of God speaking to us, as Jesus did in that beautiful sermon he gave to his disciples the night before he would die. He promised: “I will not leave you orphaned” (John 14:18). God loves us so much, because, after all, God is Love. And as Love, God never, ever, ever is willing to be separated from us. We are God’s, Jesus declares in the portion of the great farewell discourse that we hear from the gospel of John today. That means that even if it feels like the rest of the world has abandoned us. Even if it feels like no one else accepts us. Even if it feels like we are in this all alone, we are not. God is like that tenacious father we hear of in Jesus’ parable of the lost – or prodigal – sons. One who never gives up. One who is proud to welcome us home, no matter what a mess our lives have become.
Trinity Sunday ends up being a day in the church when preachers around the world try to do the impossible: we try to use words to speak about God. To describe God. To explain the very nature of the Godhead that we proclaim through the doctrine of the Trinity. Though clearly spelled out nowhere in the bible, tradition settled on words like Father, Son, Holy Ghost to describe the relatedness of the Triune God. Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer often are heard as a way to capture the function of each persona of the three-and-one God. This week, I read words written by The Rev. Jacqui Lewis who tried to describe her vision of God. Admittedly, I’ve never thought about God in the same way that this powerhouse head pastor from New York City’s Middle Collegiate Church describes God. And I’m still letting her explanation of God sink into my soul to see how it might resonate. Even as I remember that Rev. Lewis speaks from and for the context in which she ministers which is a multiracial, fully inclusive congregation whose purpose is “to heal souls and the world because they believe faith is about Love. Period” (https://sojo.net/biography/jacqui-lewis). Quoted in Richard Rohr’s daily devotional, which some of you also may have read on Thursday; Rev. Lewis describes what she sees when she imagines God. She writes: “My God is a curvy black woman with dreadlocks and dark, cocoa-brown skin. She laughs from her belly and is unashamed to cry. She can rock a whole world to sleep, singing in her contralto voice. Her sighs breathe life into humanity. Her heartbreaks cause eruptions of justice and love” (Center for Action and Contemplation, Richard Rohr Meditation: She Is Love, 13 June 2019). Rev. Lewis claims that we know God is a mystery. She writes: “We don’t know everything about (God). So out of our imaginations and our yearnings, our hopes and our fears, we make stuff up. At our best,” Rev. Lewis writes, “we project goodness, power, kindness, and love unto God. At our worst, we create a God who is punitive, angry, judgmental, and harsh. (Lewis says) We do this because we are those things, and we think they make us safe” (Ibid.).
I would argue that we can find it all in our Holy Scriptures – so many different ways our ancestors in the faith were inspired to use words to attempt to describe what we experience of this amazing Force. This incredible Love. This grand Designer we call God before whose awesomeness we humbly bow. Everything from Good Shepherd to Sheltering Eagle to Righteous Judge to Mother Hen to Solid Rock on which to stand is used in Scripture to speak of God. A plethora of images for just about every need in which we humans will find ourselves. The One – the Force – the Energy – the Love, whichever word best describes God for you – who from the beginning was Triune. Which might just be our attempt to give language – a doctrine, an explanation to the God of the Universe who is relationship itself. And if all this Triune talk. If all this trying to speak of God who took on our flesh and blood to be our Way, our Truth, our Life. If all this trying to speak of the Mystery of Three co-existing as One is too much for our little minds to comprehend, then how about we just listen. Listen for the beauty of how the wisdom writer of Proverbs gave expression to the Divine. Hear God’s word to us in this final Trinity Sunday reading from Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 (NRSV).
“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 God had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. 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.”
What else might we attempt to say about God today? Other than this wisdom text may never have been a reading we’d have known had not the council that created the Revised Common Lectionary decided it must be included every third Trinity Sunday. One biblical commentator writes of these words, “First, the image of Wisdom as God’s helper reminds us of the reciprocity of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit giving and receiving within the very being of God” (Feasting on the Word, Yr. C, Vol. 3, Jeff Paschal, p. 31). Acting and resting, I would add. Doing and stopping just to behold. The balance of energies that allow the flow. That show us how to be as well. That same biblical commentator goes on to write: “Even more, the description of Wisdom in verses 24 and 25 – ‘brought forth’ (whirling, dancing) – calls to mind the Eastern Church’s emphasis on the Trinity as perichoresis, literally, ‘dancing around’” (Ibid.). In great wisdom the biblical commentator writes: “So we do not worship a stingy God who grudgingly gives gifts and who grants forgiveness as a divine grump” – another way, I would add, that so many seem to imagine God. “Not at all,” writes the commentator, “The triune God is a joyous, dancing God who pours out overflowing gifts to humanity with gladness!” (Ibid.). What a beautiful way to see God in our lives – a way so many of us have experienced even as we have read of in Jesus, the Christ, who lives among us as God! When we experience joy, we know God. When we live free – free enough to dance – we know God. When we take stock of all the gifts that overflow to us, we know God. When we love, we know God. The Triune God whom we trust and worship and serve!
Trinity Sunday is a day to celebrate God, the Mystery who keeps on giving and receiving and giving for all Life to prevail! With grateful hearts, may we ever rejoice in the God who is One, and three. Three and One, dancing around in an endless, unblocked outpouring of Love. Celebrating the inhabited world. Delighting in the whole human race!
In the name of the life-giving Father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit, Amen.
© Copyright JMN – 2019 (All rights reserved.)