Monday, June 12, 2006

Trinity Sunday, St. Peter's Eastern Hill

The question we take up today, with some fear and trembling, is what the concept of the Trinity might mean. Now, I am going to put aside the 100 plus years of committee meetings that culminated in the council of Nicea, and I am saying absolutely nothing about the Da Vinci code, but I will say that the Trinity is an icon that works in mapping out the places where we find meaning in life. It’s a kind of tool to tease out and deal with the geography involved in the question of why and what the universe means: where the meaning can be found, why this matter does matter. Note then that the Trinity first deals with a question of “why” rather then “how”, and that’s an important distinction.

In an early book called, I think, Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh writes of an Anglican clergyman who had doubts about the doctrine of creation: not how, but why. He figured that God, being God, could do anything he wanted, but the larger question was why, why bother? And that makes sense. Why is more important than how. We can believe in the big bang theory, or whatever vocabulary currently comes to explain how it all begins, But the deeper question is why, why bother unless it is good, valuable, deserving of some thanks, worth the trouble? When the bang’s sounded, the work finished, the day done, is the last word “Good, Very Good”, (which is what comes in Genesis) or is it, “Gee, maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.” or is it just silence, or the sound of a lonely wind in a largely empty universe?

What the first part of the concept of the Trinity stands for, and what we stand for, hope for, look for, when we come here, what we’re banking on with our time and our talent, is that there is a heart at the heart of it. That God is at the beginning. We use the vocabulary of the tradition we stand in. And so, in words from scripture, we speak of the loving creator, the good father, who was there when the foundations were laid, the bases sunk, when - as Job puts it- the morning stars came together and all the heavenly beings sang for joy. This is the God, as we hear in this mornings reading from Deuteronomy: [who] “created human beings on the earth [and led them] by signs and wonders, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by terrifying displays of power. The God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; that is at the centre of it, that there is no other.” That is the why we are looking for, that’s our foundation for the rest.

We show up here to try to follow that value and to let those values incorporate in our lives: taking in the stories, traditions, statutes and commandments, making them make sense and sing in our own time. It’s quite a task! To keep the horizon that wide, the story that pointed, the hope supple, alive and still new, that the universe might mean this much. And isn’t easy and it can go so wrong. A Professor of mine in seminary said that sometimes people come to church to be godly and they end up being sort of lordly instead. Religious thinking can go wrong! My God is big and mighty and so am I! My God is bigger than yours! My religion has more room, more truth, more style, better liturgy, we’re more absolute, more tolerant, more evangelical, more catholic, we have more members, we have better taste! We get so godly we move on to be lordly, we get so godly and lordly that we forget what a gift it is to be simply human.

To be human is to be on an unfinished journey and to move on in hope, just walking together step by step on the creative faithful journey that goes on to the centre of it. Because that recalls us, remembers us, renews us as part of that beloved inspired creation, as children of God. And that moves us close to Jesus, close to the one who lives out his life fully in hope and love in the very middle of the human way.

Jesus is a picture of the where and why of God’s love, and sometimes it is difficult to keep his whole life in focus. We see him so clearly as savior, redeemer, Lord of All, the one who wins through death and meaningless. And he is that, no mistake: but throughout scripture and the tradition we see another side to his life, which is Jesus as the hidden one, the victim of the day, sore, oppressed, wounded, silent, crushed. This is not always easy to see. It is easier to look at the triumph than the tragedy, but tragedy happens, and the good news is that God has room for us there. Jesus takes place, makes room, meets with people who hurt, are bruised, battered and occasionally broke. He walks with all the incomplete and unfinished folks on the way, doing the best we can with what we have at the moment. In Jesus, the God of the creation pitches a tent right down on the ground of human dwelling. And we find that this kingdom is built with the rawest kind of compassion and camaraderie right there in the dirt.

In Jesus, God walks through the very centre of the human condition, and breaks open from the inside, the deepest pain and promise of the human heart to be made whole, to finally connect.

So that’s two out of three of the trinity. We come here to remember how big God might be, that God – beyond all conceptions, theories, and theologies we might want to use of - that God comes first, before all things, and in Jesus we come to see God close at hand in all that it means to be fully human. So there’s the why (and even the how) of God and humankind coming close to meet and mingle and walk and live and die and rise together in the middle of this unfinished, often unkind - and sometimes it seems altogether undone - world. And that is why and where we need the spirit.

We need the spirit to continue the work of this renewed family: brooding and breathing and weaving together this new creation, this true family of humankind, which we see in the life and light and lens of Jesus. We need the Spirit to simply and silently sew this new awareness, in silence, compassion and care, into every cell, every seed, every tear and stone and drop of rain, each and every, so that this love and care of God we see in Christ may be all in all.

Go back to the book for that. Where the spirit hovers over the creation before a word, a song, or a big bang for that matter, was ever heard. That same spirit is seen and spoken in words of the prophets, That same spirit shines out in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of this Jesus, who shows up just in time to ask us to come and see the nature of hope and grace, and take on the yoke and promise that comes with living and walking with God in the middle of the human journey.
And the same spirit comes to bind us together as we strive to give hope, strive for justice, promote healing, renew and forgive, make for community. That same spirit softens our hearts, keeps our pity fresh and our compassion clear, binds us together in hope in our calling, leads us to begin again.
So in the end, the trinity is an icon that aims to show us the complexity and simplicity of God: that God is creating all things from the very beginning, that God is the healing in the very heart of the human condition, and that God is in the intimate embracing of every good relationship. For in the life of the Holy Trinity we find our hope.


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