Did you know? Holy Trinity Sunday is the day that strikes fear into the hearts of preachers everywhere. There is this expectation, mostly self-imposed, that we will impart some great wisdom or explanation about this enigmatic holy mystery, but as my friend Matt Schur said, “pastors, good luck with trying to write an engaging, faithful, and yet somehow non-heretical sermon.”
We’ve all heard the analogies with their feeble attempts to explain the Trinity: steam, water, ice; peel, flesh, core; shell, white, yolk. But none of these quite get at the heart of it. Even as a child, I felt that these explanations always trotted out during the children’s sermon (and, true confession time, I even used the apple one once myself) they left the whole idea of the triune God flat and lifeless. God is so much more than that…so much more than water, an apple, or an egg could ever really explain.
Because somethings are called mysteries when we can’t quite wrap our human brains around them, and that’s ok. I think we’ll understand it when we’re meant to.
Meanwhile, why is it important to dedicate an entire Sunday in the church year to that which we can’t effectively talk about? Because even in the unexplainable mysteries of faith, God is revealing Godself to us.
In the today’s gospel lesson, Jesus explains some portion of the Trinity by talking about his own role in our salvation: God gave the Son that the world might be saved through him.
This week in class at Seattle University, my friend Benji Anderson explained, “This I believe; that Jesus’ salvific act was not in his death nor was it in his resurrection, but in his life… The life of Jesus perfectly exemplified how to live in covenant with God through right-relationship with neighbor and God. In doing so Jesus models love, community and justice, which are the true elements of salvation.”
And yes, I believe the life of Jesus does teach us that loving our neighbor is the bedrock of community and the fulfillment of our covenants with God. Loving our neighbor requires an inbreaking of mutuality…a kind of existence in which we place the same kind of value or worth on the lives and being of our neighbors as we do on our own.
Jesus teaches us that the only way to the Father is through the Son; and what did the Son, what did Jesus do in his life and witness? Benji goes on to say, “The Son taught us how to be in right-relationship with one another by reconciling the outcast to the community of God, by showing us that our neighbor included enemies and by modeling love through acts of service. Furthermore, the biblical witness explicitly states that right-relationship with God is not possible without right-relationship with neighbor.”
Our call, our holy invitation, is to follow Jesus. And the power to follow the example of Jesus of Nazareth can only come from the blowing, pushing, and whispering of the Great and Holy Spirit.
God reveals God’s self to us in three persons. And I think that tells us an awful lot about God and about how we are to live with one another. God in community. God in relationship. God with us and for us and through us. God full of love.
I’ve heard that the reason God went through all the trouble of creation…those seven days of labor and creativity and rest and admiration and proclamation (“it is very good”), is so that God would have more to love. But the Trinity makes an even more radical statement that from before time began the only way we can begin to think about or to talk about God is to dwell on the idea that love is the core of who God is…the only way we humans can really begin to grasp the self and being of God…that God’s great being is love and love completely and love entirely and the only way that can properly be expressed is if Godself becomes a relationship, but even then…as though God is not content to dwell only in the love of the three persons of the Trinity…God invites us into God, too.
Now for something a little bit different, another of my classmates from SU (my classmates were amazing this week, ya’ll) offered this image of God this week. And I asked her if I could share it with you on this Holy Trinity Sunday, because as we talk about the character of God as love and the expression of that love as invitation and the power of that love as the ability to go into the world and proclaim this most holy relationship as the way for salvation, her image of God goes a long way toward inviting you and me into understanding the divine character of God the three-in-one.
I invite you to close your eyes, open your hearts, and listen to Trina:
“God is a black woman who is old as time, but gets around like an athletic 38 year-old. She has a full head of beautiful gray and black dreadlocks that hang just right above her hips; and her skin is more decadently chocolate than any candy bar could ever be.
Most days, she can be found sitting on the front porch slicing okra for a dish that’s bound to be superbly delicious. Though we all know she is older than dirt, she sits there like somebody’s baby girl, somebody’s sister, somebody’s friend, somebody’s momma, somebody’s sexy lover, and somebody’s sweet old grandmamma. Nobody has any idea all the skills she has and the things she knows. Your best bet is to always have her on your side; not that she chooses sides.
She smells like flowers, trees, oceans, cakes, and pies and all sorts of delightful and welcoming aromas. Often she just sits on the porch peeling, slicing, dicing and waiting. Each time someone passes by, she invites them to come and have a bite to eat. She’s always so happy to see each and every one of them, like she made them herself.
Truth is she did.
She’s always counting on the fact they’ll come in and be fed so that they can go out stronger, wiser, and certain of her love and care. If they come close enough to the porch, it’s hard for them to refuse the invitation. And when they’ve drifted away, the rich aromas and flavors have a way of wafting into their dreams and stirring their longing for God’s good company.
God is our loving creator. She is giving, forgiving, and sustaining. She only wants the best from all us. She generously gives us the room to be ourselves and do our own thing with the gifts she has proudly planted within us. She guides us with a gentle hand, but other times she shakes us into recognizing our family members, including the earth and all of creation, all around us. She has high hopes for us! She’s counting on us to take care to help one another find our way back home to her front porch.
What we are required to do and be in this life is not all about work. And sometimes, it is not all pretty, but she aims to keep all her kin close. The Dread-locked woman (who is God) wants us to find joy in her good company as well as delight in our own lives.”
Open your eyes. Did you hear the whispers of the Trinity in that image? Did you hear the invitation? God creating, God showing, God empowering…God inviting us into life with God and into relationship with one another…loving one another and serving the world.
The Holy Trinity cannot be explained with human words or understanding. Fortunately, for pastors and heretics everywhere, that is not our calling. Our calling is to live the Trinity…the creation, community, and action for the sake of one another…and so to be bound up into the life of God. God, Three-in-one…plus one. You.