First Sunday after Pentecost
Trinity Sunday, June 2023
Rob and I had our granddaughter Kate with us this week—you remember how a four year old never runs out of questions– you remember they are always listening…
…after a phone call
“Gigi, when is the man who needs help coming to the church?”
…after packing pantry with some ARC friends and taking them to the chapel to pray
“Gigi, why do some of your friends at the church not talk very well?”
…after those prayers
“Gigi, what does the word evil mean?”
She asks Wonderful Questions—and most are not too hard.
Then of course, comes the one I can’t easily answer,
Gigi, how come we can’t see God? Before I can think of a good way to answer her, she continues, “Is it because God is in everything and bigger than anything we can see. Bigger than the earth? Bigger than the stars and the whole sky?”
I quickly say, “Yes, Kate. Now it’s naptime.”
During her nap I think on that answer, the one about God I agreed to—
and I realize, it’s not right; Not wholly right anyway.
To say God is bigger than everything and in all things, is not helpful either;
it puts God up there, away from us, too big for us to know.
This is not what I believe, nor what Jesus taught.
When we think about God, when we ask questions about God,
we are doing theology. Even 4 year olds can do it.
From the beginning of our tradition, the Anglican tradition which is the foundation of our Episcopal church, we are called us to this task,
The task of doing theology—of thinking about God.
The primary goal of theology—
just as it is with great art, music, poetry, and literature—
is to bring us face-to-face with God,
in relationship with the divine.
Good theology questions the awesome wonder of darkness
and the overpowering sensation of love;
it asks us to confront God’s deafening silence.
as well as the presence of God’s still small voice in our lives.
The problem with thinking of God as too big to see,
is that it pushes God up into the heavens.
When, in reality, in Jesus, we know God intends to be part of our lives,
with us and in us, right here.
Jesus’ life teaches us what it means to have a God who became incarnate.
We have a God who has walked this earthly life,
and who prayed, calling God Abba, Father,
and who gave us an advocate in the spirit to be forever with us.
Kate’s theology is right on topic for today…as
We celebrate the Trinity—that mystery of God, Three in One, One in Three.
We tend to make it more complicated than we really need.
We analyze the idea,
dissecting Martin Luther’s hymns which he composed for teaching the Trinity.
We all believe in one true God,
Who created earth and heaven,
The Father, who to us in love
Hath the right of children given.
We all believe in Jesus Christ,
His own Son, our Lord, possessing
An equal Godhead, throne, and might,
Source of every grace and blessing.
We all confess the Holy Ghost,
Who sweet grace and comfort giveth
And with the Father and the Son
In eternal glory liveth;
Or we study Saint Augustine’s 4th century psychological explanation of the Trinity, which I’ll leave for another time. The truth is, Our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, need not be so complicated.
Because in simply reading the story of Jesus—the gospels,
we see that those who knew Jesus
found themselves in the presence of grace itself.
They experienced a divine relationship, and it forever changed them.
They wrote about their experience, telling how Jesus prayed to God
and spoke with God the Father, (as a separate entity from himself)
and yet Jesus also told them he was One with God.
God was in him and with him.
Jesus told his followers God would be in and with them too.
Jesus spoke of a spirit, a Holy Spirit
who gives us words to speak and to pray when we can find no words.
He told his disciples when the Spirit comes,
it will guide you into all truth;
“the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.
This spirit will be in you.”
That is it, the Trinity.
God/Father, Son/Jesus, Holy Spirit/Spirit of Truth.
Over time, arose the church’s doctrine of the Trinity,
the idea that God is properly conceived as both Three and One.
Not three Gods — for that would miss God’s oneness.
And not merely One — for that would miss God’s threeness
and wouldn’t do justice to those who encountered God in Jesus and or those who encounter the Holy Spirit even now.
Rob and I are heading to Germany for a bicycling trip this week and part of next week. A much-delayed trip,
paid for in part in 2020, before the pandemic.
In preparation for this trip, I’ve ridden my bike on the trainer, a little,
and I’ve studied the part of Germany to which we are traveling.
From Rotenberg to Regensburg.
All part of where the 30 years’ war was fought in the 1600’s.
Catholics and Protestants hanging one another from trees,
throwing one another out second story windows,
then armies forming to crush whole towns and families for 30 years.
We look at this now as pure insanity.
Christians killing Christians over the proper way to pray, over who interprets the bible correctly.
Christians did the same, arguing over the Trinity hundreds of years before that.
I wonder what the people 400 years from now will look at as our insanity.
How will Christianity stand the test of time?
I believe it is only by the grace of God, allowing ourselves to change and grow and get back to the commandments Jesus gave us, to love God and love your neighbor, to love one another.
People tend to ask me why they should go to church…if they are good and believe in God, why go? If Christianity has caused so much destruction over time, why be a part of it?
I could tell them of the all great things Christians have done in works of charity from their very beginning—and are still doing today. On my mission trips to Haiti, every single seat on the plane was a Christian called to give up their time and money to help others. I met a man this week…..
This has happened for thousands of years. Christians do not have the monopoly on good deeds and generosity—other religious groups have similar callings, but we cannot ignore our own calling.
I could remind folks who ask, that history marks wars and conquests, records the deaths and the destruction, earthquakes and hurricanes are recorded too, but it does not record all the humans who step in to offer themselves to relieve the suffering.
But data doesn’t convince people….
How I answer the question of why should I go to church is through my own experience…of seeing the Holy Spirit change me and bring folks together to live into our calling…
How being in communion with others learning to love as God loves, little by little, makes a difference in my life and in the world.
You know that song, “I have decided to follow Jesus”.
Not a part of my tradition, and not sure it’s my favorite either, but for some reason this song has been ringing in my ears this week.
This is usually a sign that I need to pay attention.
“the world behind me the cross before me, no turning back, no turning back.”
I Wonder what that means to folks—
After some thought this week, here’s what I think:
It means, when you decide to follow Jesus, you agree to grow up.
You ask God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit to change you.
To Learn not to judge.
To Learn not to find ways to use the bible or our own biases to hurt others
or to claim they don’t know God or God’s intent for us.
This is not how Jesus taught us.
We come together as Christians to be changed into the likeness of God.
To be in communion with others who will hold us accountable
and support us when we are low.
Slowly, but surely, we learn to open our hearts,
and with the help of Spirit of Truth, to love unconditionally.
Thanks be to God.