Monday, May 27, 2013

Trinity Year C

I don't know why those in charge decided to designate one Sunday as "Trinity Sunday." Shouldn't every Sunday be "Trinity Sunday"? A celebration of the great mystery of the three-in-one, one-in-three God? 

As Christians we confess God to be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, three-persons, co-equal, co-eternal, one in essence, nature, power, action, and will. It's basic to what we believe as Christians.

But do we really know what that means or know why that's important? To the outsider it might look like a lot mental gymnastics. We have to become theological contortionists, in order to justify a contradiction. 1+1+1 does NOT equal One. Volumes of books have been written trying to sort out the math. How can God really be three distinct persons, yet one God? It simply doesn't add up.

Other than Christ the King Sunday, Trinity Sunday is the day when we feel most tempted to keep God at a philosophical distance. We muse about the mystery of the Trinity. We try to do make the math work. On no other Sunday do most preachers do a weaker job connecting God to peoples' lives.

I think that's because we don't really know how to talk about the Trinity without resorting to mind-numbing philosophy. As fun as that may be for some of us, it can hardly be called "proclamation" and it certainly isn't good news. At best it's a self-indulgent exercise in theological gratification. At worst, it keeps God at an unhealthy distance, unconcerned about the world God created.

We talk about the nature and so-called "Problem of God” which is theological shorthand for saying that we have NO IDEA who God is.

We confess the inner-unity of the Trinity. We debate whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father, or from the Father and the Son. We discuss the fine points of the Greek. We wrap it up air-tight.

But whatever it is that we wrap-up with suffocating efficiency, it certainly isn't God. God will not be so easily contained, no matter how hard we try. We Christians don't believe in the god of the philosophers.

We believe in the God of the bible. Be believe that the God of the bible gets up close and personal with us. We believe that God refused to be relegated to the realm of abstract thought and flighty spiritual imaginings.

As Christians we believe that God became flesh. That God has a face and a name. That God - somehow - touches us.

I think you know this already. This is not new to you. That's why you're here this morning. You’re here in church not to hear me ramble on about the philosophical problem of the Trinity. You’re here hoping to meet the Word Made Flesh. You’re here to encounter the God of creation. You’re here to be encountered by the God who knit you together in your mother’s womb, then claimed you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in the waters of baptism. You are here to bask yourself in God’s love. You are here to truly worship.

True worship, in the name of the God we call "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" is always incarnational, personal, and embodied. True worship takes us by hand and grabs our hearts. True worship makes a home for God in our lives, because that’s where God finds rest, and we find renewal.

But in theology, oddly enough, we tend to take our lead from the ancient Greeks. The gods of the Greek philosophers were distant and aloof. God is high, lifted up, and unapproachable. That's who they believed god to be, because that's what they needed from God, that's what they valued and that’s what they aspired to.

And they're not wrong. But that's only part of who God is. The God who meets us in Jesus shows us God's nearness, approachability, and humanness. This God has sleeves rolled up and muddy boots. This God demands to get personal with us. Maybe too personal for our liking. An incarnate, embodied, God who knows us with an intimacy that we often find unsettling.

But here I go again, resorting to abstract philosophy to talk about the God who more interested in getting dirt under divine fingernails than worrying about the philosophical foundations of the sacred. 

For us, I think it's easier to talk about God in the abstract than in the personal because a personal God will actually do something with us, and we'd rather not have God intruding in our lives. We don't want God disrupting our carefully constructed existence. We want to add God to what we've already built on our own rather than have God leading the construction effort.

We want to keep thinking that we are in charge of our lives. We don't really want to consider that God is in our driver's seat. Because then God might take us to places we don't want to go.

A personal God will ask us uncomfortable questions about our politics, our business dealings, our family relationships.

A personal God asks us about how we spend our money, about that grudge we've been carrying for decades, about the gossip we shared that hurt someone.

A personal God will want us to let go of our anger, our pride, our selfishness. A personal God will want us to care for folks we don't like.

A personal God will sit us down and make us listen to the cries of people in pain and ask us to do something about it.

A personal God will confront our comfortable middle-class lifestyle built on the backs of poor children around the world.

An abstract God won't ask us to change. An abstract God won't stick it's nose where we say it doesn't belong. An abstract God will leave us alone to tend to our lofty thoughts and comfortably elevated speech.

But a personal God, the God of the bible, the God who is called Trinity, doesn't care about our comfort. The God who is called Trinity cares only about how we love each other and God. And that’s not always comfortable.

The God who is called Trinity is more interested in how we get along with each other than in what we believe about God. That's because God knows that we'll never get it just right. There will always be parts of God that we won't understand. And parts we will always get wrong.

That's why, on the one hand, God is a divine, transcendent mystery, and on the other, God is a personal, intimate being that is found in every facet of creation.

The ancient celts - early Christians in Ireland - knew what this meant. Finding God in creation was a big part of how they understood God. My favourite hymn, “I Bind Unto Myself Today” based on St. Patrick’s Breastplate (we won’t sing it today, but you can bet we’ll sing it at my installation!), has, in its third verse, a powerful expression of finding God all around us, living deep inside creation. 

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

The ancient celts knew that God the Trinity is everywhere in God’s unfolding creation, through God's love for everything this God has made.

Where life is being birthed, there is God the Trinity. 

Where lives are being changed from self-centred living to serving others, God the Trinity is at work. 

Where ever care for others emerges from the nastiness of human conflict, we see the Triune God in action. 

Whenever bitterness is over come by forgiveness, God the Trinity is there. 

Where ever there is love; messy, uncontrollable, transforming love, there we will find God, who is three in one, and one in three.

We know this because that's who God is. It's love that makes the math work. 1+1+1=1 only works because the love the Trinity has for itself is so strong that it glues them together as one, then that intimate, reconciling, sacrificial love spills out in the world, into EVERYTHING this God created, and continues to transform the world into the image of the lovingly One God.

God reconciles. God loves. God creates. That's who God is and who God made us to be as images of the lovingly invisible God. The God who is Trinity, whose math works in our lives.

May this be so among us. Amen.

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