May 26, 2013: Ineffable and Effusive

The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector
Trinity Sunday

Why would Jesus not tell all he knows? What could be too unbearable to hear? I think it would be unbearable to hear Jesus say, “My child, each year you must give a sermon to explain the Trinity. And when you do, somebody’s heresy alarm will go off.” Admittedly, the Trinity may not be the issue that keeps you awake at night. Still, it is relevant to our everyday lives.

God blurs the human-divine divide by sending Jesus, the eternal Son made flesh. We still can’t understand how that works. Jesus’ followers think he’s so close to God they hear God when he speaks. They see God acting in him. Others see a heretic, and want Jesus killed. Under death’s shadow, Jesus promises, “I am sending the Spirit of Truth to be with you in my place.” We speak of the Trinity today, because that’s how people came to speak of their experiences of God.

What’s Jesus withholding – could it be they’re not ready for what’s about to happen? Jesus knows they won’t understand. So Spirit’s first job is to keep the disciples from going off the deep end when reality hits. That’s sweet, because the Spirit’s here for us too, in the same way. In God’s reign the sheep may wander off, but the Shepherd never loses any. And of course, that Shepherd is God, no Jesus, no the Spirit – all three. God’s fullness comes to us in three persons who surround, hold, encourage and eventually awaken the divine love in us – to help us discern what God is really up to. If you believe that, you know all the Trinity you need.

Do you ever watch religious television – for amusement? It’s never been that amusing to me. There’s a network named “Trinity.” I doubt they preach about their patron, the Trinity – too distracting for donors. The preachers do tell you to plant a faith seed – which is code for “Send me money.” If you do, they say God can release blessings he’s been holding back, since you have been withholding money to God through their ministry. And it seems to work. These people dress nicely, have fancy sets, sit on fine-looking furniture, own corporate jets. In addition to selling partners their books, CDs, and Holy Family filled Faberge-like Eggs, you can make a donation to save the world for Jesus. What they won’t offer you is Augustine’s 15 volumes, the definitive thinking on Trinity – took him10 years to write.

What is too unbearable for Jesus? Maybe it’s religious TV shows. More seriously, he’s a Messiah some folks don’t want. And that’s not just then. People still make him into what they want, rather than who he is. But it could help if God would take charge, prosper people, pour out some blessings, and do more than just stand beside us in our grief, fear and darkness. Sometimes though, in that darkness, people find God is actually there. They sense things will be okay, even when they don’t know how. A peace fills them. I suspect the Trinity has paid a call. Think of Trinity as God’s fullness – coming at us in every possible way to keep a grip on us – everywhere, at all times, in all circumstances, the Father, Son and Spirit. And all three travel and hang out together. The Trinity is not a solo act. It is a relationship.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A priest I know had a license plate the read: “3N1 & 1N3.” I asked if that was machine oil, or did he think anybody would get his message? “Doesn’t matter,” he said. “I do it just to mess with ‘em.” Maybe that’s what God is doing with those who think they have the final word on three-in-one and one-in-three.

Think of the Trinity as ineffable and effusive. Ineffable is mystery, greater than we can fully understand or explain. That lets me off the hook. I don’t have to make you understand the Trinity – it can’t be done, not fully. Effusive is Trinity’s overflowing impulse to pour God-in-three’s full life into us. God in fullness of persons awakens us to a deeper, higher reality. More love and joy pours into us than we can fathom. It’s a relationship of love and unity among three divine aspects of God coming to be in relationship with us, drawing us into the truth of who we really are – the beloved of God.

This past week the news has been sad and devastating: Terrorist attacks; deadly floods; suffering; a bridge collapse. There are just some things that stink – not God’s will at all. In the midst of bad things shoots of goodness can be seen popping up. A police officer couldn’t attend his daughter’s kindergarten graduation. He had been killed by a drunk driver. Three hundred fellow officers attended her graduation to cheer her as he would have. And in Moore, Oklahoma we’ve seen hope stroll through ruins and rubble – medical workers, shelter volunteers, church groups, the Red Cross, neighbors helping neighbors, donations pouring in – the human response – wonderful, moving, beautiful, and dare we say, “divine” – right there in the midst of grief, fear, and darkness.

I can’t be certain – I suspect when we see loving kindness walking about in the midst of tragedy, violence, hatred, bad things, darkness – think Trinity. People may not be able to understand or name what’s going. I believe it’s God coming to be with and save us – in more ways than we can ever imagine – ineffable, effusive, and add illusive – God’s nature to love us with love that won’t hold back. If you believe that, you’ll know all you need to know about the Trinity. So, Happy Trinity Sunday.


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