In case you missed the memo, today is Trinity Sunday. A noted Seminary President says he dreads preaching on Trinity Sundays. Is that not inspiring as I began working on my sermon, or what? The seminary President is not our dear member, Dr. David Zersen. I am sure he knows more than I about the Trinity, and would not have the dread I do.
You are intelligent people. You know hot air when you feel it, and we could use some warmer air as we end May in Milwaukee this day. I received an article I thought I’d share. Rather than explaining what I don’t know, I thought I’d tell you what I do know. The article is, “12 Things That Your Pastor, Priest, or Minister Wishes You Knew.” Here are some: Clergy need encouragement, too. Show up at church. I can’t “fix” you. I will disappoint you. And pray for me. Yet, I suspect you still want me to untangle the Trinity for you? Some mysteries are just too large to download. My disclaimer today is: I would tell you more, but I already am telling you more than I know. Permit me to add two more items to the Top 12 Wish List: “I don’t have all the answers; and I can’t explain everything.”
Why does God have three names, yet is one? How can God the Father also be God the Son? How can three be one and one be three? Years ago a Southern Baptist Convention President stated God doesn’t hear the prayers of Jews. Lord only knows what that preacher would say about the Trinity. God so loves he sends the Son, but won’t listen to his prayers? We clergy sometimes say the darnedest things.
The Trinity is a word that appropriates the fullness of our experiences with God. Throughout history religious people have tried to describe their experience of a divine presence. In sharing their stories, a doctrine emerged. A doctrine is our limited attempt to express God’s fullness, unique in Christian faith, but not just for Christians, for all – people of faith and people of no faith. I once heard Trinity described: We are created and called to hear, trust and absorb the good news Jesus announces, and so live as his disciples in word and deed for the world God creates and loves so much. The Holy Spirit awakens this truth and forms us to be God’s people for the world, the church, not ourselves individually. The Spirit brings alive an awareness of Jesus, who reveals as much of the mystery of God’s love as we can understand. When we grow, experiencing God’s love, that’s the work of the Holy Spirit in you, drawing you into that mystery where the Father and Son abide. To experience that holy communion, and know you are included is the gift of the fullness of God – three in One. Trying to explain or prove an experience feels banal and empty.
Jesus speaks of the wind blowing where it will. That’s God three in one, continually in search of and reaches out to us. But one in three and three in one will not fully express the depth of the divine love for us. We experience it, lifting us from death into life now. It heals broken hearts. It dries tears, and thrusts us into the world to make His love known. The Holy Spirit, Father and Son are always with us – all working together. If we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” the other two don’t stay behind. All three show up as one. You just can’t beat that deal. I can’t explain it – just experience it.
Am I certain about this? As certain as I dare be about anything – uncertain enough to stay open for where the Holy Spirit might blow next. The Christian Century a few years ago asked some theologians and pastors to reflect on how their faith has changed through the years. As I read their reflections I thought about my own journey. It’s neither static nor smooth. How dull the journey would be if the Holy Spirit wasn’t constantly pushing, challenging lines I’ve drawn in the sand, or nudging us into deeper places with the Father and the Son. Without that unpredictable blowing of the Spirit, we’d be stuck – boring to others and bored to ourselves, sort of still born, not born from above. Faith grows and changes, not because you are so spiritual or smart, but as we abide more and more in the divine love. God draws out the poison, the sin, our closed mindedness, and false egos that block our love for God and for others. That’s the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit working on us – if we allow it.
The world in which we live today is sad – probably always has been – divisions of race, religion, tribe, politics, Biblical interpretation. Loving this world and others that God so loves is the part the church too often trips over. Yet as my friend Phyllis says, “Christianity isn’t going to die.” But the church may, if it stays turned in on itself, rather than turned toward God and those outside our walls; if we fear the future too much and cling too tightly to preserve the present and past. The church sometimes will hinder more than help God. Yet that Spirit keeps nudging us, because this is the world God makes and loves so much God comes to be with us – die for us, raises us up, and dwell in the messes we keep making. I think of the Trinity as a dance of love, inviting us into a dance. The Father and Son plot the steps. The Spirit whispers the moves.
I would tell you more, but I have already told you more than I know. One more thing I wish you know, though. You’d know it’s not my words or anyone else’s that can bring the Trinity to life for you. I just point the way. Until you experience the fullness of God for yourself – it’s just words – inadequate ones. To know the Trinity is to experience the fullness of God’s unfathomable love for you – and for all of us. As Jesus says, this is how God so loves.