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Our Creator, Redeemer, and Inspiration
by Susan in SanPedro
based on Genesis 1:1-2:3; Canticle 13; 2Corinthinans 13:5-14; Matthew 28:16-20
Today is Trinity Sunday: the First Sunday after Pentecost when our scriptures and worship call us to contemplate the "Three-In-Oneness" of God.
Before we even begin, let's be real clear that any time we try to define the infinite nature of God in finite human terms, we run up against how limited our experience and vocabulary is. But limited or not, the Trinity is, for our faith community, the historic formula we've arrived at to describe our experience of God. Historic or not, many think of the Trinity as somewhat of a puzzle. We may resist being asked to formulate the mystery of God's being in this or any other way, may mildly wonder what it's all about or may not have given it any thought at all.
When I try to describe the concept to our children in chapel, I've found the best tool is not a creed or a text or even a theology book: it's a nice big block of Neapolitan ice Cream. Is chocolate the same as strawberry? Is vanilla the same as chocolate? Are they all Ice Cream? It's the same for the Father, Son and Spirit: THEY'RE ALL GOD!
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, those words are so much a part of our liturgy, creed and faith that we may cease to hear them in any meaningful way. Now, when I was growing up, it was Father, Son and Holy Ghost; probably was for many of you, as well. As a child, my images of the Trinity were pretty well and specifically defined and being a child of the 60's, as well as a child of the church; they were as follows:
GOD THE FATHER looked a lot like Charlton Heston in the "Ten Commandments" distantly poised on a mountain-top, ready to etch some profound words of wisdom in stone tablets.
GOD THE SON was --of course-- Jesus: gentle and kind, usually pictured in stained glass, surrounded by small children or fluffy white lambs.
GOD THE HOLY GHOST, well, he looked a lot like Casper--you remember, "the friendly ghost." Casper with a halo, flitting about, working over-time trying to keep us all in line with what was etched on those stone tablets.
Comfortable, familiar, even understandable images, but in retrospect not all that helpful in equipping one for a journey of faith. As I came to understand that the concept of the Trinity is our way of expressing our experience of God, I came to understand that my childhood images needed some serious revamping.
Sometimes it takes new images of traditional concepts to do that - at least it did for me. I was well into my seminary studies when a visiting priest in the parish I was serving offered the following "Trinitarian Blessing":
God, creator of all worlds Redeemer of all souls Inspiration of all our lives
Words which broke open my understanding of the Trinity: not diminishing it, by any means: but giving depth and breadth and fullness to words I'd said my whole life.
CREATOR OF ALL WORLDS: the infinite, uncreated God who brought all worlds into being. Our prayer book provides, in Eucharistic Prayer C, words which speak to me of the awesomeness of this God who created all; this God, our Lord Jesus taught us, who loves us like a Father: Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of glory and praise. At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses and this fragile earth - our island home.
REDEEMER OF ALL SOULS: Jesus of Nazareth - the incarnation of God's love for us. Again in Prayer C: In the fullness of time you sent your only Son, born of a woman to fulfill your Law, to open for us the way of freedom and peace. By his blood he reconciled us. By his wounds we are healed.
Created and redeemed. Basic tenets of our faith - but if they stay just subject matter - just once-upon-a-time stories - then they are really no more descriptive of our EXPERIENCE OF GOD than my Charlton Heston/Stained-Glass-Jesus images. Just what, then, is the point of all this creating and redeeming?
I believe the answer is found in the Gospel reading today - in Jesus' final words to the disciples. "Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." All nations. Every ONE? All that I have commanded you. How on earth could we be expected to fulfill such tall order? Where would we even start? Well, here's where that third person of the Trinity comes in - that part of our experience of God, which inspires us to recognize and then accomplish the work, we've been called to do:
Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.
That would be, for me, the image of the Holy Ghost that has supplanted Casper - God's power working in us to enable us to do all that God would have us do and be all that God would have us be.
And just as my childhood imagery proved inadequate to describe my adult experiences of God, so all the fine phrases and lofty theories are useless unless they translate into our willingness to BE God's people in the world: something we are incapable of doing without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Throughout our scriptures, we have stories of those who God called to step out in faith -- to do things they didn't ask for and couldn't have imagined: Isaiah and Esther, Samuel and Sarah, Moses and Mary. God continues to call us today; and it is that same Holy Spirit, that "Spirit of Truth" Jesus promised the disciples, that enables and empowers us to respond, "Here I am. Send me!" to God's call.
Part of that process of "Here I Am" involves who I am: who I am as a result of my experience of God and the impact that experience has makes on my life. God's love has the power to transform lives, making us capable of "infinitely more than we can ask for or imagine." And (big surprise!) I think of a song that speaks to me in a pretty profound way of what it is to live a life transformed, changed, by the power of the Trinity:
I will change your name You shall no longer be called Wounded Outcast Lonely or Afraid
I will change your name Your new name will be Confidence Joyfulness Overcoming One Faithfulness Friend of God One who seeks my face.
ONE WHO SEEKS MY FACE. The God who created us, the God who redeemed us, the same God who inspires us to seek, to journey in faith. If I had to try to sum up all that I believe God calls us to be as God's people it is to seek God's face in all that we say and do. In that seeking, we become people of joy and confidence, people who overcome obstacles . People who welcome into this community of faith those who come to us wounded and outcast, lonely and afraid: welcome them in to discover their own relationship with God and be changed by it.
For in the end, the idea - the concept - the doctrine of the Trinity is not about anything so much as it is about relationship. Listen to these words from Genesis this morning: "Then God said, 'Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness." OUR image, OUR likeness. The very nature of God is to create out of relationship - to create beings meant to be in relationship. And what Jesus sends the disciples - sends US - out to do is to bring all humanity-- indeed, all creation--back into relationship with the One who created it.
"Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."
And what has he commanded us? Remember the young lawyer who asked Jesus what he needed to do? Jesus said: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul--this is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it: love your neighbor as yourself. Upon these two hang all the law and the prophets." There it is: ALL THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU.
Imagine a world where everyone put God first and loved their neighbors as themselves. Sounds like the "as it is in heaven" part we pray for every time we pray the Lord's Prayer. Sounds like the Kingdom. And it sounds pretty darn far away from the world in which we live. A world where Kosovo and Littleton fill the headlines, where a gay student in Wyoming and a black man in Texas are brutally murdered by their own neighbors just for being who they are. A world and where what a friend of mine calls "the business of outrage" dominates our national discourse: illustrated graphically by the cartoon reprinted in your bulletin this morning.
In a culture dominated by outrage, how do we as Christians offer a different way -- find a higher ground -- model the kind of relationship the Trinity calls us to? More specifically, how do we do it here -- at St. Peter's, San Pedro?
We do it every time we seek and serve Christ in another. And, I suggest this morning, we do it through the dialogue process being formulated by your vestry and clergy. We do it by struggling together to find healthy ways to live with disagreements; to let diverse opinions and experiences inform us rather than divide us. We do it when we're open to God's call to walk in love as Christ loved us -- rather than walking out in anger when we encounter differences. This, my brothers and sisters, is a profoundly counter-culture idea. It transcends labels of liberal and conservative ... progressive and reactionary. It is God's call to us to wholeness.
Have you checked out the "Articles of Interest" bulletin board yet? One of the pages posted is titled "Church and Culture: Time of Decision" and it speaks to precisely the point I'm making. It's from the AAC Newsletter -- and, since I'm not on their mailing list, I probably wouldn't have seen it if Bill Seixas hadn't offered it for posting to inform our dialogue. "All sides agree that our culture is not a post-Christian one," writes Bishop Allison of South Carolina. "The challenge before the churches is whether to go with the culture by accommodating our teaching to the values of society or go against the grain of the culture from the recovered foundations of classical Christianity." And to that, I say "Amen, brother!"
Now, Bishop Allison and I would probably disagree about a theological point or two, but the Gospel we both proclaim -- the Good News of the saving Grace of God in Christ Jesus -- transcends those differences if we let it. I believe those "recovered foundations" of our faith offer a vision of God's inclusive love greater than we've asked for or can even imagine: and what a privilege to be part of the Body of Christ called to offer that vision to this broken world!
As we celebrate this Trinity Sunday together, I pray that we may all be aware of the power of God working in the world; particularly in and through the people of St. Peter's. This IS a place where lives are changed -- where, fed by word and sacraments, we go out to be the church in the world. A place where the concept of the Trinity is no mere intellectual exercise but truly a way of expressing our experience of God.
We will soon gather around this table to celebrate the reality of God's presence in our lives, and to be fed by the holy food and drink to sustain us for the journey. And at the conclusion, in the prayer of Thanksgiving, we will have the opportunity to join with the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us as we pray,
"Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart."
Send us out -- confident and joyful.
Send us out -- O God, creator of all worlds, Redeemer of all souls Inspiration of all our lives.
Send us out. Alleluia. Amen.
Frank Schaefer, for JavaCasa Resources and the Desperate Preacher's Site, 1999