Trinity Sunday. Psalm 29.
My mother was a great cook. French Canadian, but she learned so many wonderful Italian dishes, including polenta which she taught me. Our extended family gatherings were legendary and the meals were the centerpiece of each event. If you left hungry it was your own fault because if she was serving 20 you knew there was enough for 40. She even cooked for a group home for many years in Rhode Island. Often she would declare, well that tastes pretty darn good even if I do say so myself.
Last week was Pentecost Sunday. What a wonderful worship service that was — even if I do say so myself. Certainly, the Spirit was with us as we welcomed Wayne into membership, read Scripture like we’ve never read it before, and were encouraged to use our cell phones. By the way, you are always welcome to use your cell phones in worship to share where you are and what’s going on. Maybe a photo you take will end up on the website. Don’t be shy.
Well, we tried several different things last week. Are you ready to try something different again this week? I want you to think of three traits to describe yourself. For example, funny or kind or thoughtful, etc. You get the idea. Turn to someone nearby and each take a turn sharing these three traits. (five minutes)
Trinity Sunday, and yes, we are a Trinitarian church. I’ve brought a visual aid today — braiding each strand of the Trinity — God the Creator; God the Christ; God the Holy Spirit. As I do so I invite you to share words you use to describe God. . . . This entire braided piece is God made up of three strands.
Now getting back to the earlier exercise. Do the traits you chose to describe yourself fully tell us who you are? In the same vein, do the traits and words we choose to describe God the Creator, or God the Christ, or God the Holy Spirit fully tell us who God is? Do we think we can really know the depth and breathe of the Divine, of the Creator? But, we fallible people, attempt to do so and we have tried to do so through the ages. Aren’t we silly? Perhaps the closest we come to fuller understanding of this blessed mystery is through poetry, prayer, art work, music, dancing, chanting – by simply being, well, creative ourselves. Even those times of knitting, or weaving, or walking with our thoughts in nature, or washing dishes can allow the Spirit to move in and through our beings, and gain incredible insights that undergird our understanding of the Source of All Being. All moments have the potential to be sacred.
One of the most loved aspects of Scripture is the Book of Psalms. These songs sing to the reality of God in the author’s life in a particular time and place in history. The beautiful psalm we heard this morning, Psalm 29, attributed to David, is known as the hymn to the God of the storm. Above the tumult of the storm, God reigns in majestic peace and the psalm ends: “God makes people strong. God gives people peace.” Psalms can be brutal and violent and full of pleading, questioning, laments, and with moments of peace, tranquility and thanksgiving. The psalms are our attempts – human attempts – to understand God and our experiences of God in the world.
John Cassian, also known as St. John the Ascetic, taught around 400 A.D. that the psalms carry in them “all the feelings of which human nature is capable.” In a recent Richard Rohr meditation he reflects that “The Psalms — like all great art — lead us to a truer image of ourselves, reality and God.”
The following may be old news for some of you, and for some of you this may be new news about church. Traditionally, following Pentecost Sunday is Trinity Sunday — what we celebrate today. Beginning next week is what is called Ordinary Time in the life of the church and lasts usually 33 to 34 weeks. In some traditions this stretch of time is called the season of Pentecost. The usual liturgical color for this season is green and we’ll be seeing green until the first Sunday of Advent. This year the first Sunday of Advent falls on December 2nd.
Within the early church the church year was being defined within that 12 month period of time where Advent is the beginning of the church year as we prepare for the birth of Jesus. Within our calendar that event falls on December 25th. Then comes Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Easter, the season of Easter, then Pentecost. Then we celebrate Trinity Sunday followed by Ordinary Time. A full circle representing the birth, ministry, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. But the early church wasn’t so well organized and buttoned down as we are today. It was very chaotic. There was fighting and splitting and fighting and splitting and rules and creeds and more fighting and splitting. Those early followers of Jesus did not have it easy and those working to bind it up into something cohesive had a heck of a time. That is real. It was dirty and messy and halos were tilted. Halos are still tilted.
Someone once said to me: “there is no better fight than a church fight!” Too true. We’ve been given something well-used over the centuries and still we fight over the meaning of Jesus for us in each age, the reality of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And language does matter. Do the words we use cage God or free up our concept of the three in one.
I was walking somewhere recently, may have been the Farmer’s Market, when a woman wearing a blue t-shirt passed me. “I’m proud to be a member of ….” (I don’t recall the name of the church). I thought it was nice to share being proud to be a member of a specific congregation, until I read the bottom line. “The true Christian church.” And I thought, “oh, (dang) one of those.”
First Christian Church may not be seen as the true Christian church by many, but without a doubt, you understand the broader concept of living Jesus’ commandment “to love one another as I have loved you.” We have done nothing to earn that love — it just is. By your expansive welcome of the stranger you share and show that love. By your care and nurture and support of one another you share and show that love. Every time you invite someone to worship with us you share and show that love. When you stand up for justice you share and show that love.
I close with two somewhat current writings as we continue to wrestle with our concepts of the Trinity: God the Creator; God the Christ; God the Holy Spirit. Words by M. Enid Watson:
Holy Trinity. You are sacred three,
Blessed one. Elusive God.
We pray to you:
Creator, that we may give forth new life.
Christ, that we may be rooted deeply in this life.
Spirit, that we may soar beyond possibilities.
And this by David L. Beebe:
This is the faith which Christians proclaim:
The power of God which created the world is the
power of love.
The power in Jesus which rescues the world is the
power of love.
The power in us which changes the world is the
power of love.
When we go from this place, — go, simply, in the power of love.
Amen and amen.
- Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation; May 20, 2018
- Duck & Tirabassi; Touch Holiness, 1990; Contributors: Watson, Beebe