The echo of the divine community of God is found in the creation.
The Holy Trinity (Year C) – May 22, 2016
St. Jacob’s-Spaders Lutheran Church, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Divine Community – Pastor Evan Davis
You know, here we are at another major Sunday, one of the festivals of the whole church year, this Sunday called “The Holy Trinity.” Here we are again, and the people who came up with our lectionary decided that once again, we need to hear from Jesus’ long talk with his disciples on the last night of his life. Yes, folks, we’re back again at what I like to call, “the long goodbye.”
One thing I hope you’ve learned as we have dwelt together in this story since Maundy Thursday is that Jesus is not afraid this night. He is well aware of what lies ahead of him – just hours away, and yet he is not afraid. He doesn’t seem to even be stressed out, really. I mean, aside from the thought of his own impending death, I could think of plenty of other things he could be worried about.
Here’s one, if I were Jesus, I’d be thinking, “man, these disciples are still really green. They’re newbies to this whole discipleship and apostleship thing. Still in the training program. There’s a lot that still needs to be said to them. But they can’t bear to hear it all just yet. You know, the mind can only absorb so much at once, especially when so much is going on. Who’s going to guide them along the way and make sure that they keep on with this, and remember what I told them, and kick them in rear end when they need it, and inspire them the ongoing vision of the kingdom of God??”
Well, you see, Jesus didn’t have to worry about that. Because he had backup. You know who I’m talking about. The One Jesus calls “the Spirit of truth,” or “the Advocate,” the one alongside them, calling to them, the Holy Spirit. Oh yes, that Spirit showed up on Pentecost.
We might imagine that Jesus could ask, “well, can I trust this Spirit fellow? Can I trust he’ll say the right things? I mean, Dad told me she1 was cool. That she was down with us…you know, on the same page. Totally with it, with all the kingdom of God, love one another, come to bring the world abundant life, eternal life stuff, light overcoming the darkness and all that.” Jesus could trust this. Do you notice what he says about her, about him? “He will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears.” A little later… “he will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
We’re used to people speaking on their own, whatever they want to say, in order to glorify themselves. It’s how we all speak, far too often, myself included. But Jesus didn’t have to worry that the Spirit would get off message, in fact he could trust that the Spirit would pick up precisely where he left off. Just as he had said and done exactly what the Father would have. Listen to what Jesus says about their relationship, “All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he (the Spirit) will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
There are a lot of pronouns flying around! But we are trying to describe in human language a divine community of trust and love that we can neither fully understand nor describe. But here’s a try: the three of them, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – entirely one and yet three separate persons. One heart beating in three persons. One love that takes all three of them to bring to us. A total unity of purpose. Complete trust and knowledge of one another. Finishing each other’s sentences. All they are – shared between them. Jesus has everything that is the Father’s. The Father is known most fully in this human being. Their Spirit, binding them together, binding us to them, carrying their words to us, breathing their life into our dry, dusty bones. None of them speak independently. None of them have their own agenda. Together, they are God.
There are millions of pages of human words trying to describe the God we know as the Holy Trinity. No doubt, some of those writers would take issue with the words I’ve just used to describe them. But we only make the attempt because the God we know is a God who does not stay far away but takes on our life, and yet as a human speaks to his Abba, his Father in the heavens. The God we know is a Son who died and was raised, who ascended to heaven, and yet is still here by the power of the Spirit. A God who calls to us through this Word and these Sacraments and in countless other ways in our daily lives. The Trinity is simply the Church’s attempt to make sense of the God we have seen and known in his signature in a beautiful sunrise to an idea popping into our head, to a human being dying on a cross, and a resurrected man meeting us at the dawn.
To know God at all is a gift of God. As St. Paul said, “for now we see through a glass, darkly; but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). We are not God. We know only what God shows us. And while we cannot be fully like God in this life, nevertheless the life of the Holy Trinity, the divine community, is a life I believe God has hard-wired into our souls. By the grace of God, sometimes we see that divine community emerging from within us.
I see it when we learn that each of us is weird in our own special way, that each of us has a combination of gifts and idiosyncrasies which set us apart. That each of us is essential, but none of us more important than the next. And none of us can do it alone. It suggests that our task is not to do everything, but to listen to that very Spirit speaking to us, showing us what our unique role is, what is our work and what is not. That way we can be who we are and not try to be someone else. We can do our job and trust the next person to do hers.
And as we work together, especially as the church, the life of the Trinity shines forth when we speak not for our own glory, but for God’s. When we speak from our particular perspective, but for God’s purpose, which we share – to love the world as God has first loved us. To love each other, and our neighbors, and our enemies, with a wideness and generosity that astounds the world. When we yield to one another. And share everything, remembering that what is ours is first God’s, and thus it belongs to the community as much as it belongs to us.
The divine community of the Three – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – echoes from within you as we see that we are all connected. That each of us is dependent on the other. That on this planet, we are truly all in the same boat. That everything in the universe impacts everything else – from galaxies and solar systems to our bodies, down to every cell, every atom – nothing exists in a vacuum. No one writes their own destiny. Our life, and our future, is bound up with everyone else’s.
We can all thank God, that our life, and our future, is bound up into the life of the three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
1I like to imagine the Holy Spirit as either, or both, male and female. Of course, God is neither, but the biblical writers generally used gramatically male pronouns. However, this does not force a human gender upon God. Using the feminine pronouns, I think, challenges our preconceived notions of God’s identity.