May 27, 2018
St. Jacob’s and Trinity Lutheran Churches
Rev. Kirk Shipley, Interim Pastor
One of the great gifts given us is the things we have in common. I first realized this at 12-13 when living in the Philippines. There was only one Television station that carried mostly English programming and we had poor reception for that one until my father adjusted the roof antenna. Although my knowledge of the native language Tagolog was and is nil, I noticed the emotions displayed were essentially the same. There was grief at death, excitement pulling for your team, celebration at weddings, laughter at comic skits, enjoyment of music, times of desiring company and times of ‘wanting to be alone.” The only time I missed was when we were looking for programming with the volume off. A young Filipino singer was moving like Little Richard. When we turned up the volume he was singing something more akin to “When a Man Loves a Woman.” It is quite a gift that we have some understanding of what brings joy and sorrow. There is some level for connection, even if it is a hand on a shoulder in sympathy or a hearty handshake in congratulations.
Equally wonderful are the things that make each person unique. For all the similarities there are differences in appearance, experiences, interests and tastes. It is a gift that lets us bring different insights and talents to the table to a variety of situations. It is seen every time we say we’ll have a pot luck meal. Even if 5 people bring pots of beans there are others who will have brought different salads and desserts.
There is no doubt in my mind that this variety is a direct result of being the created product, the object of redemption, and being led and companioned by the mystery of God who is both a unified one and yet a distinct three, the Trinity. In the mystery of Trinity, rather than being confused, we can understand ourselves better and live in the assurance no matter where we are in life God connects.
While we really do not how the Trinity interconnects, though blood has been shed and Creeds hammered out to do just that. I confess until resurrection I do not believe I’ll ever know those inter-workings. I am not sure then I’ll even care to know. People are not able to place God under the microscope and dissect divinity, though we try. Still the Holy Trinity helps us understand the nature of our creation and our way of living.
Genesis 1:27 relates, “God created human kind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” In that creation it is clear that the vast majority of us need to be connected to other people at some time. Even the most isolated hermit did not spring from the ground. He or she is the product of intimate social connection. It makes sense that a unified and simultaneously social God would create a social people that were whole as they connected to God and one another.
When I was a legal officer in the Army it used to blow my mind that people would enter into one crazy relationship after another. As a religious officer in the Navy I came to understand that underlying this was a recognition we that we need others. We are not designed to go it alone.
A purely monolithic God probably would have created the creature made in his image to be more like a Panda. We would go it alone except to come together once a year to mate. The Fall in the Garden of Eden would have created families as aberrations and hermits as the norm. Instead God said, “Therefore a man will leave his parents and cleave to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” A unified social God creates a social unit of distinct sex and individual patterns designed in some way to be distinct individuals somehow not united as one flesh.
Trinity provides the gift of recognizing no matter what the role or place along the journey in life God is present and all knowing.
A quick poll. How many of you are or have been parents? How many of you are or have been children? How many of you do or have been the supervisor? How many of you are or have been the supervised? As parent/supervisor do you see things the same way as you do as child/supervised? As child/supervised do you see things the same way as you do as parent/supervisor?
Speaking for myself as a child I saw my mother as being there for me without giving it a whole lot of thought what went with that. I ‘m pretty sure she saw herself as having a great responsibility to not get it too wrong, if not get it right, especially with my father at sea and away at home much of the time. While never a biological parent I quickly learned there was a difference in my role as a student ROTC cadet and my supervisory role as a military officer.
Take two persons of God. God is both always Father and always Son. God is simultaneously master planner and obedient Son. Then we have the more elusive Holy Spirit that is an ongoing companion and connection in life and to the divine. As we go back and forth through positions in life God knows both and all points in between from the different viewpoints.
I heard this in a sermon when a attending church with my mother on a visit home from graduate school. The minister described how at different times in his life he found the different persons of the Trinity helpful. At that time he described how he was connecting more with the image of the Father. When younger he more often connected with the image of the Son. Usually when discerning life direction he connected more with the image of the Holy Spirit.
Though I do not pretend to comprehend what God the indivisible Trinity looks like or functions I am grateful that know that no matter where I am in life I am provided among other things, means for recognizing connections to God that are graspable.
Consider an image I came across preparing for a children’s sermon. The writer used an apple, pointing out the core, the fruit, and the peel were three distinct parts that made up one whole apple. There it was the theological description: Three in One and One in Three.
This Holy Trinity Sunday I pray we can all be grateful for the Christian faith’s truth of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. It helps us understand ourselves and provides tremendous avenues of access to God in life’s celebratory and challenging moments. AMEN.