Saturday, June 18, 2011
sermon draft for Trinity Sunday.
This morning we are invited to move, imaginatively, from Creation to Commission.
Given the content of our readings this morning – and the official designation of ‘Trinity Sunday,’ we might be pardoned for inferring that the Great Commission, with which the Gospel reading culminates, is a commission to go and carry out indoctrination—heaven knows, it has been understood and implemented in that way, so we have to HOPE it is pardonable! In the light of the reading from Genesis, then we might think that this morning we’re hearing, “Here is a highly unlikely and indefensible tale about the beginning of all things, now your job is to get out there and make people [say they] believe it—or it will be the worse for them – and for you.” “Oh and while you’re at it, make them believe in the doctrine of the Trinity – did you see it zip past, there in the Epistle?”
So it’s tempting to linger on the doctrine of the Trinity, especially if we have a taste for confusing, contradictory, beautiful insoluble riddles—in traditional language: The Father is God (and all the God there is), the Son is God (and all the God there is), the Holy Spirit is God (a.a.t.G.t.i.), BUT – the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Father…Lovely numerical formulas that will NOT be reduced to arithmetic…and a hearer may say: “But that makes NO SENSE” and the theologian sighs happily and says, “I know, but isn’t it WONDERFUL?”
And along about then, if we’re lucky, we hear a voice from the back pew or thereabouts; it goes something like this—“Reverend, what does this have to do with weighing trucks? Because weighing trucks is what I do, all day, every day…” – weighing trucks, or slinging burgers, or changing diapers, or processing applications, or marking assignments, -- you name it – and I’d like to know what this doctrine has to do with me.
The obvious answer is, “apparently nothing” – but the real answer is “everything.” It helps if we can grasp that the teaching about the Trinity, which sounds like a word game, is rooted in a charismatic experience of God, an encounter with God. Did you see the letter Canterbury wrote to the little girl in Scotland, who asked him who invented God? He explained that people didn’t ‘make up’ God – they met God, found God, experienced the presence of God…and then when they wanted to share that, to talk about what they had discovered, they had to think about it and put it into words, and—as RW said – they made up some ideas ABOUT God (some of them sensible, some not so sensible)…and these statements about ideas, ideas of an experience, were refined and defined and defended over a very long time in no-holds-barred debate.
The fallout from this process was that the things Christians agreed could be TAUGHT about God tended to become supreme in their own right, instead of being endorsed as just workably trustworthy sorts of things that could be said. They were, and are, subjected to tests though. One test of a doctrine goes like this: what kind of person, and what kind of community, will this idea produce if it is made an official teaching? That is one very useful test of the wholesomeness of church teaching /Gospel of Judas/. One of the ways of sorting the sensible ideas from the not so sensible ideas.
A second kind of ‘control’ over the ideas that we compose – the recollection of the inadequacy of ALL our words to capture and convey the essence of God completely (it has a name – it’s called APOPHASIS). You know how in our blessing we always specify that the peace of God passes our understanding? Well, EVERYTHING about God passes our understanding. Not just ours, but the understanding of the greatest saints, and the angels, and the archangels. What we CAN think will not do justice to what we have experienced, or to what we have inherited from the experience of others; and what we CAN say will not do justice to what we are able to think.
Now the result of this experience of inadequacy should be (too seldom is) a decent modesty and forbearance and grateful joy that God has generously allowed his truth and his glory to be approached, to be embraced, and to be communicated to any degree at all in human language (Levinas)…much less in a way that is trustworthy, that allows us to share it with each other…
And what have we to share, this morning? That at the very heart of God what we find is a relationship, a relatedness – a dynamic, creating, faithful connectedness that we have to call LOVE.
I heard two lovely provocative questions – conversation starters, I suppose – this week: the first one was “what would you do for love?” and when we roll that question around, we are invited to see that everything done by the triune God is done “for love” – creation, redemption, resurrection…everything, done for love – love holds the Trinity together – it’s sort of a centripetal force – but it’s centrifugal as well – it moves the persons of the Trinity outward toward the created world including us, and then, in a rhythm like rhythm of breathing, like the rhythm of the heart, draws us in also. (Are we beginning to get a clue about what our mission is?)
And the second question was this: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” The second question is like unto the first one if we remember that perfect love takes fear right off the board…and that this relatedness at the heart of what God is makes no room for fear at all, …but invites everything that is to come and share in the unending dance of loving and being loved.
Are we beginning to see what our commission to make disciples might look like? I think so… and we’re also invited to see that our commission is not about indoctrination, but about invitation; not about some kind of dedicated commando raid on the cosmos, but about the way we live our everyday working lives, the way we do every single thing we do… Even weighing trucks. With love. And without fear.