If Pentecost Sunday brings out the best in me as a preacher, then Holy Trinity Sunday brings out the worst in me. All the energy and creativity I channeled into last Sunday’s sermon came to a screeching halt on Monday morning. The winds of Pentecost refused to blow as I got bogged down in ancient creeds and church doctrine. The Spirit-flames were quickly snuffed out as I struggled with how to explain the existence of the Triune God. It’s true, I had my trusty Mason jar at my side. It was ready to be filled with ice cubes, water and air for this morning’s children sermon. But even that reliable prop could only elite an eye roll from me. Oh no…not that…AGAIN!
I was ready to give into despair when I read the appointed lessons for today. The first reading I looked at was from the book of Genesis: “God created the Heavens and Earth. All you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. God spoke: “Light!” And light appeared. God saw that light was good and separated light from dark. God named the light Day, And named the dark Night. It was evening, it was morning—Day One.” [The Message]
Suddenly, I realized my task for Holy Trinity Sunday was to move us from creeds ABOUT the Trinity, to a relationship WITH the Trinity. My task was to move us from eye-rolls to wonder as we encounter a God who defies description.
Just take a look at the amazing imagery the writer of Genesis attaches to the Holy Trinity whose intricate dance can be seen in the opening chapter of Genesis. The story begins with a formless void which The Message describes as “A soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness.” I’ve not found a more powerful description of the void than this.
In the midst of this soup of nothingness, the Creator begins to move. First the Holy Spirit, or the RUACH of God, begins to flutter her wings, creating a disturbance in the inky blackness. This is the Spirit/wind/breath of God that is spoken of in the Pentecost story. Genesis 1 reminds us that she is as eternal as God, the Creator. And as the Spirit fluttered her cosmic wings, stuff began to move. Neutrons, protons and electrons came into being. They anxiously waited for the Creator to call out the steps of their dance.
Then the Creator spoke. Word brought thought to form. “Let there be light. And there was light.” This Word is the same Word who became flesh and dwelt among us: Jesus, full of grace and truth. It’s a reminder that the Word is also as eternal as God, the Creator.
God saw that light was good, and separated light from darkness. God gave each of them a name, calling light Day and darkness Night. These two dance partners established a rhythm that has continued to this day. It helps to order the steps of the rest of creation on planet Earth.
The reason why we love this story so much is that it reminds us that the Creator, Word and Spirit, the Triune God, is far from boring. The Holy Trinity is a swirl of imagination and power. We may try to domesticate the Trinity with creeds and doctrines, but Genesis tells us that the Triune God is wild and uncontainable. God will move as God will move. God is powerful, unpredictable and a wonder to behold.
This is the reason why I have a hard time understanding Christians who insist that we can only gather for worship in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It elicits a great big eye-roll from me. What happens if we gather in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer? Or the God beyond us, the God beside us, and the God within us? Will the Trinity refuse to show up? Will the Three-in-One boycott our worship because we haven’t referenced the Almighty with an officially-sanctioned-by-the-Church name? My experience is that God will show up because that’s God’s nature. We don’t have to say anything at all. God is already at work in our lives in our world, and throughout the universe.
This is the reason why I never say “The Lord BE with you” in worship. I always say “The Lord IS with you.” It might sound like I’m splitting grammatical hairs. But for me, to use the word “be” means I wish and hope that God will BE with you. The truth of the matter is that God has already show up. We are simply acknowledging the presence of the One whose intricate dance gave birth to everything we see, and everything we don’t see. The Triune God IS with us. There is no BE about it!
But we’re not finished with the Holy Trinity yet. Later, in Genesis 1, the Three-in-One saved the best for last. The Creator said, “Let us make humankind in our image.” Spirit fluttered her wings, Word gave us form, and we came into being. We were also given the task of being caretakers of all that the Triune God has made. Granted, this is an impossible task for us mere mortals. But we are called to give it our best shot with as much creativity and passion as we can muster. After all, we are a reflection of the Trinity. Therefore the same creative power resides in us even though it strength is vastly diluted.
Thankfully, God does the heavy lifting. The Almighty keeps the universe in good working order, including all the sub-atomic stuff that is invisible to the eye. We are simply called to do the best we can to ensure our world stays healthy and vibrant. That’s enough to keep us busy!
As a reflection of the Trinity, we are also reminded that our dance with one another is meant to be as harmonious and synchronistic as the one between the Creator, Word and Spirit. This may be an even greater challenge than our calling as caretakers of creation. St. Paul, in our second lesson, reminds the Church in Corinth to “Put things in order, respond to my encouragement, be in harmony with each other, and live in peace And the God of love and peace will be with you. Say hello to each other with a holy kiss.”
We cannot do this without God’s help. We cannot do this without the Spirit constantly fluttering her wings in our midst. We cannot do this without Jesus’ wisdom that guides our steps and redeems us when we fail to live up to these lofty expectations. The Three-in-One is just as active in our lives now, as the Trinity was at the beginning of creation. If this does not make us look at God with a sense of awe and wonder, there there is something seriously wrong with us. The Holy Trinity should NEVER be boring. The Triune God should NEVER elicit an eye-roll from us. If we find ourselves doing this, we need to seriously evaluate our understanding of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If all we can do is recite creeds and cling to doctrines, we are trying in vain to domesticate a God who is uncontainable.
The Holy Trinity is not a subject to be debated and dissected. It is the power that gave birth to creation, and has the ability to transform our lives in ways we never dreamed of. So we need to step aside and allow the Creator to create. We need to let the Spirit flutter her wings, and disturb our lives every once in a while. We need to give permission for Word to become incarnate in us and change us for the better. This is our challenge on Holy Trinity Sunday. But it is also our challenge every day we have life and breath.
There’s one more stop on our Trinitarian journey this morning. Matthew’s gospel gives us the familiar words of the great commission: “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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
With our Trinitarian glasses on, this job description for those who follow Jesus takes on new meaning. Baptizing in the name of the Triune God, doesn’t mean we are sprinkling water on some baby’s head and hoping for the best. We are declaring what is already true: The Three-in-One who gave birth to the Universe, resides in the one who is being baptized. They were created in the image of God, and the Trinity’s creative power will birth amazing things in their lives and in the world around them.
Unfortunately, we sometimes get a little sidetracked here. We worry about whether to baptize infants or adults. We worry about whether they were sprinkled or immersed. We worry about properly educating the parents and the one being baptized, so that they will have a “correct” understand of what this means.
While all of this worry has some merit, do we really think the Trinity cares about all of this? It’s another example of us trying to domesticate an untamable God. My suggestion, is that our energy is better spent trying to instill in the one being baptized a sense of awe and wonder regarding the One in whose image the baptized is made. If we can pull that off, I have no doubt that this person will make disciples of all nations. They will transform the world around them because they have a story to tell, not a creed or doctrine to share.
This story, this story is a doozy. It starts with the Creator, Word and Spirit whose cosmic dance birthed the entire universe. Whose Word became flesh in order to redeem us and defeat death forever. Who dances with us every day, calling us to walk in harmonious and peaceful steps that are a reflection of relationship we see in the Triune God.
Friends in Christ, if you don’t leave here excited about the Holy Trinity, then my sermon is an utter failure. My wish for all of us this Holy Trinity Sunday is that we can make the journey from eye-rolls to wonder when it comes to our understanding of the Almighty. May the transformative power of Creator, Word and Sprit be evident in our lives today and always. AMEN.
Copyright ©2017 David Eck