God revealed a sublime truth to the world when he sang, “I am made whole by your life. Each soul, each soul completes me.”
God, brilliant Lord, everyone knows your name – Majestic! Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble. I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way? Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods, bright with Eden’s dawn light. You put us in charge of your handcrafted world, repeated to us your Genesis-charge, Made us lords of sheep and cattle, even animals out in the wild, Birds flying and fish swimming, whales singing in the ocean deeps. God, brilliant Lord, your name echoes around the world.
- Psalm 8 (The Message; adapted)
Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”
- Matthew 28.16-20 (The Message)
Sunday is the day we set aside to contemplate Trinity; God as Three-in-One and One-in-Three. Yeah, I know; doesn’t make much sense, does it? At least, its meaning doesn’t exactly jump off the page. And there is certainly no model in the natural world to help us understand this puzzling notion of God that perplexes the most penetrating minds.
For example, one Christian theologian back in the day (way back in the day!) said of his doctrine of Trinity that he had not said nearly enough or that which is most important; but wrote at all to avoid being silent. More recently, Barbara Brown Taylor has resorted to poetic language to speak of Trinity. She compares it to a Zen Buddhist koan, the one most widely known in the western world, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Trinity, that is to say, is impenetrable mystery, like one hand clapping; only in this instance it is the sound of three hands clapping.
By this point you might be thinking, “Why bother to continue? Why not stop while we are ahead?” Why set aside a day on the Christian calendar to celebrate that which we have no chance of understanding? Why waste a worship gathering on such an abstract and distant concept?
I would respond that it is worth our while to examine Trinity because of the power of the poetic images that give it substance. These beautiful metaphors offer snippets of insight, they point toward something awesome and wonder-full; they provide fleeting glimpses of a God too rich for words, too real for any reality we know, too big for the universe as a whole, too small for the most intimate expression. Pay close attention, listen intently, delve more deeply; and Trinity will speak to you. Trinity will speak, not like an objective description of God or knowledge about God. Rather, Trinity will speak in the voice of poetry that will meet you in the middle of your lived experience with comfort, insight, understanding, and always a healthy dose of challenge.
I don’t want to preach Sunday’s sermon in my blog post, which is designed to help us prepare for worship, but let me mention what I consider to be the heart of Trinity’s meaning for our day, and its challenge to our collective lived experience. Many would trace the chaos and disarray of our society in the good ol’ U. S. of A. to the loss of any notion of a common good, an interweaving of lives, a dependence on and responsibility to each other. In its place is an exaggerated notion of individual freedom, and the right to live my life as I choose; period, end of story. No longer do our personal freedoms end at the intersection of the rights and needs of others, but exist absolutely and independently of anyone else.
Here’s the rub; when God’s life is contemplated as the model and inspiration for our own, as is emphasized from cover to cover in our Christian bible, this self-absorbed and over simplified notion of our personal life and freedom is challenged to its core. Why? Because God – listen closely to the poetry of Three-in-One and One-in-Three – God is always "we." God is always community. God is always completed in rich, intimate, relationship. Hafiz heard this voice; that is why he could give expression to the profound statement quoted above, “God revealed a sublime truth to the world when he sang, “I am made whole by your life. Each soul, each soul completes me.”
This image – the poetry of Trinity – has far reaching implications for the way we understand and live our life. I encourage you to reflect, pray, and listen for the soft, poetic voice of God that can and should inform our relationships.
I look forward to our time together on Sunday when we gather for a shared experience of worship. This week we worship at 9:30 am. Next week, however, we will begin our experimental summer schedule: intimate, informal worship at 8:30 am, and at 10:30 our primary worship gathering, which intentionally focuses outward, trying to meet the worship needs of a wide swath of folk, including new additions to our faith community. This worship includes both traditional and contemporary elements, woven into a progressive and unique worship style.