The Ultimate Word

"The ultimate Word is not a paragraph but a person. If Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, then the heart of proclamation is personal and relational, not propositional."

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki * God, Christ, Church, page 135

Sunday, June 19, 2011

God: where, when, and who we least expect

Trinity Sunday A
Matthew 28:16-20


In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In Matthew’s account of the Gospel of Jesus, these were his last words to that small and scrappy band of followers. In some ways, they were like us. They weren’t rich. They weren’t influential in the political spheres of their time. But they were a group of people who believed, even in the face of adversity.

Today is Trinity Sunday. A day set aside in celebration of a doctrine. There’s a degree to which it’s kind of hard to get excited about Trinity Sunday.

It’s not like Christmas, with the gifts. Or Easter, with spending time with family. It’s not even as easy to wrap our minds around as last week was - Pentecost.

We spend a lot of time talking about the three persons of the Trinity: God, the creator of all that is; Christ, God’s incarnation; and, the Holy Spirit, God among us. But most of us are more comfortable in the persons - as individual concepts - than in the doctrine of the three in one.

You might even wonder why the doctrine matters. Who cares if there’s a Trinity?

It’s a fair question.

And I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I have the answer. I don’t really know why you should care about the Trinity.

But the reality is, God, in general, can be a tough concept to wrap our minds around. There are some who say that the Trinity is a tough concept, but in reality, I think it’s more of a means to understanding the complexity of God - not something to be overcome on one’s path to knowing God.

Where I grew up, people tended to have pretty narrow images of who and what God was - usually an old white man with a beard. But as much as that image of God never really resonated with me, the bigger problem for me was not God’s demographic position, but that the people of my community seemed to have very firm understandings of how they thought God thought.

Perhaps not surprisingly, God almost always thought like them. More explicitly: God loved the people they loved. God hated the people they hated. God had their same prejudices and theological perspectives. God even agreed with them politically.

That’s were I had a problem.

As someone who’s been a kind of persistent outsider throughout his life, the idea of a democratic, “marjority rules” kind of God didn’t make much sense to me.

Here’s where the Trinity comes in: for me, the idea of the Trinity helps to explain the radical inclusiveness of God. Our tradition tells us (as was recounted in the first lesson again today) that God created all that is: the heavens and the earth, the dry lands and the seas, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, and all the beasts of the fields and even us. And after each moment of creation, God pronounced that it was good.

God could have created a flat world - monochromatic and bland. God could have made us all alike. But in the act of creating, God made a world rich with diversity. God’s dream as it lives in this world teems with complexity and difference, and God says that it is good.

God is not static or simple.

God is the old white man with the beard, sure. But God is also so much more. God is transcendent, distant, and mysterious. God is the unknown one off in the sky someplace who set us all in motion. But God is also local, personal, and present. God is Christ, our brother, who shares our pain and bears our burdens. God is Spirit, moving in the midst of us. God is the God of the past whose stories are told again and again through our readings and studying. But God is also here and now and for all time to come.

Most importantly, God is where and when and who we least expect God to be.

That’s what the doctrine of the Trinity is about to me. It’s a way of expressing that wisdom that we occasionally uncover that tells us to keep looking for God in unexpected ways. The Trinity tells us to think bigger, because God is ever-more than we can imagine. The Trinity expresses complexity. The Trinity says that God has a way to find us however we need to be found.

And that’s what we celebrate today.

Like that small and scrappy band of followers in an otherwise unremarkable corner of the ancient world who first heard the news of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that complex and always surprising God that we worship has found even us, even here, even now.

And like them, our teacher is also sending us out into the world: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” he says. Look to the people you least suspect of being receptive to or instruments of God, and there will be God. Don’t just look where it’s safe or convenient. Don’t just look where you’re welcomed. But make disciples of ALL nations.

God takes joy in all of the diversity of creation. It takes all of that to reflect the true image of God.

May the Trinity be our road map for dreaming bigger about how our small and scrappy band of followers can better find the truth of the God we’re called the serve. Amen.

No comments: