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, May 26, 2013

Fix it!


Trinity Sunday, Year C


In the name of God: One, Holy, and Living.  Amen.

Earlier this week I was rereading an article in the New York Times from several years ago about what it calls, “Our Fix-it Faith”.  It explores the prevailing belief that technology can fix any problem we throw at it.  That somehow, knowledge and its applications will always be enough to triumph over the effects of ignorance and hubris.

The article was written in the context of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but every day, it seems, we hear of more problems that simply need to be “fixed” or that should have been “fixed” before they became problems.

The guiding principle in our culture seems to be that perfection and ease of living and freedom from troubles is the standard - the baseline.  And anything that falls short of that high bar challenges our faith in ourselves and our faith in our leaders.

Through our knowledge and our intelligence, no problem that we ever face should ever get out of hand.  If it does, it shakes our faith.

But this faith-shaking seems to happen almost every day.  Our faith is shaken by acts of terrorism.  Our faith is shaken by bullying and violence in our children’s schools.  Our faith is shaken by the still-struggling economy.  Our faith is shaken by natural disasters.  All of this, of course, intermingles with our own unrelenting cycles of challenges and tragedies that don’t make the news or enter the national consciousness every day.

We live in an age when we expect everyone to know everything right now.  And when it’s proven that they don’t, it shakes our faith.  And when our faith is shaken, we look for people to blame.

Even so, our quest for stability and control fails again and again.

Perhaps this is part of why the church is more countercultural now than it has been since before Constantine.  For, perhaps, the first time since the fourth century, our teachings are actively in contrast with the pervasive teachings of the dominant culture.  Where our culture insists that technology, and progress, and knowledge will be our salvation, the church persists in teaching that our salvation is in Christ alone.  Where our culture teaches that all shall be well through greater knowing, we hear Jesus say, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”

There is still truth to be revealed.  There are still things we don’t know.  And that’s okay.

That’s a bold proclamation for our time.  To a people consumed with zeal for answers and understanding, our Christ says, “All in time.  Take a breath.  Not yet.”

On Trinity Sunday the church is particularly susceptible to attempting to give in to the demands of the culture.  When faced with the occasion of celebrating the Holy Trinity, we can find ourselves tempted to explain or define the Holy Trinity – the ineffable truth of one God in three persons.

I have, over the years, uncovered a few metaphors that help me to wrap my mind around the concept of the Trinity.  I have understood the Trinity to be expressive of the diversity of God.

As I survey the diversity of creation, it makes sense to me that God is One who is best known through diversity.  When considering the God who made the birds of the air and the beasts of the fields and the fish of the sea – not to mention the air and the fields and the seas, themselves; as well as all of us in all of our diversity – it seems unfair to try to contain that God in simple, human terms.  That God cannot be expressed in any linear, two-dimensional fashion.  That God needs a Trinity – built-in diversity to accommodate the diversity represented by it.

Or, I have thought of the Trinity as the method by which we, in our own complexity, commune with a God of infinite complexity.  Our bodies – our sensations and experiences and interactions – connect us with Christ, God in human form.  Our creativity connects us with the Parent, the Ultimate Creator of all that is or was or ever will be.  Our wisdom, both innate and acquired, connects with the Holy Spirit – writhing through our experiences and understandings to reveal the Divine where it had before been elusive.

These three live in us, as individuals and in our communities, as aberrations from our humble humanity to reveal the one God.

But even the best metaphors are just that: metaphors.  They are not knowledge.  Despite whatever poetic thinking we may impose on the Trinity, we don’t really know it any more than we did before.

And that’s okay.

The church, like any great teacher, is at its best when it finds the point of transition between filling us with answers and information, and leading us to wrestle with the deeper questions.  It’s the shift from acquiring knowledge to cultivating wisdom.

It’s not easy.  And it is countercultural.  The world begs us to fill it with answers.  But life in this world is not a short-answer question.

Jesus, our teacher, knew this.  He knew that knowledge would not give us the answers that our quest for understanding would.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…”

All in time.  Take a breath.  Not yet.

We keep seeing, right now and in the physical world, what happens when our faith is misplaced: when we trust in ourselves and our own creations as our own, personal saviors.  We are seeing what happens when we abandon the lessons of the Trinity and ignore the interconnectedness between the Creator and all that is created.

Simple answers are never answers enough for the complex realities of life.

We have seen it before and we will see it again.

But the Spirit of truth is guiding us into all truth.  There are no easy answers.  But there is Wisdom: rejoicing before God always; Wisdom, rejoicing in the inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

For that, I give thanks.  Amen.

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