June 11, 2017 Year A
Listen here . . . or read the reflection below.
Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.
So, I will now proceed to explain to you, once and for all, the full understanding of the Trinity. . . . not. In the words of St. Augustine, “if you think you understand, then what you understand is not God.”
You heard the Gospel greeting I gave you, yes? It’s the same farewell greeting Paul gave to the Corinthians at the conclusion of his second letter to them. For all we know, these are the last words Paul said to the Christians in Corinth:
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. The grace of Jesus reflects God's personality in a way that is so clear, so direct, you can’t miss it. As we heard from Exodus: God is merciful and gracious. Slow to anger, rich in kindness.
The love of God be with you. Our God is a God of tremendous compassion and unfailing love. “For God so loved the world . . .” as we just heard.
The fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you. Here, our God knows we struggle and fall short sometimes. Indeed we can be a stiff-necked people, but God says, "I am here to give you peace. I forgive you for not being there for me. I would like you to dwell with me. I will not leave you orphans. I will come and be in fellowship with you. I want to be in partnership with you. I want to be there when you are dealing with all the difficulties of your life."
This greeting, this blessing tells me that we don’t have to understand the Trinity to experience it.
You’ve heard it said that we are created in the image and likeness of God. God, as Trinity, is the epitome of perfect relationship. So, does it not make sense that we best reflect the image and likeness of God in our love relationships? In fact, you or I cannot reflect God’s image and likeness all by ourselves. We can only do so in relationship with others.
So, while I don’t pretend to intellectually understand the Trinity, I have a trinity of trinities to share with you that I believe heighten our awareness and experience of the Triune God all around us.
First, the trinity of Love.
Love reveals God. If you go deep inside the most intimate love relationship of your life—your spouse, your partner, your lover, your child, your parent, your grandparent, your pet—if you are like most people you will say that you have actually experienced God in the deepest intimacy shared between the two of you.
Love is outward reaching. It is fundamentally open. This love relationship reaches beyond itself to serve life, sometimes to create new life. It is as if we cannot sustain the intensity of our intimacy without bringing others in, or going out to others. Our love never simply stays at home. It insists on participating in God’s activity in the world.
Love is imperfect yet holy. It remains present in our failures and imperfections. Grace is revealed in our brokenness, and the need for God is made clear. God builds on imperfection and makes it holy.
The trinity of Love:
Love reveals God.
Love is outward reaching.
Love is imperfect yet holy.
At our parish staff meeting each Wednesday, we take the first twenty minutes to read and reflect on the upcoming Gospel reading. Each of us is encouraged to share from the heart what the gospel says to them. Last Wednesday, I simply said, “You had me with ‘God so love the world’. No need to go any further.”
Second, the trinity of Discipleship.
We come to know God through:
A way of the head that informs. It demands a discipleship of faith seeking understanding and belief with personal conviction, sustained by study, reflecting, discerning and deciding, all toward spiritual wisdom for life.
A way of the heart that forms. It demands a discipleship of right relationships and right desires, community building, hospitality and inclusion, trust in God’s love, and prayer and worship.
A way of the hands that transform. It demands a discipleship of justice, peace-making, simplicity, integrity, healing, and repentance.
The trinity of Discipleship:
Here at St. Charles, it’s clear to me that we do ‘heart’ and ‘hands’ really well through our worship and our many opportunities to engage in works of mercy and works of justice. But as I’ve mentioned in the past, we don’t do so well on ‘head’ – that call to lifelong learning and growth in discipleship. But a group of us are meeting a couple of times this month to cook on some ideas that I’m excited about. More to come later.
Finally, the trinity of Character. As Christians in the world, we are called to be:
Authentic. When I am authentic, I am trustworthy and transparent; real and reliable. My actions conform to my inner disposition. What you see . . . really is who I am. My faithfulness reflects God’s faithfulness.
Available. When I am available, I value others to make space and time for them. I wake up every morning and put 15 minutes in my pocket . . . and I am sure to give it away before the end of the day. If God is not too busy for us, how do we dare to be preoccupied?
Affirming. When I am affirming, I approach life with a basic ‘yes’. I approach others with a basic sense of goodness and support. When I see the best in them, and call it out, they see the best in me and in others. God has first affirmed me, and so I affirm others.
The trinity of Character:
As you know by now, I like to give homework. So, here’s your homework for the week. Each night this week, I ask you to reflect on your day through the trinity of Character:
How was I authentic today?
How was I available today?
How was I affirming today?
Nothing more to say, except:
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all!