Monday, June 1, 2015

Trinity Sunday. What Doe You Mean By This?

In theology class in seminary we were talking about the Holy Trinity.
It was an intense conversation and we were all struggling with trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity.
One of my classmates finally said, “Well it is all a mystery.”
My professor said, “That is true, but you are going to have to preach every Sunday for the next 30 years. So you better have something else to say other than it is a mystery.”
Today is a weird church day because it is dedicated to the doctrine of the Trinity, which is difficult to understand even for seminary students.
When talking about the Trinity I often I feel like Nicodemus does while talking to Jesus.
“What do you mean by this?”
What is this all about?
It is a very difficult teaching to understand.

This is the reason why Nicodemus is having a hard time with this conversation with Jesus.
Have you ever had one of those conversations with someone where it was obvious that neither one of you was really talking to the other person.
I have had many of these conversations with religious people.
I have those conversations where the other person is using language and concepts that I never heard and I simply don’t understand what they are talking about.
This is the problem that Jesus is having with Nicodemus.
He is talking about a physical birth.
And Jesus is talking about a spiritual birth.
Nicodemus as a religious person only knows what he knows.
Jesus is offering a new way of thinking about God, a new way of seeing God.
And Nicodemus is stuck in the old ways of seeing things.
Nicodemus is talking past Jesus and not really trying to understand what Jesus is saying.

But let us be fair to Nicodemus, it is hard lesson what Jesus is saying.
We too often can’t understand the ways of God.
And often it is not useful for us to try and understand, because God is often working in secret.
God is working in ways that we don’t and won’t understand.
We are better off leaving those things to God.
But you all have shown up so I better have something to say.

What Jesus is trying to help Nicodemus understand is that God moves among us, inside us, and within us all the time.
But unless we are in touch with God we can’t and won’t understand.
Unless we remember that it was God who made us.
It is God who breathes life into us, and gives us spirit.
I really think this is essential to understand ourselves and the world.
God made you.
God put you together the way that you are, and that is special and unique.
There is no one on this earth that is like you.
You come with your own uniqueness, dreams, thoughts, feelings, ways of seeing the world.
There is nothing about you that God didn’t want to be the way you are.
The problem here is that if God is the one who creates you and everything then God also creates everyone else.
God created the person who really annoys you.
God created that person just as uniquely as you, and has given them dreams, thoughts, and feelings, ways of seeing the world that are exact opposite of you.
To see all people as God’s creation is to see them as deserving the same things that you have love, mercy, goodness.
As Jesus says he didn’t come to “point an accusing finger.”
Jesus came to show the world God’s love for them.

It goes beyond merely creating us and letting us go on our merry way.
God loves us enough to be involved in our lives.
God sent his only son to show us what it meant to live a Spirit filled life.
God sent his son so that we would know how much he loved us.
We as Christians do not know God except for the God shown to us in Jesus Christ.
Jesus showed us and told us that God was about the Kingdom of love, grace, mercy, hope, joy, goodness.
We know that when we are lost, hurt forsaken, sinful, and broken we can turn again to Jesus Christ.
We can see in Jesus the loving God we yearn for and want to know better.

It goes beyond even just being involved in our lives.
It also is something that guides our lives.
The Spirit is what leads us towards a deeper relationship with God.
The Spirit is our inner voice that helps us in our weakness to know which way to go, and where to follow.
The Spirit is that mysterious breeze that blows through us and tells us to go visit an old friend, stop and bring Aunt Betsy some cookies, send a card to Uncle Joe.
It helps us grow into our relationship with God.
The Holy Spirit is what goes with us into all our days.

We need to remember that God created us, constantly calls us back home, and makes us holy.

All of us experience these aspects of God in our own way.
We all experience them in the ways that God knows we need to understand them.
Living in them, naming those times when they are present gives the ability to be children of God, be led by the Holy Spirit.
And when we think about the Trinity not as a doctrine but about the way that we know and experience God it makes it easier to understand what we are talking about.

Last Sunday I went to the internment of my friend Sarah.
Her ashes were laid to rest at the chapel on what is called Jackman’s ridge at Camp Calumet Lutheran.
For those who have never been there about a quarter of the way to the top of this ridge there is a small chapel with some benches, an altar, headstones of other people who have had their ashes laid to rest there.
It is a lovely spot that you can see the tops of the mountain on the other side of the valley, and part of the lake.
The problem is that most of the time it is too hot, too cold, or too buggy to spend too much time there.
Last Sunday we had the short service laying her ashes to rest.
And then we just sat there together.
The wind this day was blowing ever so slightly.
The sun was shining.
It was the perfect temperature.
There were no bugs because of the breeze.
And we all just sat there together quietly.
In that moment God was certainly present.
We were in God’s creation, laying to rest one of God’s creations in my friend Sarah.
Jesus was there to remind us that we are not dead but that there is a resurrection for us all.
We heard the pastor speak those words of promise.
And the Spirit of God gently blew through us, to remind us that our prayers buried deep in our pain that couldn’t be said at this time were carried to God.
God was present in that moment in the fullness of God.
God was there comforting us, creating us, loving us, drawing us closer to each other and to God.

The doctrine of the Trinity might be too much for us to wrap our heads around.
But we can always understand that God’s presence is with us in multiple ways.
That in God’s relationship with us we know God in many ways, but it all is still the same God.
I hope in your life that you know this God of great mercy and grace who has created you, loved you, and given you Spirit and life.
So that you might know God’s comfort, support, and love. Amen

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