June 16, 2019
Donna G. Joy
Proverbs8:1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15
Today we gather together to celebrate the Trinity: that great and often confusing mystery that exists at the very heart of our faith. In the words of Ann Garrido: “Great things are simple; nevertheless, true & essential simplicity opens up horizons so limitless & profound that we feel almost lost when confronted with them.” I think this applies to our confusion over the Trinity: the reality of the Trinity is so simple that we get lost in the limitless horizons it opens up.
So, the place to start is with its true and essential simplicity: the Trinity is essentially three separate, diverse, distinct persons bound together in one Godhead. (When we speak of the Triune God, we simply mean that this one Godhead consists of three closely related members.) These three persons bound together in one Godhead, have been with us – working collaboratively - since the beginning of creation. We remain rooted in, informed and inspired by this Trinitarian God: (God the Father/Creator; God the Son/redeemer, God the Holy Spirit/sustaining the work of God’s people). These three persons, each with a specific role to fill, bound together in one Godhead, working harmoniously – collaboratively – together. With God’s help, we are called to work together in the same way. This is the simple, essential truth. Our readings, it seems to me, unpack this further.
Psalm: Our Psalm speaks of the God of all creation: God of awe and wonder; God the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. The Psalmist here addresses God directly in a song of praise for ALL the goodness and beauty that God creates and makes possible: moon; stars; all the creatures of the earth; human beings who are called to care for this extraordinary and endless gift.
Proverbs: (Jewish Wisdom literature) presents religious teachings as ancient wisdom that guide & inform our relationship with God. One of the features of Wisdom literature is the personification of Wisdom. This Wisdom is seen as a person with a clearly defined role within the Godhead, often equated with the Holy Spirit. In our reading from the Book of Proverbs, then, we are introduced to God the Holy Spirit. In Hebrew, the Spirit is called ruach, that is, wind, or breath; in Greek, she is called Sophia – Wisdom.
In this reading, Wisdom (Sophia) is making the point that there never was a time or space where she didn’t exist. She, and God – the creator - were always One Together. Throughout the whole of creation (past, present, future) Sophia’s very breath brings everything into being. (Like blowing into the embers of a fire.)
John: Before we take a quick look at our particular Gospel passage this morning, I think it is important to first remember that John’s Gospel begins: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”
Here we are reminded that Jesus, the Word, was also there right from the very beginning. The Three Persons of the Trinity working collaboratively since the beginning of creation. Then, in this morning’s passage we hear Jesus preparing his disciples for that quickly approaching time when he will no longer be with them, preparing them for the coming of the Spirit of truth (Sophia; Wisdom) who will be given to them – be with them – filling them with all they need to carry out the work of Jesus. There’s that Breath of God – that Wisdom of God – again, breathing life and Wisdom into the church (past, present, future).
Romans: Here, in rather explicit language Paul describes the basis and essence of the new relationship that this Trinitarian Godhead has established through Jesus Christ. Jesus has renewed/restored our relationship with God the Heavenly Parent and Creator of the whole of creation; has, through his own life, teachings, death, resurrection and ascension – through his very existence/being - shown us how to live in relationship with God; and has gifted his followers with the Holy Spirit – the Wisdom to carry on his work.
Faith, as Paul understands it, is nothing less than trusting in the power and goodness of God to continue to create new life and new possibilities; continue to be with us, inform us, inform us, and empower us to live (harmoniously) in relationship with the Godhead and to build God’s kingdom of love throughout the church and in every community we inhabit.
Together, our readings this morning speak of Three Persons bound together in One God; Three Persons who have lived together – been together - grounded in love, working creatively and harmoniously together since before the beginning of time. Together, our readings this morning speak of a God whose creative, redeeming, sustaining powers weave seamlessly in and through each other, always loving, always creating, always redeeming (restoring) God’s relationship with His followers, always breathing Wisdom into those who follow, carrying God’s work into the world.
This is, in fact, absolutely central to everything we believe as Christians. It is central because it speaks of a communal Godhead, who calls us to live in this communal, harmonious way. This Triune God – The Father; The Son; The Holy Spirit (Wisdom) – lives in this way, breathing this harmonious pattern of living into our lives, our churches, our communities so that this loving harmony embedded in the Trinity may become embedded in us and through us in the world.
So, what this actually mean in terms of living our lives in faith here and now is that the harmonious, interconnected working of the Trinity informs the way we are called to live.
It turns out that this is much more difficult to understand than we might expect, and the reason is because we have lived centuries understanding ourselves as individual entities, separate and apart from each other. Since the early 1700’s this understanding of humanity has dominated our understanding. As I’ve said before, I think the notion of the ‘self made man’ is a reflection of this world view. There is no such thing as the self made man. I think we’re on the brink of recognizing the flaws in this world view as we embrace such phrases as, “It takes an entire village to raise a child.” Behind every success, or good work is a multitude of people and communities who have informed and helped shape each and every one of us. At the core of humanity, we are all intimately connected to and with each other.
The call of the church is to live, worship, and work according to the Trinitarian community, so that the world may see the beauty of this and be inspired by it. And here it remains challenging, because it seems clear that church structure, slowly over time, has been influenced by the individualistic culture in which we live. It is becoming increasingly clear to me that we, the church, all-too-often co-exist rather than truly understand ourselves as utterly connected in and through everything we do. “You in your small corner, and I in mine.”
And I’m realizing, in reality, I too grew up in this same culture and in the Anglican church which has to some degree become shaped by this culture, so I too am just waking up to this deeply embedded notion of each individual separate and apart from another. So, the church has settled into this mentality, often with silos. (One definition of a silo is: a part of a company, organization, or system that does not communicate with, understand, or work well with other parts) I’m realizing that over a period of 30 years, working and walking with many different parishes, I have seen this repeatedly. I’ve had the great honour of worshipping and working with countless good and faithful people, but sadly without reaping the benefits of seeing how their ministry – our ministry - is essential to, supported by, and supportive of the wider Body of Christ.
This, of course, can lead to a perceived need to ‘protect’ one’s ministry (e.g. new members in the church: I need to lure them into my committee before someone else snags them!) Or, the tendency to feel prideful about one’s ministry (e.g. I know that committee over there may think their ministry is important, but we know that the work of our committee is much more necessary and important than any other!) This, of course, leads to a competitive mentality… But now I’m probably taking this too far, as we all know that this could and would NEVER happen in the church… But you get my point.
Today, on Trinity Sunday, we celebrate a Triune God: Three separate and distinct persons bound together in and through one God. We are many separate/distinct persons bound together in and through one Triune God. Grounded, rooted in this Triune God, we are called to live, worship, and work together with the same quality of cooperative, overlapping fluidity; intimately connected, recognizing that each and every ministry is reliant upon and supportive of the building of the Body of Christ here on earth. The God we worship is, by nature, collaborative, and as the theory of collaboration points out, the steps toward collaboration are: moving from co-existence, and toward communication, cooperation, and collaboration.
I am grateful, so grateful, to serve as Incumbent in a parish that is in the process of learning, understanding, and effectively working towards a collaborative ministry model. As this model unfolds I see great progress as we increasingly recognize the intimate connection between each and every ministry we share. I see concrete evidence of the fruits of this work in our worship, our multi-layered relationships with each other in ministry within the St. Peter’s family, and also VERY important… the ways in which we currently engage in and discern possible future ministries, reaching out to a broken world.
May the Communion of the Trinity be with us in all that we are and all that we become.