May 30, 2021
Romans 8: 12-17
On this Trinity Sunday, our second reading comes from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. Listen for God’s Word continuing to speak to you today.
READ Romans 8:12-17
Long ago I figured out that the lectionary chose passages for Trinity Sunday that used the words of the Trinity within that single passage. So in Romans… while the passage is more about the spirit of adoption… Paul’s writing in these verses manages to mention God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Our first passage from Isaiah… I think that was chosen merely for the words, “Holy, Holy, Holy”… as this is mainly the story of the prophet’s call. I suppose that also gives us a good excuse to sing our first hymn today as well.
Any pastor can tell you… Trinity Sunday is not the easiest Sunday on the church calendar. Here is a day that we are supposed to devote to this theology that lives pretty much in the realm of mystery. The trinity lends itself to lots of conceptual thinking where even as you paint with words to create this idea collage in the air… there is always this voice that says, “Yeah it’s like this but not too much like this.” Once you start to pin things down there’s always some line that if you cross you’ve gone to far. It’s like cooking some delicate recipe where a teaspoon is just the right amount, but if your teaspoon is heaping that’s too much and it will spoil the whole dish. Anytime we talk about the Trinity it’s this delicate balancing act. I wonder how many of my colleagues today will gladly exchange Trinity Sunday for a service centered around Memorial Day. That is the easier play… right… because any discussion of the Trinity gets complex real fast. And maybe that’s one reason why this Sunday exists… so that we will have to face… at least once every year… our own tendency to simplify God. If we’re being honest with ourselves… we’re always oversimplifying God. Maybe this Sunday is here to help us get out our specially built God containing boxes… handmade and unique to our own understandings and comfort… get out those boxes and look at them and… laugh a bit… laugh at our own foolishness in thinking that we can somehow contain the living God with our words and theological concepts… acknowledge that God is so much more than our safe reductions.
My first thought as I approached the homily this week was how obtrusive the Trinity makes God. I had Psalm 139 pop into my mind… one of my favorites…
O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
All the different words we use in our upcoming litany today… some traditional and comfortable… others perhaps new to you a bit more scary… all these words place God everywhere… and I mean more than just being omnipresent… that great Greek word trying to capture the perfection that the Greeks insisted must be the sole quality of the divine… they were wrong… God is not just omnipresent in being… because we are more than capable of taking an omnipresent God and that idea being so big that it means in practice God who we say is everywhere is really nowhere. A God of perfect conception can still be made irrelevant. I think what the Psalmist captures so well is how God is relationally everywhere. From the moment I open my eyes the handiwork of God surrounds me… a handiwork that reflects the complexity of God. What we would define as good or bad in creation has less to do with God as complex creator than it does with our empty attempts at making ourselves the center of the universe. With ourselves placed at center the universe becomes small real fast. But the universe is complex and vast and we… we who think we are so knowledgeable… are still finding and discovering and having our minds blown as that complexity keeps getting revealed through our science. Old concepts and laws pass away as new insights keep happening… our science can’t be static anymore than our theology when we keep encountering the complexity of a living God.
The magnificence of God humbles us but then the benevolence of God reminds us of our importance to God… even us… even small insignificant us… why would God be mindful of us… why will God’s steadfast love not let us go. The creator doesn’t just bring us into being and then sends us spinning off into the cold void… there is guidance and redemption and aspiration and vision for a world whose creation is still being guided by God through our hearts and minds over the generations… there is the God… the same God… who is there between us as we relate to one another… as we live out our lives… as we make the choices of our interactions… apply purpose to our time and small sphere of influence… there in the thoughts of our heart is the Christ… God acquainted with all our ways… fully human fully God. We can’t even escape God by retreating into our humanity. Surely an all-powerful God cannot relate to our weaknesses… to our worry and our doubt and our pettiness and our silly stupidities that consume us and drive us to waste so much of the limited time we’re given… surely a God of infinite wisdom and grace cannot comprehend our fears and our proclivity for violence against any who would dare to be other. But even God is there… God’s own self daring to be the object of our violence… suffering under the whip and on the cross… facing the fear of death and the meaninglessness of oblivion. God is there in Christ who fulfills the law and the prophets by taking away our blindness so that we will see through the love Christ shows the hungry, the poor, the outcast… the prisoner’s chains… the lost needing to be found… ourselves as we are. The ever-present God in Christ there with care and devotion and service with the least of these reminding that the resurrection wasn’t just another perk of the privileged, but an act of servant transformation. Care for one another. Look after the welfare of one another. Yes, Cain… you are your brother’s keeper in all things. Use all the gifts and systems and imagination at your disposal to live into the same love I showed each of you.
The obtrusive Trinitarian God who will not let us be… not a far off, disinterested, creator clockmaker… not person stuck now in the annals of history and the manipulated doctrines of religion… a living presence… a Holy Spirit that reminds and prods and provokes… that actively keeps communion with us… giving the answers we don’t always seek through our prayers… telling us with faith… with faith the five loaves and two fishes in front of us can feed thousands. Only your obstinate “no” stops us from moving mountains.
Where can we go to escape such an obtrusive God? Creator. Redeemer. Sustainer. If I turn from one, I run into another. God’s love hems me in, behind and before. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high I cannot attain it.
Which finally brings us back to Paul’s words… For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. Saints, we belong fully to such a complex God. Holy, holy, holy. A God who made us. A God who blotted out our sin. A God who asks “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” One God who is only interested in one answer, “Here am I; send me.”. One answer that will take many different forms… and go down many different paths… and plant many different seeds… but will always be united in giving the glory to God alone. Amen.