Trinity Sunday – June 7, 2020
Genesis 1:1-2:4a and Matthew 28:16-20
Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday we’ve set aside to honor the doctrine of the Trinity. That mysterious concept of the three in one and one in three. You know, God is three in one, but really one, even though God is also three? Clear as mud. There’s the example of water, ice and steam to attempt to explain the Trinity – 3 forms, but one substance. Water, Steam, Ice.
There is also artwork inspired by the Trinity that shows three forms connected and dancing. I happen to have always appreciated that interpretation, because it reveals to us the relationship. The interconnectedness between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. That’s the image I want us to focus on today. Because it’s been a hell of a week. There have been a range of emotions from anger, to sadness, to dismay. But there is also hope that we could be on the cusp of change, that this situation needs to result in change.
Recall that last Sunday, on Pentecost, I talked about the power of fire and wind. The disorientation, the sense of being plopped into a new world. The empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The prayer for us to be open and willing to be moved and changed and transformed. So I hope we’ve all been paying attention, because a great deal has transpired in the last week. I also believe we’ve reached a tipping point, a point where, at long last, systems may be able to effect change.
As Christians we regularly affirm the kind of life we want to live – its in our own baptismal covenant: one that resists evil; seeks and serves all people, loving our neighbor as ourselves; and strives for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being.
And we want to live an abundant life. An abundant life is a life that flourishes. But for it to be real, for it to be of the Gospel – for it to be full – it must be for all. As a Christian I believe that God took on human flesh to be with us, which means that there is something of the divine within all of us. God took on human flesh in order to be more fully in relationship with us. So the promise of life abundant can only be had when we insist on the dignity and holiness of every human being.
At the heart of the Trinity is the belief that God is inherently and irreducibly both communal and loving. One God in three persons whose shared, mutual, and sacrificial love spills out into the world and all its inhabitants. Ultimately, aren’t we are called to be church in a similar way? Loving, respecting, and caring for each other in a way that spills out into our neighborhoods and communities in tangible, beneficial, and attractive ways.
That’s part of what promises do – they bind us together, they provide hope, and they create courage to live with each other, support each other, forgive each other, and encourage each other. At the heart of every authentic and nurturing relationship, when you think about it, is a promise. A promise that is a whole lot like Jesus’ promise: I will be with you. I am for you. You can count on me. I’ve got your back. Let’s see what we can do together.
Jesus’ Great Promise makes it possible for us to dare the Great Commission and so much more. I’ve asked this question before – what “would you dream, dare, and do if you believed that Jesus is with you, no matter what.” Not, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail – most daring and faithful feats involve a fair amount of failure! – but what would you do if you knew that God was for you and with you no matter what and forever. Promises create relationships and possibilities. And that may be what the Trinity is about, as well.
So, knowing that Jesus is with us, empowering us with the Holy Spirit, let’s commit, let’s promise, to be part of the change that is tangible in our world right now. Let’s tip it. Let’s work together to dismantle systemic racism. When COVID first came upon us, I talked several times about using this ‘great pause’ to reflect on what things we might want to leave behind. This is, hands down, something we want to leave behind, we must leave behind.
Racism is a system. A deeply embedded system. A system of unequal power. There’s a difference between a system and individual acts. Individual acts are relatively easy to point out and describe – like racist comments and jokes. So let me give a simple example of what I mean by systemic, the sytem. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment. The 19th amendment guaranteed women in America the right to vote. It was a long and hard-won protest by women across America. What’s my point? Well at that time, the system in place dictated that men had to give women the right to vote. Women had no institutional power. There is a difference between system and individual acts.
People of color have had a much longer and much more difficult journey. This is a system that we are all a part of. We didn’t create it, we didn’t choose it, but we do have a responsibility to change it.
I’m hoping that most of us at Trinity, particularly us white people, are asking ‘what can we do’? Well, this is a white problem. So for my white friends, here are some things you might do.
Self reflection is the very first step. Be willing to commit to help with change. Ask yourself, what have I ignored, what have I assumed, what are the parts of myself that have supported the system? There are many resources out there for us. I’ve recently look at some of the works of Dr. Robin DiAngelo who has several books and video resources – you can google her. This is a lifelong process. It is a journey. And be gentle with yourself. What we need to do is let down our defenses. This is not about you being good or bad, this is about a system.
Another thing you can do. Be the vocal white friend to call out racist remarks in the middle of a white crowd. We can do that.
Use your own circle of friends, your own life, to begin change. No one is saying you have to be a social justice activist. How about beginning at the brunch table?
If you have police in your family, or police who are friends, please remember that this fight is not against police, this fight is against racism.
Another suggestion – just get comfortable being uncomfortable. We are in relationship with each other which means we will need to have some uncomfortable conversations. One of the most beautiful things about Trinity, Coatesville is our diversity. The Trinity community, the Trinity family, already knows something about being in relationship with people who may be from different social and ethnic backgrounds. Let’s remain committed. We’re on this journey together.
But in the end, nothing will change if we are not drawn into genuine, concrete, actual – and all of this means exciting and challenging as well – relationships with persons from communities beyond our experience or comfort. Because just as we know and struggle to name God through our actual experience of God active in our lives, we also can only know and appreciate and love – and be changed by – other people in and through actual relationships. We are experiencing a great loss if we do not have others who have different points of view and different life experiences in our own lives. This is the long road to not merely social change but a vision and reality of community that more closely matches God’s dreams for us and God’s own existence as a relational being. We will listen and learn. We will make mistakes and apologize when we need to. Let’s promise to do better.
Just think: if we started to live into the mystery of the Trinity, then it might just be possible for us to look at each other and see, not all the differences about how we look or speak or see the world, but rather an intricate relationship, a curious community, created in the image of God and living out the possibility for unity, even in our diversity. Can you imagine? Some have their doubts that this could ever really happen. Some are still doubting.
And so it is with the mysterious God we worship—diverse and unified all at once, illustrating for you and me the possibility of unity even in diversity, of different experiences fusing together to create a beautiful mosaic of God’s possibilities for the world. It’s a curious community we’re called to embody, but how can we do anything less?
God said “Let us make humans in our image.” And some doubted.
Today, on Trinity Sunday, we are invited to prove them wrong, to live boldly into the dream of the Trinity, the dream of everything we can be together. After all, we are, each one of us, created in the very image of God. Black Lives Matter. Amen.