Holy Trinity Sunday Romans 5:1-5 & Jn 16-12-15
For centuries theologians have tried to explain the idea of the Trinity using different metaphors—the three leaves of a single clover; the shell, white, and yolk of an egg, and so on—but there isn’t anyone, living or dead, who ever figured it out. How can God be one and yet three, or three and yet one? You might be relieved to hear I’m not going to add my 2 cents to the confusion.
Instead of trying to describe the nature of the Trinity, I’d like to focus on the work of the Trinity. Or rather, the play of the Trinity. Because church can sometimes seem like very serious business, and exploring doctrine of The Trinity the epitome of its gravity. But in today’s Gospel lesson, it Jesus isn’t so much teaching his disciples ABOUT God as inviting them to rest in their relationship WITH God.
Even more so, our first reading today, from the book of Proverbs (which is not normally a go-to part of the Bible for me), depicts God and God’s relationships not as deadly serious, but as joyful and FUN. How would your prayer life be different if you imagined God twirling with you in a swing dance, rather than looking down the Divine Nose at your imperfections? Try it and let me know. I’m genuinely curious.
Today’s passage from Proverbs is one of many in which Wisdom is depicted as a woman, inviting us to join her in God’s presence, where she has resided since the creation of the world—a world she describes as full of wonder and discovery. Just what does Wisdom want us to share with her? How does Wisdom spend her time at God’s side, where She’s been since the beginning? “I was daily God’s delight, rejoicing before God always, rejoicing in God’s inhabited world and delighting in the human race.” What would it be like to spend our days in Wisdom’s company, rejoicing in God’s world and delighting in the human race?
My guess is that somewhere deep inside we know exactly what that’s like. Think back to the last time you played–really played. Seriously. It’s well documented that little kids learn best as they are playing, both alone and with others. Recess is one of the most important parts of a school day—a time to exercise and expend energy as well as a time of navigating relationships, learning about sharing and fairness and about establishing and following parameters. Musicians and artists, chefs and scientists all describe times when goofing around, experimenting, and simply delighting in their work brought revelations, discoveries, and maybe even a momentous turning point. It seems Wisdom comes from our interacting with the world in a playful way as well as from serious analysis and understanding. So when we enjoy one another and the world God made, we are in good company—we are with God.
What would it be like if, maybe even just for the summer, we nurtured our relationship with God in a playful way, as if we were God’s teammates, and not God’s minions or subjects? To adopt one particular metaphor, what if we considered God our dance partner? What if we dipped and turned and stomped our way through our days together with God in our personal lives?
And what if we, as a faith community looked at the way we spend our time together as a sparkling soiree in the ballroom of Life? After all, sometimes one person or group leads and others follow, sometimes another. Sometimes a particular ministry or group blooms while another seems to be floundering, and then another surges up. Sometimes people leave us; sometimes new people come in. Sometimes we gather together for a baptism and sometimes for a funeral. Would it change anything if we conceived of the Church not struggling for life, but waltzing through it?
Might we find more fun in our ministries if we thought of them as polkas, rather than obligations? I don’t mean to make light of the effort it can take to engage in ministry. But the world does not need another place where people complete tasks they dread doing in order to avoid penalties or suffering. The world needs a community of grace and forgiveness where people can breathe a sigh of relief because they belong, no matter what.
As a congregation, we will still need to make an effort to keep this dance in motion—someone needs to make sure we have enough communion cups, that the bathrooms are cleaned, and that the offering is counted and sent to people and places who need our support—but there is more to our life together than simply checking off the boxes of a to-do list. When we delight in one another’s humor, honor one another’s passions, lift and share one another’s burdens, or find wonder in our holy tasks, we are growing in wisdom. And though that sounds simple, it is as profound as mirroring our relational Trinitarian God who is somehow always one and always a community at the same time.
If you’ve ever had a dance class, you know that the goal to make the individual steps flow seamlessly into one another. In partner dances, that becomes easier when you trust the one who’s leading you. As you follow the leader, your motion begin to look fluid, and you can stop thinking about what where your hands or feet or chin are supposed to be in the next moment. The urge to control every movement at every moment softens, and you’re able to look up and out, instead of down at your own shoes. You can stop counting and just move with the music. And it is beautiful.
Our call as Christians is not to follow impossible rules to avoid being a great big disappointment to God. Our call is to live in such a way that our relationships reflect that of our relational God: that is to say, we are called to work together in harmony, and to delight in the ways every tiny bit of God’s handiwork is of value and contributes to the whole. Of course we get out of step sometimes. We end up hurting one another, or passively standing by while someone else degrades what God has declared good. We are not flawless dancers.
Fortunately, we don’t have to be. Nor are we required to make perfect plans for what happens next. We are not the choreographers of this dance. We are recipients as well as bringers of grace. As Paul writes to the church in Rome, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
We mirror the interactive dance of Trinity when we share a prayer or a potluck or a portion of our time and talent, though probably only a dim reflection of the festive jig God has been dancing ever since the stars were formed in all their splendor, and the beasts and birds and sea creatures were made to give glory to God. Still, no matter how often we mangle the steps of this dance, we don’t have to be good in order to participate. We are following Jesus, not leading this dance.
And Jesus promises us, just as he did his first followers, that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth and wisdom. We get to learn from the Holy Spirit the way little kids—standing on their parent’s feet as they shuffle through dance moves—might learn to foxtrot or salsa. And we can breathe a sigh of relief that not even Jesus’ closest friends ever learned the dance perfectly, so our fumbled attempts are not beyond God’s redemption. Jesus flat out says that there are some things his disciples can’t bear to hear yet. After all the time they spent with Jesus, they still have more to learn. Their relationship was still changing, growing, expanding, even as Jesus ascended and sent them the Holy Spirit. Those first disciples remained—as we remain—dependent on the Holy Spirit to show the way.
Part of being a member of THIS Trinitarian community is acknowledging that we don’t have all the answers. We don’t know all the steps to this dance. We have not perfected the art of drama-free relationships. That means we follow Wisdom, putting one foot in front of the other. We are free to listen to one another’s stories and perspectives, free to enter into relationships and situations that may not come easily or naturally to us, that may not feel safe or secure. We cherish all voices even when they express ideas and values that differ from our own. We can welcome one another as siblings in this complex family of God, trusting the Holy Spirit to lead.
It won’t be easy. Not even the Divine Relationship is uncomplicated. But we have the peace of God through justification. We stand firmly in our stocking feet on God’s grace. So let’s lean into God’s call to enjoy the music! Let’s not get stuck looking at our own feet! Let’s put our heads up and look around! There is a beautiful, hurting world out there, aching to be engaged and embraced. We need not be shy about inviting others to the dance! Whether this is your first Sunday in relationship here at University Lutheran Church, or you five thousandth, God’s love is sweeping us into the dance. The Holy Spirit knows the steps. What have we got to lose? Come, join the dance of Trinity!
You can listen to this sermon. TO LISTEN, in the SoundCloud window below, CLICK (or double-Click) the red button with the white arrow pointing to the right. If that does not work, then click on the “Sermon 6-16-19” name of the sermon.