The Holy Trinity 22 May 2016
(Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 Psalm 8 Romans 5:1-5 John 16:12-15)
“Dancing the Dance of Trinity!”
I began my sermon last evening with what I thought was a cute little joke, but no one got it; so I’ll put that joke on the back burner somewhere far away.
To try to explain the Holy Trinity is like pulling all the petals off a flower in order to analyze it, and ending up having destroyed the flower. I’ll try not to do so this morning.
After all, this is the only festival celebrating a doctrine to make its way into our church calendar. It is the only feast which doesn’t celebrate a person, like a saint’s day, or an event, like Christmas or Easter or Pentecost, in the entire church year! It is very easy to pull all the pedals off the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and then ending up with nothing that has any meaning. Not that we haven’t tried.
St. Patrick is said to have explained the Trinity by using a shamrock, three leaves but one plant. St. Augustine said the Trinity was best understood as Lover, the Beloved, and the Love that existed between them. Tertullian, arguable the most curmudgeonly theologian of the early church waxed poetic when he spoke of the Trinity as a plant, with the Father as the deep root, the Son as the shoot that breaks through the soil, and the Spirit as the force which spreads the beauty and fragrance upon the earth.
Leonardo Buff, a contemporary Brazilian theologian describes Trinity as “the primal community: just and equally within the reality that is God, a model for human society that calls us to connect with one another, without prejudice, without inequality, without competition and always with perfect love.”
That may be the best definition I’ve heard, because for me, there is no other way to preach Holy Trinity Sunday than to preach the relationship of the Three Persons of God and how they are so closely related that they create one community, one God.
But I think there is more. As I keep going back to this Gospel text from John 16, when I hear Jesus saying, “I still have many things to say to you…” [Jn 16:12], I get the sense that Jesus is saying “there is more,” more for us to understand, more he expects from us, more to the way we can live our lives.”
So if Holy Trinity is the model for the way we live our lives, what is the “more” Jesus might be inviting us to experience?
For me, that goes to the diversity of the Three Persons, all different, all different functions
Martin Luther describes the function of the Father as, “… the one who provides and protects us in our daily lives, all done out of fatherly and divine goodness and mercy.” He describes the function of the Son as “…the one who has freed us from sin that we may live under him in his Kingdom.” He describes the Holy Spirit as “…the one who calls, gathers, enlightens and makes holy the whole church.” My point being that the three persons all function very differently. They speak “…diversity, encapsulated within perfect unity.”
Sociologists tell us that in early American towns, the richest person and the poorest person never lived more than two hundred yards away from one another. They often had to walk by one another’s dwellings during the course of a typical day. They were part of the same community and were connected in a way we can now only try to imagine.
How different from today where rich and poor are now separated by miles of real estate and then gated and fenced off from each other? How different when we very often do not share the same schools, same neighborhoods, even the same churches?
When we don’t experience diversity of class or race or religious belief in our day-to-day existence, we begin to lose touch with one another, and the social fabric which binds us together begins to unravel at the seams.
The mere truth of the Trinity may simply be that Human and Divine live hopelessly bound to one another connected in an eternal dance!
In fact, the early theologians used the Greek word, “perichorasis,” “peri” meaning “around” and “chorasis” meaning “the infinite dance with the Godhead in which we all join hands in one great circle, and as we all dance to the center of life where God resides, we all move closer and closer to one another.” What a terrific image of Trinity: human being gathered in a circle; and with God at the center, we all move toward the center! As we move closer to God, we can’t help but move closer to each other!
Augustine once told his students who studied the doctrine of the Trinity, “Lest you become discouraged, know that when you love those who are most unlike you, you know more about who God is than you could ever know within your head.”
As I conclude my sermon, I ask you to stand as we sing Hymn #412, connecting with each other, knowing that when we move closer to the Center who is God, we, do, in fact, move closer to each other! That’s the Dance of the Trinity! Amen.