Our God is Three in One and One in Three
How this is, is a mystery
Yet we live and breathe and move
Within this dance, whose name is Love
Today is the church festival that celebrates the Holy Trinity, and you might have guessed if you know my oldest daughter’s name, that yes I am enamored with this aspect of who our God is. It is theology, a way of understanding God, but yet somehow beyond our understanding.
We know these things are true- that God has always been and always will be, and always bigger than we can imagine, beyond our grasp- at the same time we know this to be true, that God chose to put on human flesh and walk around on this fragile earth for around 30 years, about 2000 years ago, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth- and that the spirit of God is still with us and in us but also beyond our control. And somehow we say that these three ways of knowing God, of relating to God, are still about one God, but three persons.
Some have talked about the three persons being in an eternal dance, perpetual movement, and I love that image, too. Giving and receiving love perpetually, united because of that love.
But why does this matter, why talk about it? Because as we hear from Genesis today, we are made in God’s image. This first account of the creation of humankind gets short shrift in the picture book accounts of creation, but notice that in this account, the male and the female are equally and instantaneously created in the image of God. As in, one is not more God-like than the other, and the image of God cannot be borne in one alone. Two, and two made differently, were necessary to reflect that image of God. The two were meant to be in a relationship just like the members of the Trinity are constantly in relationship to one another- remember if you will back a couple weeks to that tricky chapter 17 of John- I in the father the father in me and me in you and you in me…
Even though it was Jesus who spelled that message out to his disciples, it was God’s imprint on us from the beginning that made it that we need to be in relationships with one another, yes with all of our differences, to love one another and therefore reflect who God is, through our lives.
As Jesus gives the great commission- to go and make disciples, he says they are to be baptized, initiated into the discipleship community, in the name of God who is community, who is three, and one. That last line of Mattthew, so beloved, is related to all that comes before: for I am with you always, to the end of the age. That being with us, that relationship, is the natural outgrowth of the community bearing the name of Christ. He will always be with us because God always wants to be in relationship, now relationship with us, and in our relating to one another according to the ways of loving that Jesus taught.
This all sounds good- at least I hope. But it is so much harder to practice. That is more than obvious when we look at the headlines from the past 10 days or so. Looking at the headlines, we see destruction, we see outrage, we see violence. People not treating one another in love, not reflecting loving relationships.
But if we look deeper than the headlines, there is hope. I think it is a time for great hope for our nation. Because if we consider carefully, we see that so many protests have been carried out peacefully. And demonstrations have reached over 400 cities, smaller cities and some without a whole lot of racial diversity. And people are having some hard conversations about how things have been and what needs to change and how things should be- to truly realize the potential of all of the people of this great country.
A colleague of mine I know only through facebook clergy groups shared an interview she did through the BBC, because though she is from New York she is doing ministry now in the UK. Her name is Yejide Peters, she is an African American priest in the Church of England. In the interview, She shared some of the pain of her own story, two of her cousins, in separate times and places, lost their lives in encounters with the police. The interviewer asked her how the situation now is affecting her faith, and she said her faith is stronger now. Because she believes in a God who comes near to those who suffer, and because she sees in the movement rising up, God’s own voice calling us out of complacency and toward change.
In this moment, spurred by deep pain, something is happening. I hope we can all move with the spirit how the spirit is moving. Because our country could do a lot better in a whole lot of ways regarding true equality, true justice, especially for black and brown persons. The love that we are called to live out, reflecting God who is three in one, moves us to not stay the same but learn some new dance steps in our human community, to listen, to learn, to do better.
In addition to being Trinity Sunday, for the UMC today is peace and justice Sunday. The UMC shared a story about a program toward making peace between students from different sides of the island of Cyprus. For there was a civil war there in 1974, and the Muslims were forced to the north and the Christians to the south. The Creating Friendships for Peace program brings students from the different sides together in a camp, and then sends some of them paired up with someone from the opposite side, to stay with families in the US. They share how this program, spending time with one another, helps them undo the prejudices they had about people on “the other side.”
Just spending time together, intentionally taking the time to listen to one another, is a big part of what God wants to do in us and through us. Because it all comes back to relationships, knowing a person as a person and not by a label. Right relationship requires real relationship- opening ourselves to others, giving and receiving, sharing life together makes a difference for how we can live and be on this planet together.
2 Cor 13:11-13 urges us to live in peace. That peace requires right relationships, in the concept of shalom that Jesus and his disciples would have known well. That shalom includes treating your neighbors well, all of them, and having justice and yes proper consequences for actions so that abuse is not perpetuated. Martin Luther King Jr has said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, for we are all part of one web of mutual relationships. Everything can affect anyone. We all belong to one another.
Last week I urged us all to listen, and I continue to urge us to do that. I also want to urge us toward tending relationships that are right and just. Our personal relationships and the structures of society that our lives are built upon. God created diverse humans, equally in God’s image. God has called us to be in right relationships, loving and mutually giving relationships, just as God is Three in one. Genesis’ creation story tells us that we all bear God’s image, and also that we depend on all the creation God has made, these are part of an even larger web of mutual care and love, for humans, for all of God’s creation.
Jesus told his disciples to continue growing the community of believers in this community God, and promised that as they did so, he would always be present.
We see from Genesis that it was God’s intention to make us that way, as we study Scripture and the doctrine of the Trinity we see that God made us that way because that is how God is. Giving and receiving love in a beautiful dance. And that beautiful blessing- the grace of Christ, the love of God, the communion of the Holy Spirit- each person of the Trinity gives us a gift in this blessing, and it is all so that we can more perfectly bear that image of God we have been given, in loving, graceful, community relationship with one another.
may it be so, amen.