Dancing with Trinity

+ A sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday (Year C) at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Bellevue, WA on June 16, 2019 +

Text: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15

Each Sunday as I drive to church I listen to NPR’s Weekend Edition.
Sometimes I hear interviews with influential people, sometimes I learn something from interesting stories, sometimes I hear about news events that become a last minute addition to our prayers of intercession, and sometimes I just tune out and let the radio serve as background noise as I’m finalizing bits of my sermon.
But it’s become a ritual of sorts that I catch the Sunday Puzzle each week. npr-sunday-puzzle
Does anyone else listen to the puzzle?
I remember listening to it as a kid and now I do my best not to miss it on my Sunday morning drive.
If you’ve not heard it, it’s a weekly segment when the editor of the New York Times Crossword, Will Shortz, comes on air and plays word puzzle games with callers.
Then he gives a weekly puzzle and if you get it right you may be selected to be on the next week’s show.
So yeah, I like to play along each week because, well, I like puzzles.

And I know I’m not alone.
Who here likes puzzles?
Crosswords, watching Jeopardy, jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, whatever.
Or maybe it’s not puzzles, maybe it’s something else, but I think there’s an innate human desire to solve problems.
It’s the drive that stretches from babies trying to figure out the world around them to landing Apollo 11 on the moon.
It’s the instinct that pushes us to build Legos and construct buildings that reach into the sky.
It’s what makes us read mystery novels and probe the secrets of the atom.
I think we as humans like to solve problems, I think it helps us feel like we’re in control, like we have a mastery over something.
And so perhaps it’s not surprising that scholars and theologians have spent centuries trying to solve the greatest mystery of them all: the nature of God.

Which brings us to this strange Sunday we celebrate today.
While nearly every festival on our liturgical calendar commemorates an event in the life of Jesus or remembers a great person of faith, today we celebrate a doctrine.

The First Council of Nicaea

We celebrate our attempt to comprehend the divine mystery, how a group of men gathered together in the 4th Century to determine what understanding of God would be orthodox and what would be condemned as heretical.
And so our ancestors in faith give us this strange and beautiful doctrine that we call the Holy Trinity—that we worship one God in Three Persons, the Three-in-One and One-in-Three.
And what a doctrine it is.
This confusing and convoluted assertion that attempts to explain the grandeur of the divine.
This belief so hard to fully explain that I sometimes think it was designed to trap unwitting seminarians into heresy.

So it’s on days like this one that I take solace in that quote from St. Augustine, “If you have been able to comprehend [something], it is not God.”
Because our God is not a puzzle—or at least not one that we could ever hope to solve.
Our God is greater than anything we can hope to comprehend and even the best doctrines and formulas we can craft can only hope to capture a glimmer of God’s glory; can only explain part of what we can never hope to fully understand in this life.
So rather than trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity or to come up with some metaphor that may help us understand this mystery, let’s instead explore what this idea can tell us about our God and how our scripture can help us imagine the divine.

It’s always interesting to see which texts our lectionary assigns for this Sunday because none of the scripture writers would have known what the doctrine of the Trinity would be.
Even so, in each of today’s readings we can see the beauty of our triune God.
We hear Jesus tell us how the Spirit will speak God’s truth to us and will glorify God in us.
The Apostle Paul tells us about the peace of God that we share through Christ and how the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
And then we have this beautiful description of Lady Wisdom from Proverbs.
And while the author probably didn’t have our understanding of the Holy Spirit in mind while writing this text, Christians have long identified the Spirit with the personification of Wisdom in this wonderful account of God’s creating the world.
We hear how Wisdom took delight in creation, especially in the creation of humanity, and how God took delight in her.
And while our English translation tells us that God brought forth this Wisdom and like a master worker created the world with and through her, the original Hebrew gives a different impression.
In the Hebrew we find a sense of dancing.
This isn’t some dour, grumpy God building the world, but a God who delights in dancing, whose Spirit dances around and throughout creation, who is crafting all things through a jovial love.

But most of all, these scriptures and this doctrine that we celebrate today speak to us of something so beautiful: a deep and abiding relationship.
The relationship that is inherent in a God who is three persons in one. matisse_dancers1-edited
An eternal dance that started before the foundations of the earth and stretches into infinity.
A relationship that is rooted in pure love, pure life, and overflows from itself to enliven the whole creation.
Yes, our triune God gives us a vision of the most intimate relationship imaginable, of what is possible, what can stem from a community based purely in love; how it empowers life and creation and mutuality and even dancing.
And we know that for our God, the community of the Trinity is not enough, that God invites us and the whole creation into the full, complete, and life-giving relationship that is shared between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, that we too are invited to be part of this perfect community.
Our God wants us to know God, but not through doctrine alone.
God reveals Godself to us through the prophets and scripture, through water and bread and wine, through the display of God’s love for us on the cross, and in the community we share.
The fellowship here at Holy Cross and the fellowship we have with all humanity, all creation.
God invites us to be part of this fellowship, this community that is modeled for us by the Three-in-One.

twitter_trinitysundaySo on this Trinity Sunday, perhaps we don’t try to fully comprehend this doctrine, but try to experience it.
Perhaps we don’t try to explain God, but allow ourselves to marvel at the mystery.
Perhaps we don’t try to parse how the Three-in-One and One-in-Three can be, but instead try to emulate God’s example in our lives.
Because while our doctrine will always be deficient, we can know God in each other.
While we may never fully understand the divine mystery, we can see God through loving community.
While we may never be able to solve the puzzle of God on our own, we can emulate the beautiful relationship we see in our Triune God and allow that deep peace, that abiding love, and that everlasting life to overflow into our lives, into our community, and into the whole creation.
We are invited to join the dance of the Trinity, the dance that brought life to the world, the dance that pours love into our hearts, the dance that marvels and delights in creation.
So join in the dance, my friends.
Because this is a dance that’s meant to be shared and is so much more fun than dancing alone.


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