The Rev. Peggy E. Schnack
Trinity Sunday, Year C
June 16, 2019
If I asked you to draw me a picture of God, what would you draw?
It is not an easy question to answer, and probably an even harder picture to draw. Why? Because we have been taught to describe God in human terms, but when we think about it, those terms do not really make sense when describing the Creator. Maybe it is not about an image, maybe it is about a feeling, an action, or even better, a relationship.
The Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Great Interferer. The Alpha and Omega. God.
I am not going to stand up here and try to explain to you the mystery of the Holy Trinity. In my experience, any analogy that has been created illustrates the Trinity while putting God into the box of our own human language and understanding. So instead we are going to talk about how we experience God. We are going to celebrate God instead of trying to explain God.
Using the language of the Trinity allows us to name our experiences with God in different ways because there are many ways to experience the presence of who God is. Some people connect with the image of Father or Mother, others with the humanity of Jesus, and others with the action of the Spirit. God is at work in the world, and using Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, gives us some kind of framework and language to describe who we believe God to be.
As I sat in the Memorial Garden working on notes for this sermon, I was reminded of the different ways I can relate to God just by pausing and spending a few moments observing what was around me. The three stones: the Trinity. The circle: no beginning and no end. The names of those whose ashes are buried there: the fragility of human life, the tomb and resurrection of Jesus. Blue sky, sunshine, and growing things: Creator, Father, Mother. Wind and reminders of the teachings of Jesus: the Holy Spirit.
According to the Catechism of the Episcopal Church, found in your Book of Common Prayer beginning on page 846, Jesus shows us the true nature of God. So let’s look at what Jesus showed us through his life and teachings. Jesus taught and modeled love, compassion, and respect for all. He got angry when people were not respecting each other or God, and he healed and taught at great personal risk. Why? Because Jesus shows the true nature of God, which is, above all else, Love.
Our Gospel reading today tells us that the Spirit reminds us what Jesus taught and gives us new insight into what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Said another way, Jesus taught love, the spirit reminds us of those teachings, because let’s face it, we all get distracted and need reminders, and all reflect back to the nature of the Father.
In the 9:30 family service I use the image of God is Love so often that I can ask the congregation, “What is God?”, and they will respond, “God is Love!” But, what is Love? Love is a relationship. So for God to be love, God is relationship. God is God through relationship. Similarly, we are Christians through relationship. Relationship with each other, relationship with God, relationship with the earth. Jesus said that people would know his followers by their love for one another, so it is not strictly a condition of the heart to be a Christian. It is an action. It is a relationship. In his book, Mysteries of Faith, Mark McIntosh says:
“…as Christians we become persons whose sense of self emerges out of our common journey with others, our life of mutual giving and receiving. So the Christian life is a journey from baptism into our new identity toward a deeper discovery of who we really are by means of our relationship with God and one another” (McIntosh, Mark. Mysteries of Faith. 32-33).
God is God, God is love, and God is relationship. But why would God care about puny me? As put by our psalmist, “what is man that you should be mindful of him?” I like what theologian N.T. Wright has to say on the subject. Discussing a radio show he had heard he says:
“‘All those millions and millions of people out there,’ she said, ‘and here he is watching me tie up my shoelace!’ Put like that , of course, it seems absurd; and yet the absurdity lies in the attempt to picture God as just like us only a bit bigger and more all-seeing. The God of the Bible is more mysterious by a long way. He is the creator of the world, transcendent over and above his creation, and yet, because his very nature is love, it is (as we might say) completely natural for him to establish personal, one-to-one relations with every single one of us. Natural for him, maybe; it certainly doesn’t seem natural for us” (Wright, N.T., Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part 1, 82).
Just because it is not natural for us, or it is beyond our imagination to understand how that can possibly work out in reality, does not make it untrue. God is beyond our imagination, yet God knows us and God is, as author William P. Young says in his novel The Shack, “especially fond” of each and every one of us.
Yes, God is especially fond of you. And everyone else: your neighbor who doesn’t cut their grass as often as you would like, the politician you aren’t fond of, the immigrant, refugee, person experiencing homelessness, drug addict, pop-culture star, gang banger, the person who cut you off in traffic. God is especially fond of each and every one of us. So when you look into someone’s face, you are looking at someone who God is especially fond of. Are you especially fond of them? How could you open your heart to the possibility of loving them as a beloved child of God?
An influx of asylum seekers are arriving in Maine. As they arrive on busses, they are being given shelter at the Expo Center in Portland, for now. What does shelter mean? It means a roof over their head, three meals a day, and a cot in a gym type space. They are homeless, and not allowed to work for six months. They are hoping and praying for someone to have compassion on them, to see them as God sees them. Our bishop and bishop-elect have made a statement about responding to this humanitarian crisis, “No doubt we all have feelings about this, but welcoming the stranger is not about politics or policy right now. This is about doing what Jesus would have us do: taking care of people in need… the “least of these” that Jesus spoke about are right in front of us.”
The needs of these people are immediate and they are not going to become any less in days to come. Financial support is the best way to help right now. If you want to help, please see the letter from the bishop that I have printed in the Great Hall.
God is love. God is relationship. I invite you to consider your relationships with God and those around you and see how you might use the example that Jesus set to show that love to the world. God loves you. No exceptions.