Sunday, June 03, 2007

Holy Wisdom

It’s Trinity Sunday - the day when we celebrate God in three persons. The Trinity has been problematic for Christians from the beginning. Scholars and theologians argue over how the Trinity works, exactly. Members of other faiths say that our insistence on the existence of the Trinity means we are really worshipping three Gods, that we’re not really monotheistic as we say we are. And then there’s the task of trying to understand the trinity for you and me. I’ve told the story before of the young woman who asked me to explain the Trinity during her coffee break from work. It simply can’t be done. People have been trying to explain it for nearly 2,000 years. Alexander Campbell, one of the founders of the Disciples, served as a minister in the Baptist church for a while until they invited him to leave because he just wasn’t orthodox enough for them in his understanding of the Trinity. Many of my clergy sisters and brothers won’t preach on the Trinity - some don’t consider themselves Trinitarian at all. And that’s ok - as Disciples we get to agree to disagree on the finer points of theology, we aren’t held to a creed, a statement of belief that we all agree on.

In one of the versions of the Doxology, instead of singing “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” the words are “Creator, Christ and Holy Ghost.” I was told by one of my seminary professors that these words - Creator, Christ and Holy Ghost - weren’t Trinitarian, that use of these words somehow denied the Trinity. It seems to me that he was limiting his understanding of God by limiting the range of the words he would use to describe God. People do that, you know. Try to limit God to something within the range of our very small understanding. Theologians argue over the specific ways we are supposed to understand the Trinity - they put limitations on what is or is not accepted, orthodox belief. They say “Jesus is divine in just this way and no other” or “these are things God can and cannot do” or “The Spirit is limited to this and that kind of action.” Instead of seeing Three in One, they try to make the One into Three as if there were walls between the different aspects within God.

Naturally, We think of the Trinity as a purely Christian concept. Yet, according to Scripture - Old Testament and New - The Trinity - God in three persons - has existed since the very beginning. Genesis tells us that God created - with a Word. God said “Let there be Light” and there was. God spoke the Word and a universe sprang into being - earth, sky, waters, stars, moon, and sun. God said “let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness. . .” To whom was God speaking? Many scholars believe that God was speaking to Godself - Creator, Word and Spirit. “so God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them” and breathed the breath of life into them, filling them with God’s own Spirit. Creator - Word - Spirit - all present together from the beginning. Named in that order in Genesis, just as in our understanding of Trinity we speak of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In our daily lives we turn to each of these three persons in different ways, for different reasons.

We give thanks to God - Creator, Parent, provider of the earth‘s bounty. We say grace at our meals, ask a blessing on whatever we’re doing, maybe stand and just look - at a perfect flower, at a baby - and know that the miracle of life can happen only through a power so great we can’t even guess at what it must be like. On Sundays we come here to worship God. In the Bible we study the works of God, and God’s Word as taught us by Jesus. We speak to God as a child speaks to a parent, asking for blessings, asking for help with daily life. When things go well, we say “Thank God” or we might say “Thank you Jesus!“ But when things go wrong in life, we don’t say “Jesus why did you do this, or Spirit, why did you do this?“ We turn to God in anger or frustration or pain, even as Jesus did on the cross, saying “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And God is there, always there,

Spirit - the guide, the feeling - the one who helps us understand and remember the Word that Jesus brought us. The still small voice that speaks to us as we make decisions and choices. The breath of life within each of us, that helps us turn toward God, toward blessing and life. The feeling that rises within us when worship is just right, when the words to a prayer touch our hearts in a particular way, when music lifts us up beyond normal experience, when we are moved to act in a way we normally wouldn’t. The Spirit doesn’t get a lot of attention most of the time. And yet, the Spirit is part of our daily life. There’s a news article from a Christian news source I’d like to share with you about the Spirit. (Read article from Lark)

Mike may go a little beyond “Normal” in his relationship with Holy Spirit. Most of us don’t walk around having a latte with the Holy Spirit. But in each of us, in every human, there exists that breath of life that is God’s Spirit, present from humanity’s very beginning.

The Word - Holy Wisdom
Hear the words from the Book of Proverbs that describe Wisdom, and the part Wisdom played in creation (Read Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31)

Lady Wisdom, the Word, present at the creation, part of God from the beginning and always. Some 2000 years ago a child was born, and into that Child God poured wisdom - filling him with the Word - with full knowledge of God’s ways, God’s desires for his children, God’s forgiveness and unconditional love. John’s Gospel begins with a description of the Word, similar to the words from Proverbs “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That Word became flesh in Jesus, the Christ. How was the Word made flesh? I don’t know. I don’t much care about the mechanics of it. I just believe it to be true. Not that Jesus, the human being, was present at the creation, but that the Word which was present became imbedded in Jesus that he might teach us, that we might come to know God as he does.

We turn to Jesus, to the Word, for knowledge - for an understanding of God’s will for humanity. We find this Word in Scripture, in the words and actions of Jesus. We use the Word, the teachings we have received, to guide our lives and actions. We turn to Jesus for His understanding of human pain and joy and sorrow, to stand beside us in good times and bad. We know that Jesus lives, eternally, in and with God, The Word of God made flesh.

Today we celebrate the Trinity - we celebrate God’s presence and action in the world and in our lives through Creation, Life Giving Spirit and Wisdom. Let us invite the Spirit to be part of us as we sing of Wisdom’s part in all of this.

Hymn: Holy Wisdom


Mother Laura said...

Oh, Rev. Maria, this is so wonderful. Thank you for preaching it and thank you for posting it. And thanks again for the Holy Wisdom hymn--I ended up ordering the hymnal because that and so many other wonderful songs were in it!

Thanks also for the Mother's Day sermon, which is excellent--so much better to address the pain than try to avoid it, IMHO. If you posted a link to Preacher Party then I missed it so I was so glad to have it now.

I would love to visit your church someday -- I have never been to a Disciples service and always wanted to. If you'd be comfortable with that could you please email me at laura AT grimes dot and let me know where you are in SoCal and if your church has a website?


Mrs. M said...

I couldn't finish reading this, because I was so flummoxed by the idea that using "Creator" instead of "Father" ruined the trinitarian nature of the doxology.

Beyond baffled over here. And this man is teaching other people?!? (I have to say, it explains a lot about The Church...)

rev maria said...

Sorry to hear that, Mrs. M. That does happen with sermons tho. Sometimes you lose the listener because they hear one phrase that upsets them and they are unable to hear anything else that's said.

Mother Laura, I can't wait to have you come visit!