Holy Trinity Sunday may be just what our world needs now. As surprising as it may seem, this festival of the Holy Trinity, may be just what we need, now.
Holy Trinity proclaims God to be beyond our human imaginings and words. As we strive in every language to fathom and speak of the divine, the eternal, of God as Trinity, our words, our visions, long lists of Biblical images, all fall short, cannot capture, hold, imagine the height and depth and breadth of God. And at the same time, the Holy Trinity proposes and proclaims a God in intimate loving relationship within the unity of God’s self and all that is, with all creation from the microscopic to the cosmic, and with each one of us and all humanity together. God so beyond us to be worthy of our prayer and praise, our faith and hope. God so intimately in relationship within and with all that is, that nothing is beyond, everything is held in the loving unity of the Triune God. Is this the Triune God of awe and wonder, of intimate love, that we need now.
I had a moment this week of that awe and wonder. Or more rightly said, a moment I noticed, that surely is always there if I am opened to it, slowed down enough, silent enough for it to break in. From a campsite, walking with family down to the shoreline of Miracle Beach – rightly named, looking out over the ocean, a place some of us had been together over 25 years before. Feeling the wind. Seeing the distant mountains across the strait. Watching and hearing the waves as birds fly above them. And being quiet and quite captivated and moved by the beauty and majesty of it all, in words that fail me now to describe it. And then to have the embrace of a child. In this case a grandchild. A hug as only children can. As though their life depended on it. Only for a moment. But to hold and relish and savour that moment. And both the awe and wonder, the power and beauty before me, and the intimate embrace, the love held by a child, all together. Is this what the Holy Trinity is? Awe and wonder and intimate loving embrace, all together, and what we and the world most need now?
The Thanksgiving Prayer at Holy Communion that we have used through Easter and up to today, the Amen prayer, that prays that God grant us life, and our saying, shouting, and pleading, Amen, in response, ends with these words:
O God most majestic, O God most motherly, O God our strength and our song, you show us a vision of a tree of life with fruits for all and leaves that heal the nations. Grant us such life, the life of the Father to the Son, the life of the Spirit of our risen Saviour, life in you, now and forever. Amen.
The Holy Trinity’s life, “most majestic, most motherly… our strength and our song” a vision of a tree of life, like in the first garden before, but now, at God’s end of time, a tree with fruits for all and leaves that heal the nations. Grant us such life, the life of the Father/Mother, to the Child, the life of the Spirit of our risen Saviour, life in you, now and forever. Isn’t this the life of the Holy Trinity, most majestic, most motherly, our strength and our song, that we, that our world, most needs now?
As I watch and read the daily news of the devastation in Ukraine, aware of ongoing wars and famines in other nations and regions that are no longer making daily news, but with no less suffering; and acknowledging this is but one example of the crises facing our world and faced by many individually and in families and communities, including for some of you; and in the face of the overwhelming violence and destruction and suffering and sadness and need - I need to believe, to have faith in, God beyond my knowing. God who is God over all the earth and all peoples. God who brings life out of death. God who turns suffering to joy, mourning into dancing. God of awe-full power and might over all of this. And I need to believe, as I witness the individuals wounded and torn and taken by this violence and suffering and death, in a God who is personally, intimately, lovingly, compassionately, transformatively, embracing each suffering one. God most majestic, God most motherly. God our strength and our song. Is the Holy Trinity, majestic beyond our imagining and words, motherly and tender as the embrace with a child, exactly the God we need to have faith in, hope in, now?
In beautiful words, Paul writes in Romans: 1Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Words most fitting for Holy Trinity, God most majestic, justifying by faith, in peace with God through Christ Jesus, giving access to the grace in which we stand and boast of sharing in the glory of God. And God most motherly, in our sufferings, in endurance and character and hope, hope that does not disappoint, because God’s mothering love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. This is God, Holy Trinity, most majestic, most motherly, Creator, Saviour, Spirit of Life, to have faith and hope in, in every circumstance of our lives and world, now and always.
In The Book of Joy, that I have spoken of before, one focus of my sabbatical reading, the co-author describes a scene at the airport as Archbishop Desmond Tutu arrives for a week-long visit with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. Following shared traditional greetings and affectionate and humorous words and gestures for one another, the following happens: The Dalai Lama held the Archbishop's hand up to his cheek. "So now we go to my home." As we walked out of the airport, the media crowded around the two leaders and shouted questions about the Archbishop's trip. The Archbishop stopped to answer, and to use the attention of the media to shine a spotlight on injustice. He spoke as the clicks of cameras peppered his comments. "I am so glad to be with my dear friend. Often things and people try to keep us apart, but the love that we have for each other and the goodness of God's universe ensures that we shall meet. The first time that the South African government refused him a visa - when he was going to come to my eightieth birthday - I asked him, 'How many divisions do you have in your army? Why is China scared of you?' And that is what surprises me - maybe they are right - a spiritual leader is something that should be taken very seriously. We hope that God's world will become a better place, more hospitable to goodness, more hospitable to compassion, more hospitable to generosity, more hospitable to living together so we don't have what is happening now between Russia and the Ukraine, or what is happening with ISIS, or what is happening in Kenya or Syria. They make God weep." The Archbishop turned to leave but then paused again as another journalist asked about the purpose of his trip. "We are together just to enjoy our friendship and to talk about joy."
There is something most majestic, especially in the constant striving for justice and peace in the face of suffering, exile, racism, and death ever near, about these two great world spiritual leaders and their relationship to one another. And there is something most motherly, so tender and human and genuine and innocent and playful and joy-filled about them and their relationship together. I am not suggesting that with their co-author Douglas Abrams they are a Holy Trinity of any sort. That would surely make them laugh! But an example, a metaphor, among many others, of the majestic and motherly, the awe-filled wonder and the intimate love of a relationship to God/the divine that we yearn for, our hope and joy, our strength and our song.
The first song we sang today from the new resource All Creation Sings, proclaims this God, in many names:
Vs. 1 Source and Sov'reign, Rock and Cloud, Fortress, Fountain, Shelter, Light, Judge, Defender, Mercy, Might, Life whose life all life endowed:
Refrain: May the church at prayer recall that no single holy name but the truth behind them all is the God whom we proclaim.
Vs. 2 Word and Wisdom, Root and Vine, Shepherd, Saviour, Servant, Lamb, Well and Water, Bread and Wine, Way who leads us to I AM: Refrain
Vs. 3 Storm and Stillness, Breath and Dove, Thunder, Tempest, Whirlwind, Fire, Comfort, Couns'lor, Presence, Love, Energies that never tire: Refrain
Holy God, Holy Trinity, by many names and images, awesome and wonderful and majestic and mighty, intimate and tender, motherly and loving, and beyond them all, is the God Jesus revealed to us in life and death and risen life; and the Holy Sprit dwelling within us and all creation, continues to show us and lead us to sharing in love for and with this world, for life granted to us, in suffering and joy, life to feed and hold and heal all, life as the Creator to the Child, as to the Spirit of resurrection, life in the Holy Trinity, now and forever. Life in God that is our Wisdom, our hope. God as we need and long for, one Holy Trinity of love, to live this same courage and love for our neighbour, now and always. Let it be so. In all our relations. Amen.