John 16: 12-15
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer.” Amen
Today is Trinity Sunday, our only major feast day dedicated to a doctrine. Which, given the decidedly un-doctrinal nature of the Episcopal Church, seems odd. We are, after all, best known for being centered in our worship, held together around our sacraments, despite our vast diversity. Of course doctrines in general point beyond themselves. They help us express something that otherwise we can’t quite get words around, in this case God’s very being. The thing is that God is beyond our rational capacity to fully describe or understand. All our explanations fall short of God’s essential mystery even while we continue to be lured into that holy mystery. At the same time though, isn’t God fully within our capacity to experience? I think it’s fair to say that our language about God springs from our experience of God’s activity. So what about our experience of God?
I remember a favorite hike of mine in the wilderness area above Libby. From the trailhead it’s a steep climb through the forest. The trail winds through dense old trees as it follows a creek. Early in the morning it’s cool on that part of the trail and the creek sings a kind of hymn to creation. Then the trail pulls away and it’s a scramble up and over a steep rocky pitch, the singing of the creek fades and the wind creates it’s own song of praise threading through trees that while stunted and twisted cling tenaciously to the mountainside. Then suddenly, the trail breaks over a rocky ledge into a green meadow. You can turn then and look back, down over the sparkling lake that provides the headwaters of the creek almost to the trailhead itself. But turn around, look up across that meadow. Your eye will follow the ridge, up and almost, but not quite, to the peak of Dome Mountain. Trinity Sunday is a bit like that point along the trail. We pause here and look beyond Jesus’ life and teaching back toward his, and our, grounding in God. Then we turn and look up, along the ridge line so to speak, and catch just a glimpse of our ultimate home, our being in God. In short, we look, as best we can at our experience of God and we name God: Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, Father, Son, and spirit. Holy Mystery. The thing is, even as committed Christians, we never can quite see the totality of God. Like that trail in the mountains we can catch glimpses. Without ever entirely seeing the whole we know the whole is there. We experience it in brief moments strung together like beads on a string. Today our lessons help us to focus on God’s being rather than God’s doing. Did you notice? The readings provide us with a set of visions, more icon than drama. They reaffirm that the notion of God as Trinity is not so much a hard and fast doctrine but a mystery, always just beyond our grasp. Two things to remember about Scripture, first it captures and reflects the experience of our faith ancestors who knew God as living and active in their lives. In addition it provides a doorway that opens wide to draw us upward and onward, deeper into God’s being. There is no doubt that Scriptures reveal a God who holds the power of all creation. Just read that lesson from Proverbs. The voice of wisdom speaks, describing those first moments in the ongoing drama of creation. At the same time though, God is also up close and personal. Listen to the hymn of praise that is our Psalm. Listen to that reading from Romans. Did you hear how reassuringly Jesus spoke to his disciples in our Gospel lesson? God comes as Holy Spirit and remains with us, guiding us, supporting us, and, calling us forth. Beyond that, unbelievable as it might seem, God does not seem to look for perfect people to carry out the divine will. Certainly we have heard again and again about Jesus’ first followers. That they were far from perfect is abundantly clear. And yet, remember all those stories from Acts we’ve heard recently? Those disciples were filled with power just as Jesus promised. Here is one of the most profound mysteries of God. We each carry a spark of God’s creative fire in our deepest being. That divine spark, fanned into holy fire, is there for a purpose. It ignites us to do God’s work with gladness and singleness of heart. And we are sent forth rejoicing in the power of the spirit. We are, week by week, sent out through the doors of this church into a world that badly needs the signs of God’s holy presence that only we can offer. We are sent forth to love and serve the Lord in others who are looking for the vitality and fullness of life that only God can provide. This week my meditations led me to a quote from a favorite preacher, priest, and author, Barbara Brown Taylor. She says this: "What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth. My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I can give them. My life depends on ignoring all touted distinctions between the secular and the sacred, the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul. What is saving my life now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world." For my part, I experience God in grass dancing on the wind, and in rain splashing down onto dusty ground and call God, Father, Mother, Creator. I experience God in friends willing to celebrate with me, or needing me to celebrate with them and call God friend, brother, redeemer. I experience God in worship, in bread and wine shared at our common table and in the words that send us forth week by week and call God guide, sanctifier, Holy Spirit. How do you experience God? Where do you encounter that holy mystery? It’s not an idle question at all. Your answer influences your deepest belief and behavior. Why not spend some time in the coming week sitting with these questions. Where does God flash with creation in your life? Where does God move with compassion to redeem your very being? And then, having looked back at your grounding in God, look ahead. How might God, through the power of the Holy Spirit draw you on, moving through you to show God’s love in your actions and establishing God’s justice in this place? Amen