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Recent Sermons

Why Trinity is Still Unity

Rev. Kristi Denham
Congregational Church of Belmont
June 11, 2017

“Holy, Holy, Holy, God the Almighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity!” I love this song! It makes Christianity sound so clear, so strong. Today is Trinity Sunday, a good day to contemplate this tenant of our faith. But what does it mean and does it have anything to do with us?

Matthew makes it sound so clear, so absolute. These last words of his gospel take the disciples back to the mountain top, back to where it all began for them with the Sermon on the Mount.

Some worship him, some doubt, and Matthew wants them to do the first and resist the later; but we know our questions make us more honest and stronger in our connection to the sacred. Jesus tells them all authority rests with him, and by extension that authority is with us, his brothers and sisters. And he asks them to make disciples of all nations and to baptize them in the three names of God: The Creator (who is Father, and Mother, and founder of the Universe), and the Son (the Christ, Son of Humanity, our sacred being, we are all sons and daughters of God), and the Holy Spirit (the pure essence within all life).

He asks us to teach all to obey, to remember, to live out the law of love, the great commandment! We resist obeying anyone, even Jesus, even our own best selves, but when we remember that this commandment is truly the law of love that lives within us and literally creates us, we may choose to say Yes! And this becomes possible because of the last words: “Know that I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” We are not alone. Ever!

The word Trinity isn’t found anywhere in the Bible. It’s a theological word and I’ve never been crazy about theology. Talking about God, explaining God, is too abstract. I want to live my relationship with the sacred. I want it to show in the way I care for people.

But what we think about God can have a huge impact on how we live out our faith. Your God can be too small, too literal, too “out there” to care.  You might think that God doesn’t want to be bothered with the details of your life. You might think Jesus was crazy when he said God knows and cares about every hair on your head, every thing you do. You might think it is wrong to pray for parking spaces!

Your God might just be a “Prime mover” who started the         universe and then stepped back to watch us mess it up. Or your God might be harsh and judgmental, counting your faults, requiring constant confession.

The Bible is a book full of stories about how people thought about and related to God. It sometimes reveals that people fear God, or expect God’s wrath to fall on their enemies, or that bad experiences are a punishment. But Jesus revealed a different image of God, one that goes all the way back to the book of Genesis when God created the world and called it Good.

In Genesis God is called Elohim, which is a plural name for God. From the very beginning, God has been Gods!

What I like best about the idea of Trinity (besides the fact that it takes me out of my left brain logic    and expands my mind to beyond my mind!) is that Trinity is God as Community. God’s very nature is Love and love needs someone to love.

Richard Rohr puts it this way: “The Mystery of God as Trinity invites us into full participation with God, a flow, a relationship, a waterwheel of always outpouring love. Trinity basically says that God is a verb much more than a noun. Some     Christian mystics taught that all of creation is being taken back into this flow of eternal life,”

It feels perfect to celebrate Recognition Sunday on Trinity Sunday, because today we have acknowledged all the ways we work together to serve the church and the wider world. We are wildly diverse in what we think and believe. Our gifts are as unique as we are. And together we use them to care for and teach our children, make amazing music, practice our faith and teach each other from our experiences. The church isn’t the church with just a minister, or a choir director. We need each other. We need our wider world. We need air, and water, and nourishment.

Science tells us we are connected to each other. Reality is more than just a random collection of molecules thrown together to surprisingly create life. And life is more than a beating heart, or a food processing machine.
I’m reading a wonderful collection of writings by Marcus Borg          called “Days of Awe and Wonder: How to be a Christian in the 21st Century,” where he challenges us to move beyond our materialist understanding of reality. He speaks of “Panentheism,” another theological word that I learned in seminary that literally means Everything in God! He asks: “What is reality? Is it simply the space-time world of matter and energy as disclosed by ordinary sense perception and contemporary science? Or is it suffused by a “more,” a radiant and glorious more?”

If you have ever had a moment of awe, ever felt at one with the mystery of being; if you can imagine a connection beyond logic with all that exists,  then perhaps you know the beginnings of mystical experience, perhaps you know the God that Jesus embodied and longed for us to trust is always with us, even to the end of the age!

On Saturday afternoon when I was driving the grandkids home to my place to spend the night, Audrey and I were having a conversation about life. I asked her if she could imagine the Big Bang. She said, You mean the show on television? I said, No, the very beginning of the universe? Can you imagine being there? She thought about it for a minute, and then, being a very scientific minded child (she wants to study biology and get science stuff for her birthday), she said, Yes!

I said, I think your spirit was there with all of creation in that moment. I told her I think we are all a part of everything and everything is a part of us.

Neal deGrasse Tyson was on tv last week and lifted up a cup of        water and told us that there are more molecules in that cup of water          than all the drops of water in every ocean in the world; that ultimately as we breathe we are taking in air that was breathed in by every other life form over time. In a way science is catching up with spirituality on this point. Nothing ever really dies.
        
My dear dog Lois died recently and Audrey and Esben just found out about it this weekend and were deeply sad. Lois had lived with them for the last two years but when they moved, she went to live with my friend Rodger, and died last month. I told Audrey I thought that Lois was such a happy and joyful animal and had grown so old and tired in her 14 year old body that she was ready to let it go, that her spirit was now free.
Audrey said, “I know Mommy and Daddy don’t believe what you believe, but it sounds really nice to me.” I said, it isn’t important to believe anything in particular, but you can imagine Lois is free and happy now, just as you can imagine the Big Bang. And that might help.

What we think about God matters, it can help us transform our thoughts into actions. When we practice seeing the sacred in every human being we encounter, it becomes possible to treat them with the compassion and patience we want for ourselves.

Loving God’s Spirit in those who deny that Spirt, who live for greed and treat life as a tool rather than as sacred, is the most challenging test of this sacred calling. We may have to stand against evil even as we work to see the sacred spirit still in there somewhere. The Mystery is evolving as more and more of us see this sacred responsibility to all of life.

God as Trinity tells me that God literally lives within you. When I honor you with kindness and generosity, I am honoring God, and I am caring not only for you, but for myself. We are one in spirit, God’s trinity is unity. Love is all there is. May it be so!