Sermon Archives

Sunday, May 22, 2016
Trinity Sunday, Year C
The Reverend Vicki Hesse, Associate
Dynamic Hope

In the name of the Triune God. Amen.

Today is Trinity Sunday [– or Saturday, as the case may be. What does the Holy Trinity mean to you?] Trinity Sunday is a principal feast in TEC, but is not, for most Christians, a day of great importance.  The Trinity, does not hold evoke any particular tradition nor holiday around which families gather. There is no “Trinity Sunday” mattress sale, either. The doctrine of the Trinity might be considered contrived and irrelevant. 

Ah, but what lies behind the Trinity (that we say in the Nicene Creed), is perhaps the most dynamic and hopeful aspect of our faith. Episcopal Priest & Mystic Cynthia Bourgeault offers this story about why:

She recounts this story of her friend Murat, who, during the years after WWII, was ranching in eastern Turkey. During this time, he became friends with an elderly couple nearby – sharing the occasional meal and exchanging news.  Murat learned about the couple’s only son who had left years before to move to Istanbul and they lamented their lack of communication with him. One day, Murat came to the house and the couple was “bursting with joy” about the new tea cupboard their son had sent them from Istanbul. 

They had just set their best tea set on the upper shelf when he arrived.  Murat was polite but curious. 

“Are you sure it is a tea cupboard?”  They were sure. As they shared tea, he wondered aloud if he could have a closer look. With their permission, he turned the cupboard around and unscrewed a couple of packing boards. When the cabinet doors swung open, a fully operative ham radio set appeared. This “tea cupboard,” sent to connect them to their son, was only being used to display their tea set.

Bourgeault proposes that this is how we Christians have been using the Trinity.  In theological tea cupboard, we display our “doctrinal” china in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is not bad, just as using the cupboard for showing off the tea set was not bad. 

But, what if, Bourgeault wonders, inside is concealed the most powerful communications tool – connecting us to the visible & invisible world, allowing us to navigate what she calls “theological blockages,” and enthusing us with the dynamic framework of Jesus’ teachings?  We need to turn the tea cupboard around and look inside. For embedded in this dry doctrine of the Trinity (that we recite nearly automatically) is a powerful metaphysical principle that can rekindle our visionary imagination and more. 

Bourgeault’s excellent book “The Holy Trinity”[1] describes the power of the Trinity, a kinetic, overspilling energy flowing between of Father-Son-Holy Spirit. She teaches about the mystical “Law of Three” where any interweaving of three always creates a fourth. Just as three strands of hair creates a braid, the mystical forces of God dynamically affirm (in the Father who creates), then deny (in Jesus’ kenosis or emptying of self), then resolve (through the Holy Spirit’s presence)… and through this relationship, a fourth creation always becomes.

In today’s Gospel message, Jesus asserts this triune mystery when he says, “Everything the Father has is mine” and “*that* is the reason WHY the Holy Spirit takes from me and will report it to you.[2]”  In this relationship between the Spirit, the Father and Jesus, a fourth, new way of being emerged in that community gathered with him there. If you listen to the words carefully, you can almost hear Jesus’ southern accent, “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide y’all into all the truth…” and “…he will declare to y’all the things that are to come.”

For the community gathered around Jesus on the eve of his death, this teaching was hard to “bear.” They did not comprehend the way Jesus referred to his impending suffering and death.  They could not bear his call to service and forgiveness.

And so it is with every Christian community – Jesus often says more than we can bear, regarding the meaning of his words, his ministry, his death and resurrection. We Christians are still far from grasping the whole “truth.” Sometimes it is more than we can bear to give sacrificially, to serve as he serves us, and to love unconditionally has he loves us. Yet, through the promised Trinity found in this gospel message today, that community was infused of at least a morsel of openness towards the capacity to “bear” it and towards fresh encounters yet to come. The gospel writer used these words to shape a community that was Spirit-led, to inspire a community that was not locked into the past and to encourage a community that engaged their context.

And so it is for us. 

Jesus knew that 21st century circumstances and difficult new questions requires our community to think with at least a morsel of Holy Spirit openness to not turn away but engage and discover those “fourth” solutions… for the complicated moral and ethical questions like climate change or stem cell research or poverty or illiteracy or poison water or mental illness or economic justice.

This Trinitarian gospel proclaims – and we hear it afresh today – that inspired by the Spirit, our community conversations will soften hearts and find solutions. An analogy that may be apropos here is this: the opposition of wind and keel will not push a sailboat forward through the water, but with the reconciling presence of a helms person, a new creation arises: the course made good over the water.[3] 

To me, this dynamism is an active hope that Love always wins. This love in motion is the exciting inner life of God – the essence of the Trinity. Spiritual master Beatrice Bruteau[4] said, “It is the presence of the Trinity, as a pattern, repeated at every scale in the cosmic order, that makes the universe the manifestation of God and itself sacred and holy.”

Today, God calls us to engage the active, flowing, energy of the Trinity, that ham radio in the back of the cupboard.  The power of that communication device enlarges our hearts’ capacity with God’s resiliency for solutions to problems in our context – the big ones & the small ones.

Today, God brings to bear on our community the Holy Spirit, who with the Father and the Son rekindles our lives, emboldens our imaginations, and splashes us with possibilities through a dynamic, Trinitarian hope.

Amen

 

[1] Cynthia Bourgeault, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity (2013)

[2] Interpretation inspired and expanded from the Greek, in conversation with parishioner Dr. Kenneth R. Walters on May 17, 2016. #grateful !

[3] Bourgeault, 26

[4] Bourgeault, 199, note 2, quoting from Bruteau’s God’s Ecstasy, p. 85