Sunday, June 11, 2017

Year A Trinity Sunday, 11 June 2017 Community and Communion

Year A Trinity Sunday, 11 June 2017
“Community and Communion”
St. Paul’s Episcopal, Richmond, VA

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
From Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Matthew 28:16-20
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Trinity Sunday is always a daunting preaching task. It is the only Sunday of the Church Year dedicated to a doctrine. Some run to the challenge, and some shrink away. For some, it is an awe-inspiring Mystery, and for others it is one of the critical stumbling blocks of the faith.

The Creed of Athanasius (on pages 864-865 in the Book of Common Prayer) has MANY paragraphs on the “proper” understanding of the Trinity, and says this:
And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another;
But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.
So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
He therefore that will be saved is must think thus of the Trinity.

When he wrote that around the end of the Fifth or the beginning of the Sixth Century, it was the first known declaration that all three members of the Trinity are equal. People argued over this long before Athanasius, and his attempt here to fight Arianism. (Arianism being the belief, that Jesus the Son was not co-equal nor of the same substance with the Father and thus less than or subservient to the God the Father.) And people have been arguing of the nature of this ever since.

I have always been drawn to the beauty of the idea of the Trinity, a beautiful dance of Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. For others, not so much. And before we get bogged down in who is which, and which is what, and what is when, I want to skip right through that and get to what the Trinity means to me. The Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is for me a way to view the way things are supposed to be, a beloved community of living and moving and having our being, and a model for what we bring to a hurting and needy world.

Let us start at the beginning, for that is where our lectionary readings kicked us off today, Genesis 1. And the beautiful portrait painted is that we, all of us, were created in the “their” image, and if you never noticed that before, the plurality of the statement, “Let us make mankind in our image,” dwell on that a moment. We are designed by a committee, [that would explain a lot wouldn’t it] and while that is usually a negative statement, here it is one of affirmation across the board.

Each and every one of us can be Creative and make things of worth and have the discerning wisdom of the Father. Each of us is capable of redeeming works of grace and a level of sacrificial love that is not of this world like the Son. Each of us is capable of intimate connections of profound understanding and communion like the Spirit. That is the Imago Dei, the very image of God. The Divine “Us” is the mirror we hold up to our best and God-intended selves. All of these are obviously aspirational, but if we get to choose who we should emulate, God would be a good choice.

But for me, the other take-away from that “Us” word is that God is in Community, and that God is in Communion. And if we are emulating anything, then maybe we can and should be, too. God the One in Three and Three in One is a Social Being. God is in Community and in Communion with God Self. And in that image, we are made to be in Community and in Community. We are Social Creatures.

Think of spying a baby in a public space. Often they just stare at random strangers. And they stare and stare and stare, until the get a response. When I was a new father I had to get used to seeing strangers making faces and waving, and then I noticed it was not at me or to me at all. It was to the baby. Babies bring out the Social Being readily and naturally. If you do not think that you were born a Social Creature, just try tickling yourself. It does not work. If God made you, hardwired you to be ticklish, and that can only happen from another, maybe we were made in the image of God, to be in Community. I heard another report on the radio this week saying that scientists have found conclusively that people with the same diseases do better and live longer if they are in a relationship with their spouse. I am glad they have determined the obvious. We are made to be in Community, just like God. But what about Communion?

God is in Communion with Godself, an intimate and loving dynamic relationship.  This whole last year St. Paul’s has been looking at Being Reconciled. Our first Lenten Preacher, Father Michael Renninger, brought up the etymology of the word Reconciliation. I have always been fascinated by etymology, where words come from and where we have taken or lost their original meaning. Reconciliation comes from the Latin, for the words Re- meaning again, Con- meaning with, and Cilia-. I knew cilia from the follicles in my intestine from Saturday morning cartoons’ Schoolhouse Rock. But the word Cilia did not originate in the gut, but on our faces. Cilia- was the Latin word for eyelashes, the follicles on our eyes. So Reconciliation is to Again be Within Eyelash distance of each other. If you are close enough to brush eyelashes, or what we called in my family Butterfly Kisses, then you are pretty close. And that is the level of intimacy God desires with us, to be reconciled with him, a closeness beyond words.

Scripture describes God in many ways, but my favorite image is the repeated trope of a seeking God pursuing relationship. One of these uses is in three connected parables, the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep, and the Prodigal Son. The Seeker is God, looking, longing, missing, loving. There are no lengths to which God will not go to find us, to save us, and to welcome us home.

Now the Downtown Missioner in me would be remiss to not mention it. If we are attempting to emulate God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, then we have to take seriously this Seeking feeling, especially before it becomes that Sinking feeling that we have missed the boat.

You see, God loves you. Why? Because: “You Matter. You matter to God.”  And so do all God’s Children. In fact our mission could almost be summed up in that. “You Matter. To God. To Us.” Now we find 101 different ways to say it, and to do it. But that is it.
Our worship declares to us and reminds us that importance God placed on being in relationship to us. Our astounding music. The wonderful Emmaus ministry. Laundry Love. Our children's programming. Our youth. Our relationship with the people of the village of Mwitikira, Tanzania. Our block parties. Our trip to Rosebud this summer. Our work with Woodville. Our Lenten Lectures and Lunches. In keeping and maintaining this amazing space declaring the Glory of God. In all we say and do, we declare that all God’s Children matter. And every soul you meet is a beloved child of God.

I know it is the summer and attendance takes a dip, but look around. Do you see an empty space? Pick one. Any one. We have plenty of empty spaces, but pick just one. We are designed to be in Communion, and I know you have some people in your life who need the Community that we have at St. Paul’s. They would be so much better for it. WE would be so much better for it. Heck, you have to work to get here these days. Parking is what it is for the foreseeable future. But you made it! Yeah! This place obviously matters to you. It could matter to someone else that you know. And I believe, through the ministry and music and community of this place, people can also be brought into Communion, not just us, but more importantly, with God.

Pete Nunnally, our Youth Minister, told me a wonderful story this week, and I share it with his permission. He told me of someone grieving coming in off the street and wanting someone to pray with in their sorrow. Pete was the only minister here, and took them into this space to pray and talk. Christopher came in and began practicing the organ, and in that Community of Pete, and this art-filled Sanctuary of Holiness, and Chris’s beautiful music declaring the Glory of God, this young man found a sense of peace with God in his loss. He even took a video and shared it with his friends. He found Communion through Community. We do not know if he will ever see this young man again, but I believe God will. God was seeking him out when he lost his friend. God was seeking him out when he wandered into our doors. But on that day last week, this young man found a Communion. And we enabled that. Think how much bigger a difference you could make in a friend’s life if you could invite them into Community, and in doing so, trust that it will be into Communion with God, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. The Three in One, the One in Three. The God in Community, the God of Communion.

The Trinity is a Mystery, but it is a Beautiful Mystery. We are made in its image, and we attempt to emulate that Divine Dance in all we do. As St. Paul, our namesake declared: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.[2 Cor. 13:13] Amen.

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Blessings, Rock