(Sermon for Sunday, May 30, 2010 || Trinity Sunday, Year C, RCL || Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15)
At the beginning of the science-fiction film Serenity, the Operative scans through security footage of Simon Tam breaking his sister, River, out of a government-run facility that has been conducting torturous experiments on River’s brain. The doctor who runs the facility tells the Operative that it was “madness” for Simon Tam to give up his own brilliant future in medicine in order to save his sister. “Madness?” the Operative replies. “Have you looked at this scan carefully, Doctor? At [Simon Tam’s] face? It’s love, in point of fact. Something a good deal more dangerous.” It’s love, in point of fact.
It’s love, in point of fact, that forms this wonderful community, which cares for those both within and without our little band of pilgrims. Some would say this is madness rather than love, asserting that maintaining a purely self-interested motivation for action is the only safe and sane way to live.
It’s love, in point of fact, that brings this wonderful community here today to worship a God we’ve never seen with our eyes nor heard with our ears nor touched with our fingers. Some would say this is madness rather than love, asserting that only what we can prove and quantify and predict are real.
And it’s love, in point of fact, that forms this wonderful community to worship an unseen God who reveals God’s personhood as threefold, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Some would say this is madness rather than love, asserting that the Trinity is a needless complication of the already tenuous and rather dodgy business about God.
Some would say all this is madness, but it’s love, in point of fact. Let’s take a look at each of these three – community, belief in God, and belief in God as a Trinity of persons. We’ll look at them in the opposite order, so we’ll start before the beginning.
You see, if we start at the beginning, we’ve already arrived on the scene too late, as our lesson from Proverbs does today. Proverbs’ personification of Wisdom tells us, “The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.” Wisdom may have been created before the earth, but Wisdom tells us that the Lord still created her. This is far too late to begin our discussion of the Trinity. Too even grasp the edge of the expanse of the majesty of the Trinity, we must cast our imaginations back to before there was even a concept known as “before.” You with me so far? Good.
In the First Letter of John, the writer makes the sweeping statement: “God is love.” If nothing besides God existed before the beginning, how did this love manifest? If there was no Creation to fill the role of the Beloved, then how could God be “love?” At first the answer seems rather narcissistic: if there was nothing else to love, then God loved God. But we can’t stop there because true love always manifests as a relationship. In our futile attempt to find the right word to name God, we latch on to relational language and call God “Father.” This sets up one side of a loving relationship, that of parent to child.
But the relationship is incomplete without that second person. And so we also call God “Son” to acknowledge the complete relationship between loving parent and beloved child. In the Gospel according to John, Jesus says that God “loved me before the foundation of the world.” This love between parent and child is so palpable that the love itself is the third member of the Trinity, which we experience as the Holy Spirit. Indeed, Paul tells the church in Rome that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
So this loving relationship between parent and child existed before anything else, including the concept of “before.” Nothing existed that could substitute for or diminish the relationship. The love was pure, perfect, unsullied by deficiencies such as lust or anger or apathy or dominance. In fact, the perfection of the relationship meant that, while there was a Trinity of persons, a Unity of being was the ultimate reality. This Unity of being was the home in which the three persons dwelt: the Parent, the Child, and the Love between them.
Now, I’ve been speaking in the past tense for the last few minutes. Of course, because all this happened before there was a “before,” there was no such thing as the “past” or the “future.” There was only the eternal present in which the perfect Love between Parent and Child manifested in the perfect Unity of being. Before the beginning was this ultimate reality of God, of love, of home.
Then came “In the beginning,” and suddenly there was a time known as “before.” God breathed the wind of God’s Holy Spirit over the face of the deep. God spoke the Word of God, through which all creation came into being. The Trinity, still loving itself into eternally perfect relationship, created the heavens and the earth, thus generating an “other” to bring into that loving relationship, that home that is God. This Creation is not God because God made it, just as God made Wisdom in today’s reading from Proverbs.
Everything that God creates exists in Space and Time, which are simply two more things that God created. Right now, we exist in the space that is this beautiful sanctuary. We don’t exist on your sailboats or sitting in the bleachers at this afternoon’s Red Sox game. And for the last seven minutes, we’ve existed in the time in which I’ve been speaking. Sad to say, we can’t move backward in time and choose not to come to church since the sermon will be really confusing. But because God created Space and Time, God exists outside of these constraints. However, since God loves this little universe of God’s making, God continues to move around and throughout and within it. Truly, God loved this little universe so much, that God the loving parent gave to Creation God’s beloved child.
This beloved child, this Word made flesh came to our little planet as a baby who grew up to be a man who said and did such wonderful things and who taught us about God’s love for all Creation and who expanded our hearts and minds so they could contain such wonderful thoughts and who was killed because of his vision of acceptance and love and who rose miraculously from the dead and who ascended once again to exist in the eternally perfect relationship with God and who showed us the way home to this relationship.
After Jesus Christ ascended, he sent the Holy Spirit to us, the same wind of God that swept across the face of the deep at the moment of Creation. Through the Holy Spirit, God continues to pour God’s love into our hearts so that they can expand to hold the Truth of Jesus’ message of hospitality, generosity, and service. Each member of the Trinity moves in our lives, a family perfectly unified as One, as One who yearns to bring us back home.
Far from being some obscure, antiquated doctrine, the Trinity permeates existence today as it always has even before anything else existed. The Trinity loves itself into eternally perfect relationship, which makes forming loving relationships in our own lives the best way to glorify God. When we come together in this wonderful, loving community to worship God, we participate in the life of the Trinity. When we share the body and blood of Christ, we participate in the life of the Trinity. When we go out into the world in the power of the Holy Spirit to love and serve and find God in those we meet, we participate in the life of the Trinity. This community is home – not a perfect home like the Trinity is unto itself – but a good home made by fallible humans doing our best to love one another.
At the end of the film Serenity, the captain of the small spacecraft finds River sitting in the copilot’s chair, while rain lashes the cockpit’s windows. “But [flyin’] ain’t all buttons and charts,” Malcom Reynolds tells River. “You know what the first rule of flyin’ is? …Love. You can learn all the math in the ‘Verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as a turn in the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells ya she’s hurtin’ ‘fore she keens. Makes her a home.”
The majesty of the Trinity is that God is a perfect home unto God. And God invites us and everyone and all Creation into that home. What makes God a home for us? It’s love, in point of fact.