In the face of our current distress, it might seem out of place to preach on the Trinity. This, especially when, no matter what I say, some will believe I used the wrong words, that I didn’t say enough, was too indirect, or missed proper buzzwords. The danger of not speaking is too great, however. Still, I think we need to contemplate the Trinity all the more in this time. Prayer is not about avoiding problems, and contemplating the Trinity isn’t about burying our heads in the sand. If anything, it will mean hitting the “pause button” to stand in the light of the Trinity to ponder what is actually going on. Because so much has happened in only the first six months of 2020.
Please, allow me to outline some of the things that have gripped us, and the world, in the past six months: the year began with contentious impeachment hearings, accusations of conspiracy on both sides, wildfires in Australia and the Amazon, the UK left the European Union and shook up that continent, tensions flared up with Iran and more US troops were sent to the Middle East, all that in the first couple months. THEN, a virus spread across the globe from China and became a pandemic, governors shut down schools and businesses, churches were closed, in some places pastors and business owners - who tried to keep things going - were fined or even arrested and put in jail. To deal with this in Ohio, we began Wine with DeWine. Unemployment skyrocketed. The market crashed, and with it went stability in people’s retirement and plans to fund their children’s future. Then, car parades of people began heading to state capitols protesting the lockdown. And, if it couldn’t get any more apocalyptic, an invasive species called The Murder Hornet entered the US. Just as things began to open up a little bit, we saw horrifying videos and pictures of the death of George Floyd, followed by marches, followed by unrest, followed by rioting across the country and near us. Now we’ve seen videos and pictures on the news about more lives lost by violence, people’s livelihoods demolished, and none of us knows what will happen next or when it will end. This is so much more than the typical election year stressors; and, November is still five months away!
We are overwhelmed by crises. Those listed above and those even more personally felt like the loss of loved ones or not being able to visit parents in nursing homes or hospitals. If you’re anything like me, all of this leaves us pondering some very serious questions: What is the limit or extent of government and of policing, even in times of trouble? What does religious liberty actually mean? What do the words justice, peace, equality, and freedom really mean?
And, this leads to a further question, one that is, I believe, even deeper than those just asked: Who gets to decide those things? This is why we need to hit the “pause button” and take time to intentionally enter into prayer with the Trinity. There’s too much, too much-ness to think and act clearly. When our passions are peaked, our vision becomes clouded, and we lose sight of who we are and who we’re called to be.
If we don’t take time to look up, and unbury our minds from the rubble of distress, and contemplate the Trinity who created us, then how will these questions be answered in truth, in faith, and sincerely? Are truth, goodness, the meaning of justice, and the place of government simply up to popularity polls or an ever changing majority vote? Does it only depend on who is in power or who can draw together the loudest voices? Do we leave the answers up to who can pander to our worst vices or who can advertise the best? Are the truths these questions seek a matter of opinion, or worse, just a matter of chance?
If we look up and ponder the Trinity, though, we can see a way through all this. Because, God, the Trinity, is the one who made us and willed us for the good and true, the good and true made by the Trinity. What is good, what is true, and how we are called to live isn’t up for a vote and can’t be manipulated by the powerful. It was created by the God who is a Trinity, a true communion of love. And, the Trinity made us in His image to be a true communion in the love He offers. Our task isn’t to decide what we want the true and the good to mean; rather, it’s to encounter the Trinity who is the good and who is the truth. Our Christian life is about being ever more conformed to the one who is good and true, the Trinity. And, we are to live that good and speak that truth revealed through Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit. It is in the light of the encounter with the Trinity that we peer into God’s desires for us, and the goodness for which every single individual is made.
The second reading today from Paul (2 Corinthians 13:11-13) can help us in this. In that reading Paul shows us what it looks like when we take time to allow the Trinity to work His grace in us. And, if we look at the Greek of Paul’s letter we gain a little more insight into the power of his words.
For instance, when he writes “mend your ways,” the Greek Paul uses implies not that the mending is our doing, but that we are being mended. Do we really think we have all the knowledge and capability to mend things on our own? Paul is calling us to humility. We don’t have all the knowledge or capability, but the Trinity made us, fashioned us in the womb, knows us intimately. Through Christ, we are being sown back together by the grace of the Spirit who mends with the deepest insight, gentleness, and wisdom. This mending into a true union is a gift from the God who lives in a perfect, loving union as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Next, Paul says to “agree with one another.” “Agree with one another?!” Good luck! we might say. It’s difficult to translate the Greek fully here, but a more literal translation might sound like this: “be of the same mind.” And, for the early Church, the mind was not simply the place between our ears, but the heart, the affections and thinking that direct us. Being “of the same mind” meant a union of hearts and direction, individually and as a Church. To help grasp this, we can note that the word for “being of the same mind” that Paul uses - and it’s one word in the Greek - was also on the lips of Jesus when he rebuked Peter in Matthew 16. Remember that moment? Jesus tells Peter that he will suffer the Cross. Peter rebukes Jesus saying “God forbid it.” Then, Jesus rebukes Peter in Matthew 16:23 saying, “Get behind me Satan. You are a stumbling block to me. You are thinking not as God thinks but as people think.” Jesus invites Peter to a change of heart, to think less like the world and more like the Trinity.
When Paul says “agree with one another,” then, he doesn’t mean we are supposed to intimidate one another into using the same catchphrases; he doesn’t mean that we are supposed to parrot out the bullet points of “our side”; and, Paul doesn’t mean the type of unity we see in the world right now, where agreement is bought at the cost of blaming the other side for everything. Rather, the “agreement” Paul speaks of here comes from “taking on the mind of Christ”. Time and again, Paul reminds us to take on the mind of Christ. How can we be one in mind and heart? We unite our thoughts and affections with those of Christ!
Jesus said he is the way, the truth and the life. When we follow Jesus, we follow Jesus’ way, we live the life he gives us, and the truth isn’t our opinion, taste, or what smooths things over. Rather, if we believe in Jesus, if we really accept him and his ways, if we want to be called Christian and be that truly, then we live the life of Jesus, we believe the truth revealed through Jesus, and we follow Jesus’ way. That type of agreement comes not from fear but love, not from force but faith, and not from a tyranny of either a government or a fickle majority vote, but from the heart of a loving heavenly Father who spoke us into existence by the Holy Spirit and then recreated us by His Word, Jesus Christ.
Does the call to ponder the beauty of the Trinity “fix” anything immediately? Well, I would ask this: Do we want just a quick fix? Because, right now, every single argument, every debate and heated issue, has been reduced to overly simplified and unrealistic sides. No side seems to allow such a necessary pause. But, when no one gives us time to pause, pray and discern, then we end up siding with simple answers that do not address the deeper issues at work.
We do not have to allow people and influential groups to force us into false either-or’s, turn us against one another, and make themselves the arbiters of truth and hope. If we want true freedom from these powerful influences, then we need an even more powerful truth to free our hearts: The Trinity. The Trinity is not an idea, but the living God actively at work in our world and in our hearts. Our faith in the Trinity propels us into a relationship with God, through the only one revealed by God as the true Savior, Jesus Christ. Our time of prayer in the Trinity occurs through the only Holy Spirit who can grace us with authentic healing, a revelation of a lasting truth untarnished by political machinations, and a unity that goes deeper than the election year unity of the “us” versus the “them”.
Yes, we need this Trinity Sunday! We need to hit the “pause button” on our deliberations, arguments, and debates. And, we desperately need to spend serious time with the Trinity in prayer. This isn’t burying our heads in the sand, its lifting our hearts above the contention of the world. This isn’t about apathy or inaction or pacifism, it’s about sanity.
So much is at stake right now. I can feel it in my bones. When I imagine what our world looks like right now, its the image of someone teetering on a tight rope over Niagara Falls. If we do not put on the mind of Christ, and if we do not take serious time to allow God the Father’s voice to lead us, then we will tip over either side of the rope, falling to a left and right that too often gives us incomplete options or answers, and the result will be worse than the teetering. This is a time for choosing our path forward. This is a very decisive moment for us today, right now: Will we allow the Trinity to shape our minds and hearts, mend us together, and give us the mind of Christ, or will we let the media and politicians with major corporations evangelize our hearts?
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.