Sermon preached by the Reverend Cindy Stravers
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
Trinity Sunday – June 15, 2014
In the Name of God: cosmic creator, ascended Christ, and enabling Spirit. Amen.
Every once in a while, we get a chance to meet someone new – Often times the conversation of a first meeting is limited to talking about profession – what do you do for a living? Sometimes those conversations are long enough and go deep enough to include the why or how of profession – toying with the idea of vocation, perhaps a little history.
Then there’s the “Where are you from?” question. I know it doesn’t take long for someone to realize I’m from the Midwest and then, when I raise my hand and point here….it’s clear I come from Michigan – the “mitten state.”
Sometimes we get an inkling that the person or people we’re getting to know really wants to get to know us, and then we have to struggle with the question of how much do they really want to know – how far back in our histories do we go?
I wonder – do they want to know about my education, my religious upbringing, my marriage and my kids? Or do I go all the way back to the time when I shared the warm water of my mother’s womb with my twin sister, Sandi…because in my mind, that fact alone has influenced who I am now as much as anything else.
The facts of someone’s life – the dates, the isolated events and even the connected bits of information don’t ever seem to be enough when people are truly trying to get to know another, however.
It’s the stories – the stories that pop to the forefront of one’s memory and demand to be told. It’s the patterns of activity, the patterns tucked into relationships, the repetition of values spurred on by passion, expressed through story that brings meaning.
As Christians, the questions about who we are, where we’ve come from and where we’re headed are also answered best through story. Today’s readings – along with all Holy Scripture are just that – stories that shed light on those kinds of questions.
Where have we come from?
Our first lesson from Genesis – the first creation narrative in the Bible – is poetry, hymn, doxology and myth – it’s a story that tells us several important things about our beginning.
First, it tells us that we have come from a God who sees. In this creation narrative, we read that God paused seven times to observe what had been created – lingering over what was taking place – delighting in change, in growth, in order, in the beauty of new life.
We also read that we have come into a world that is good. Before evil, there was blessing. It’s hard to imagine sometimes, given the state of affairs today in so much of the world – but in the beginning, God blessed the world over and over again, declaring it good.
I wonder what it would mean – or what it would look like if we were able to keep this in mind? What if our over-arching attitude toward the world – all created things and all created beings – was that it is good. Would we be less judgmental, less disappointed, more tolerant?
And here’s my favorite thing we learn about our beginning from this story: we come from a God who continues to create. Fredrick Buechner puts it this way: “Using the same old materials of earth, air, fire and water, every twenty-four hours God creates something new out of them. If you think you’re seeing the same show all over again seven times a week, you’re crazy. Every morning you wake up to something that, in all eternity, never was before and never will be again. And the you that [woke up today] was never the same before and will never be the same again.”
That gives me hope.
The reality of a continuing and continuous creation gives me hope because another thing we learn from this creation account is that life – all of it – is both light and darkness. There is no duality here. It’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and. Our thoughts, our experiences, our relationships with our selves, our relationships with others and even our relationships with God include both light and darkness.
As any therapist worth her or his weight will tell you, both need to be acknowledged, held, even loved. Barbara Brown Taylor says in her recent book on spirituality, “ The way most people talk about darkness, you would think that it came from a whole different diety, but no.
To be human is to live by sunlight and moonlight, with anxiety and delight, admitting limits and transcending them, falling down and rising up. To want a life with only half of these things in it is to want half a life, shutting the other half away where it will not interfere with one’s bright fantasies of the way things ought to be.”
This too, gives me hope and a level of comfort. Experiences of both light and darkness are blessed.
Where have we come from?
We come from the likeness of God. We carry God’s image – Imago Dei. Biblical scholars don’t all agree on what this means, exactly. But something about us – each and every one of us – has the imprint of God on our very being.
We carry something of the love of God, the creativity of God, the intentions of God, the beauty of God, the joy of God. And I’d like to suggest that this image of God we all carry includes a capacity for relationship – authentic, intimate relationship.
It’s Trinity Sunday, a day set aside by the church to remember and celebrate the triune nature of God. It’s one of the few celebrations of a doctrine in the church and it is one doozey of a doctrine.
God is one, yet exists in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Turns out Jesus once asked, Whom do men say that I am? And his disciples answered and said, Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elias, or other of the old prophets.
And Jesus answered and said, But whom do you say that I am? Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple.” And Jesus answering, said, “What?!?!?”
It’s a mystery, this doctrine. Suffice it to say God’s pretty good at dancing with God’s self and is eager for us to get on the dance floor too.
Where have we come from? Who are we? We have come from God and we are image-bearers of God – a God who sees and takes delight in a good creation and all the while continues to create. We are people who can hold both light and darkness – embracing and blessing all of life with confidence.
We are beings with the capacity to have relationships – relationships with our selves, relationships with others and most importantly we have the capacity to be in relationship with God. That’s a bit of who we are and where we’ve come from according to this creation story.
How are we to live, given that we’ve come from God? In our Epistle lesson, Paul reminds us that we are to live in peace with one another. We are to live in peace. And in our Gospel lesson, Jesus said that we are to share the good news of who we are and where we’ve come from with all people everywhere – inviting them into the divine dance.
So, let’s celebrate where who we are and where we’ve come from as we gather around God’s table. And then, having been fed with holy food and drink, let’s go out and share the news: we have all come from God.