Rev. Lyle McKenzie Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
Genesis 1:1-2:4a Ps.8 2Corinthians 13:11-13 Matthew 28:16-20
Things happen in threes, they say. Holy, Holy, Holy, who knew?
A group of us were coming home from school and as we wrestled and played my “friend” Gordon, who was bigger and had football playing older brothers. flipped me over his hip and I landed head first on the concrete alley. It was the first time I had that dizzy, nauseous, pressure behind my nose feeling of hitting your head, and a good size bump to show for it. I got home and my mom put ice on it. Later, I rode my new bike to the store to run in for just a moment to buy something I wanted, and I came out and my bike was gone. Stolen, I didn’t think I needed to lock it. I was only in the store for a minute. I got that sick feeling in my stomach when something goes wrong and it is all or partly your fault and you are going to have to tell others. I walked home with that feeling and told my Mom right away and she was consoling but said you’ll have to tell Dad when he gets home. And my brother ever hopeful and helpful said, “Watch out for what’s next. Bad things always happen in threes.” Who knew?
This week I did a quick internet search about things happening in threes and the first thing to come up was the death of Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon and Farah Fawcett in the same week renewing people’s belief that bad things happen in threes. Really. Not that these or anyone’s death is insignificant, but this is the most obvious example of three “bad” things in the world’s history? Who knew?
The other thing that come up were images of good things happening in threes. One was a t-shirt with the image of three chromosomes, and over them the words, “good things happen in threes” – referring to the extra copy of chromosome 21 in the DNA of people with down’s syndrome. A positive reversal on what people may think, being instead, good. But with Nathan in our community, we already knew that.
Things happen in threes. Holy Trinity, we know.
Author, Word, Breath
Creator, redeemer, sustainer
Love that creates, sacrifices for others, empowers and nurtures
The “grace” of our Lord Jesus Christ, the “love” of God, and the “communion” of the Holy Spirit
Christ has died, is risen, will come again
God, was, is, and always will be
Our home, our direction, our destination
Holy Trinity, we are saying it all the time. Not as simplistic as bad or good happens in threes. But that God happens, God acts, God is, Trinity. Maybe everything in this world is saying it all the time because it’s who God is, how God acts, God’s mission and purpose.
Some of us may struggle with the logic of the Trinity. One God, three – you choose your word knowing none is accurate and all fall short – three “persons” or “persona”, like one actor’s different masks, three natures, expressions, dimensions, faces. One in three and thee in one, distinct yet a unity, the math doesn’t work nor the logic and so we wonder.
Some may struggle with the history. Trinity is not a Biblical word. Its use to describe God is not fully formalized until late in the fourth century in response to those holding differing views of God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the relationship between them. It can seem like doctrinal invention.
And yet, the sense of God, the experience of God, witnessed in the Bible, particularly in the New/Christian Testament, like in our reading from Matthew today, is what we have come to name as Trinity. We say this, but God willing, we experience this, know this God, present, acting, and affecting this world, and each of us, as Holy Trinity:
– Creator Mother/Father of all in this beautiful broken world;
– Wisdom and Word in human Jesus, born, served, killed and alive again to give life, especially to those who are dying…
– and Spirit of this new life active in this broken world and our broken lives for the common good and care and healing of all creation. Holy Trinity. Do we experience Gold like this?
The creation story is full of wonder and beauty; not in conflict with our scientific theories of the origins of the universe and this planet, but a confession of the source that continues creating. I love the plural used for God in the story. On the sixth day, God, after creating all living creatures of every kind, says,
“Now, let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness,” What does the plural mean. Is it Trinity? Or is it God and all the newly created living creatures, working with God to create human beings? Or is that the same as Trinity? God one with all that God creates as God is one in diversity and unity in God’s self? While that’s beginning to sound like doctrinal speak, the Trinity and unity of God with this whole wild creation including humans, the wildest of all, seems right and good.
At the Festival of Homiletics (the preaching conference you gifted to me) Yvette Flunder; an African American Metha-Episca-Pentecostal (was I think the name she used) told a story of her partner and mother and her, an holy/unholy trinity, for all of us to experience the gracious and loving God who provides sanctuary to all God’s children. She told us of the time she finally went to her traditional God-fearing African American mother, to tell her that she was a same gender loving person. and she had a partner, and that she, a Pentecostal, in a church that didn’t allow the leadership of any women, felt the call to be a minister of her church – a kind of unholy trinity of news for her mother to take in. She told us her mother stopped talking to her for six years – except for calling once in a while with the time and place she had set up a date with a nice man for her daughter to meet. After six long years of minimal contact and prayer and hope for something to break through, Yvette felt the Holy Spirit calling her to call her Mom and ask her to go shopping. She described the call… and that’s how they began seeing each other and talking again… One time her mother with anger said to her, “Why do I have to believe the things I don’t agree with?” And then, another time she came, early in the morning, ringing the doorbell over and over… in a “Jay Lo” pant suit and gold sequence hat, and said to her daughter, “I’m free! But I’m going to need sanctuary.” And so that’s what Yvette and her partner, and the church community that had provided sanctuary to them, and affirmed Yvette’s ministry, provided for Yvette’s mom. Giving her a place right at the front of the church with a cushion on the pew and praying and caring for her, with Yvette’s partner beside her, and her daughter preaching the word of God before her. A Holy Trinity in God’s sanctuary of grace, love and community.
Particularly in the words of Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel today, and hopefully particular to our own experience of what God is doing all around us, Trinity is less about attempts to describe the nature of God and more about God’s mission/purpose/activity, creating, redeeming sustaining… and ours, joined to and acting with God in creating, redeeming, sustaining this world for good… The good news is the signs, in word and sacrament and sanctuary, the evidence in God’s people broken and beautiful, and I pray, in our sense and experience of this Trinity, in God’s good and Holy purpose as Author, Word and Breath, of grace and love and community, Christ died, risen and coming again, our home, direction and destination are here and everywhere in an all embracing communion of the Holy Trinity that becomes as Jesus commands, our mission and purpose as followers of him. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Holy Trinity, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you, and remember I am with you always, to the end of this world’s time. From creation to the end of all time, Holy Trinity, God with all creation… The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.