God is a hot topic. Everyone seems to be talking about the “man upstairs”. His name, or some version thereof, is on the lips of men, women, the young, and old. I know this because I listen. I’m not talking about news programs on television or the religious documentaries I’m forced watch when my family is out of the house. No, God is an ever present reality, even beyond this Sunday morning (where we do talk about God a great deal) all over this island (and elsewhere).
If I walk out of my front door and turn left or right to walk down Howard Street (the direction doesn’t really matter), particularly on a weekend night, it won’t be long before I’ll hear someone talking to or about God. In fact, if the wind is right, I might not have to leave my front porch, the sound may carry it perfectly. I’ll hear Jesus Christ this, God blank that, and conversations galore invoking the first and second persons of the Trinity. Someone asked me this week, “Is the Trinity a really big deal? Do people care about the relationship between God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit? ” You want to know what my first answer was? “This starfish does.”
If the God the father is in the perpetual habit of being asked to damn this, that and the other and Jesus is that name you call on when the most unbelievable things happen during you’re day, I’d say, whether we realize it or not, the idea of the Trinity is alive and well, to paraphrase Bob Seger, in the bars, backrooms, alleys, and trusty woods of Ocracoke. It’s not the right idea but it’s there.
Here’s the good news. We need to get the wrong ideas about God out of those places before we send the reality back into the world. We need God in the world. We don’t need God damning things. We need Jesus in the world. Jesus saves people. We need the Spirit to infuse the relationship between all aspects of God and the world with love.
The Trinity is one of the most complex ideas in Christian theology. The convoluted arguments used by theologians to explain the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are that way because we’ve allowed them to become so. I’m not going to pretend I can explain something that Christian theologians have debated for over two thousand years. That’s not what we’re here for. However, I will tell you this: Jesus described his relationship with God as one like a son to a father. He said, “If we’d seen him, we’d seen the father”. He and the father were one. Jesus also told his disciples to except the gift of a comforter and guide, whom he called the Holy Spirit. We talked about the arrival of the Spirit during last week’s Pentecost service.
Since the beginning creation, God’s spirit has been integral to the process of creation and helping God’s plans for humanity become reality. The early church, since the time of Paul, was comfortable speaking of God in ways that acknowledged God as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Later Christians came along and gave more complexity and understanding to these relationships and a name: the Holy Trinity.
The Trinity isn’t meant solely to be read and thoughtfully considered. That’s one part of the deal. Ultimately, the Trinity is something that’s social and organic, designed to be lived and experienced. At its essence, the Trinity is about the expression of the relationship between God and humanity. Jesus is one way God relates to us and the Spirit is another. If you take nothing else home this morning, hold on to that. The Trinity is a way to understand how God relates to us.
If that’s true, and I believe it is, what does that say about we relate to God (versus God relating to us)? What do we see when we observe living Trinitarian relationships around us? When we talk about God, it’s not usually in as positive, “I want to build a loving, life affirming relationship with you God” terms.
As I said at the beginning, we’re damning people on behalf of God we don’t really acknowledge. We’re calling out to a Jesus Christ we don’t expect to answer. What does it say about you we relate to God? It says our humanity is bewildered and the further we go from real relationship with God the less we know who we are as people. This kind of distance from God dehumanizes you. When you start to dehumanize yourself and see God as instrument blunt force trauma, like any other tool in the back of your truck, it’s much either to start dehumanizing others.
The Old Testament Lesson for Trinity Sunday is the creation narrative from the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. It is a story like no other in human history. I don’t believe the Earth was created in six days but I do believe the underlying story of the creation myth is true. God did something completely new in human history when this story began. Humanity was created to be in relationship with the divine. Our relationships with each other were to mirror our creator’s love for us. Gods, as the ancient world believed in them, just didn’t do that kind of thing.
Read Genesis 1:26-27:
Then God said, “Let us make humanity on our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the live stock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.” God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them.”
These are the most important verses in the creation story. This idea is the most transformational idea in the history of political theory. Those verses are the basis of western civilization itself. This scripture is the underlying concept behind, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”
Who thinks it’s self-evident that man is on a level playing field with God? Or that freedom is self-evident? They are self-evident to no one. Plato would have thought them laughable. Aristotle thought some were born to be ruled and others to rule. No one thought equality of any kind, especially with God, was self evident. No one thought equality between rich and poor was self-evident. Mesopotamian kings and Egyptian pharaohs thought themselves made in the image of God, not ordinary people. But there in this story, God says over and over again, it is good that God’s people are equal and free. From Genesis 1, God says, “I don’t do class, hierarchy, or caste based societies. I do relationships.”
Our God and God’s creative spirit working across the vast deep, as it is written in Genesis 1, tells a story we need to hear. Let us look and listen to the world around us. Our neighbors are a reflection of God at work. We are made in the image of God. What it means to be a human is formed by being in relationship to a God made visible in many ways. Do not deny your humanity nor that God given gift in others.