The Holy Trinity Lectionary Reflection
May 26, 2013
…and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:8
It is tough not to be disappointed today–or at least saddened and dismayed by events, disasters, and grim prospects. From economic instability to factory collapses, from partisan political rigmarole to terrible tornadoes leveling towns, and from human cruelty to the grim reality of climate change, we live in a world that appears hopelessly long on woes and woefully short on hope.
People of God may find both comfort and encouragement this Sunday in celebrating the reality of God beyond limits, beyond the confines of identity, and beyond definition. Oh, sure, we do our best to “explain” the concept of the Holy Trinity, whether by odd math equations (1 + 1 + 1 = 1), by science analogies (ice, water, steam), by a string of descriptors (Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier), or in the green goodness of the tripartite shamrock, but maybe trying to make sense of the Divine Unity in a logical, cognitive fashion is not what people need today. In a world rife with pain and suffering, we hunger for an extra large helping of hope served up in the sauce of love on a plate of peace.
What better place to find what is needed than gathered with God’s people around Christ’s table, where the Word is proclaimed and the winds of the Spirit blow? What can be more sustaining than the Bread of Life placed into an upturned and empty palm and the wine poured abundantly for all to share?
We are in good company, according to Paul, and that man knew a thing or two about suffering and pain. He knew, in his former life, how to dole out pain and punishment, and as a disciple of Christ he knew how to endure the same for the sake of the gospel. Paul understood that God was beyond confinement and containment. He preached the wide mercies and abundant grace of the Creator of the Universe. He understood the nature of Jesus’ righteousness and the marvel of our justification by faith, and he took delight in the gift of the Spirit that pours the love of God into our hearts and through which we are in turn able to express this love to others. In the same relentless and fierce manner that Paul lives out his missionary calling, so we understand that God’s love for us is both never-ceasing and all-encompassing.
No, dear friends, we are not spared pain and suffering in this world. And just as we cannot make sense of the essence of God, we cannot make sense of why bad things happen to good people and why natural disasters ravage our world indiscriminately. We can, however, take comfort in Paul’s explanation of the life of faith, of how we relate to the uncontainable, often wild, and always awesome God of all. We are in good company; we have what we need, all that we need, and much, much more than we deserve.
So on Trinity Sunday, especially, we have been invited to a party hosted by the Triune God who defies the limits of our imaginations, plumbs the depths of our hearts, and soars above the heights of our joys. Life is gift–every precious moment of it. Invite your community, if only for this day or this hour, to leave their cares and woes at the door and revel in the majesty, the might, and the mystery of trinity, unity, and community. Savor and celebrate the “hope that does not disappoint” and the precious peace and Spirit-infused love of God in Christ.
In Celtic theology, the Holy Spirit is often imaged as a wild goose, with a loud rush of wings and noisy honking. While we often think of a lovely dove, the goose with its wildness and unpredictable, untamable nature offers a fine symbol for how the Spirit tends to work in our lives.
Since today we celebrate in community the mystery and delight of the Holy Trinity, why not pass out party horns, blowouts, whistles, kazoos and/or other noisemakers to each worshiper. These can be purchased inexpensively at paper goods or dollar stores. At certain points in the worship, perhaps tied in with the sermon, invite people to raise a ruckus. Encourage people to celebrate in defiant and certain joy because our God has conquered death and we live in the promise of life abundant and eternal. Encourage worshipers to take their party favors home to remind themselves that even in life’s valleys and sorrows, we can give thanks for the grace and mercy of our amazing God and the community we have in the Body of Christ. God is active in our world, Jesus is present whenever we gather, and the Holy Spirit is blowing in and through us every day. Now that’s some good news worth celebrating!
Take a look at this week’s gospel reading together (John 16:12-15). Jesus had many things to tell his disciples, but he says “you cannot bear them now.” What about us today? Do we experience our faith in one giant bite, or is our faith crafted and honed in an ongoing process? Invite youth to share any experiences they have had of the Spirit’s work in their lives. Share one of your own if possible. Consider singing the hymn “Come to us, Creative Spirit” (text by David Mowbry and music by Richard Proulx). Pay close attention to the words. Why are the creative arts important to our faith development and praise of God? Can the athlete also be creative in his or her faith and praise? What about the chef? The teacher? How can a teenager seek the guidance of the Spirit in everyday life at school, work, and play?
If you don’t plan to use the noisemaker interactive for worship, consider modifying it for the children’s time. Even have them lead a parade around your worship space. Life in the reign of God is an eternal celebration–even when things look sad and blue in our lives. As Christians it’s always good to get together and make some noise in praise of our amazing God.
Alternately, consider having the children act out Psalm 8. It offers wonderful possibilities for movement, drama, and song. Put special emphasis on verse 2a: “you whose glory is chanted above the heavens out of the mouths of infants and children…” If you have some creative youth or adult helpers, make some props to help tell the story of this psalm. Have fun, praise God, and experience joy.
Photos: © Christy Thompson – Fotolia.com, Randy OHC, Creative Commons, © Maksim Bukovski – Fotolia.com