On Wednesday, Russ asked me if I was nervous about having to preach on Trinity Sunday. He asked if it was harder to preach on this particular Sunday as compared to other Sundays. So we had a little chat about it, and the answer is both “yes” and “no”. On the one hand, Trinity Sunday is an opportunity to do mental gymnastics around theology that doesn’t always make a lot of sense, and so it becomes an exercise for my inner nerd. On the other hand, not everyone needs or wants to do these kinds of brain teasers, and so I might lose you along the way, and the next thing I know your smartphones are more interesting for the next 7-10 minutes. So how can I make the concept of the Trinity interesting, relevant, and meaningful for our current place and time…that’s really the challenge. But honestly, this is the challenge that I am faced with every week…how to make Scripture interesting, relevant and meaningful for us. So Russ, I stand by my answer, yes and no.
Normally, I would spend my time with you looking at the gospel text, but this Sunday, I am deeply moved by what we have to learn about the Trinity from all the readings, and in particular, Proverbs.
This past spring I took a course on Women Prophets, Mystics and Wisdom Teachers. One of my favorite parts of the course was getting to read a book titled “In a Chariot Drawn by Lions”. In this book, the author examines the literary tradition of Lady Wisdom—Hochma—Sophia, throughout early Jewish culture, other Ancient Near Eastern religious traditions, and Christianity. The author, Asphodel Long, spends a lot of time in Proverbs and the Book of Wisdom, and by the end of the text points to how Christianity absorbed the concept of Wisdom into Jesus. Now believe me, I find all of this stuff very interesting, and it adds many dimensions to my Trinitarian mental gymnastics that my inner nerd so enjoys, but after trying to synthesize all that material into a Sunday sermon, it just didn’t make much sense. But what I do want to share with you from Long’s book is this idea that Wisdom, whether you want to understand it as a “she” as “spirit” or the “pre-existent Christ” was with God in the beginning and continues to be present and active in the world today.
So let’s take a moment to look at Proverbs 8 for evidence of some Trinitarian theology. If we understand Wisdom as “the pre-existent Spirit” or “Christ”, then we see that:
‘The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago’
And there’s evidence that Wisdom was a co-creator with God, which also points to Trinitarian theology:
‘When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker’
As one scholar noted, “Wisdom’s fingerprints are all over God’s creation”. Not only was Lady Wisdom-Hochma-Sophia, the Holy Spirit present at the beginning of time, but she continues to be present even now.
When we plant little seedlings and beautiful flowers and rows and rows of tomatoes, that Creator Spirit is there. When we cook the most delicious meal our family has ever tasted, the Creator Spirit is there. When we raise our children and watch them bloom and grow, the Creator Spirit who delighted in the human race is there. She does not do these things alone…she is a co-creator with God, and we are co-creators as well.
In Romans, we get more Trinitarian theology that is based on hope and love, and again, we take part in the work of the Trinity:
‘we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God’
What is the glory of God? It is how we teach, nurture, love and serve one another, both the stranger and the friend among us. And the glory of God is shared with us through the love that is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit—Wisdom, Hochma, Sophia—that same spirit that was there at the beginning of time.
And finally, the Gospel tells us something about the Trinity as well. The Holy Spirit, Wisdom, Hochma, Sophia is the “spirit of truth” who guides us, speaks and declares truth and wisdom, and glorifies God in Jesus. Are not her fingerprints found all over our lives when we speak truth and glorify God?
I often turn to artistic images to help me find inspiration when writing sermons. That’s part of why my desk faces a wall filled with icons…their wisdom and truth-telling often help illuminate what God’s message is trying for me to learn. But as I scoured the internet for images, I was struck by three dancing figures that were titled “the Trinity”. Like many other Trinitarian icons and paintings, the figures are all the same in appearance, but they were holding hands in a circle, smiles on their faces, and they were dancing. And then I came across this quote by Jeff Paschal that reads, “The triune God is a joyous, dancing God who pours out overflowing gifts to humanity with gladness”. A joyous dancing God. I love this idea! And this image was guiding me in my continuing journey with the mental gymnastics of understanding the Trinity. It certainly beats the traditional triangle with arrows pointing in each direction to explain the Trinity!
So where do we experience this joyous dancing God in our lives? When in our lives have we been bold truth-tellers, creative artisans, clear-sighted and discerning? When in our lives have we been life-givers and love-makers to others? When in our lives have we been mentors and guides for others? When have we been hope-filled? It is in these moments that the joyous dancing God of the Trinity, present with the Beloved Son, and Wisdom-Hochma-Sophia, the Spirit is there.
I want to leave you with one final thought as you ponder the idea of the Trinity, and that is this blessing from Jim Cotter’s book “Prayer at Night’s Approaching”:
To God the Creator who loved us first and gave this world to be our home:
To God the Redeemer who loves us and by dying and rising pioneered the way of freedom:
To God the Sanctifier who spreads the divine love in our hearts:
Be praise and glory for time and for eternity.
I don't know what the future of the church is, but I know that we will continue to be a place of sanctuary and hope, working towards healing in the world.