Here is a link to listen to the sermon by The Rev. Posey Krakowsky on June 16, 2019, Trinity Sunday. There is also a link to the scripture for this Sunday and the text of the sermon below.
May I speak to you in the name of the eternal Trinity: Love, Beloved, and Lover — Amen
Before I dive in to the three in one and one in three, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that today is Father’s Day — and to wish a blessed and happy Father’s Day to those of you who identify as fathers. Just as on Mother’s Day, I also want to acknowledge all of us who may have complicated or conflicted relationships to fathers, fatherhood, and fathering. Parenting is never easy, and neither is being parented.
Wherever you are on your journey of relationship with the fathers or lack of fathers in your life — may you find a sense of peace.
I’m not sure if any of you know my friend the Rev. Julia Whitworth — she is currently the rector of Trinity Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, but she was raised to the priesthood in our diocese, and served most recently here as the Canon for Liturgy and the Arts at the Cathedral of St John the Divine. Last weekend, when Indianapolis held their PRIDE celebration, Julia and Trinity Church Indy had the distinction and honor of being Grand Marshals of the parade. The reason they were chosen is because, under Julia’s leadership, Trinity created a safe house for at risk LGBTQ youth in Indianapolis — it is called Trinity Haven, and it is the first such place of its kind in the state of Indiana. Julia experienced many ups and downs to make it happen. It was not an easy process, particularly in a red state in the current political climate. So, if any of you are looking for a place to donate in honor of PRIDE, you might want to consider Trinity Haven Indianapolis.
The Spirit always moves in surprising ways, and the confluence of today being Trinity Sunday, Julia’s church being named Trinity, and the fact that it is PRIDE month, reminded me of a short anecdote about Julia. She was one of my best friends at Union Seminary, and she was invaluable to me as a mentor during what turned out to be a very long ordination process. I could always count on Julia for solid advice and thoughtful feedback. But the small incident I am about to relate was one that speaks more to her help in my spiritual formation — a gift that she gives to others naturally and reflexively — mostly by sharing and witnessing to her own core spirituality with a generous and open heart that speaks to me of genuine spiritual grounding. I know I am not the only one who is grateful to her for that.
During our first semester of seminary, we were sitting together in church history class, and the subject was the ecumenical councils of the early church. At the end of class Julia said, something to the effect of —“no matter what else happens, please don’t let anyone take away the Trinity. I really, really love the Trinity.”
At the time, as a person who was exploring formally returning to the Christian fold — the idea of ordination was not even a glimmer in my eye. I’d been away from the church – any church – for years, though I had loved it as a child. This was due to the damage done to me in the name of Jesus by Christians (many not Episcopalians, by the way) in my extended family in the south during my childhood and young adulthood — damage that persisted even well into the time after my kids were born. So Julia’s emphasis on the Trinity was really intriguing. Why did she find it so important? What had I missed that she was tapping into? It wasn’t a conscious thought at the time, but there was a sense that perhaps struggling with the Trinity could be a way to find an opening back into my own tradition. Because even though I was not aware of it at the time, I was actively seeking a way back to finding peace within our tradition.
And you might ask why? Why was I looking for a way back into our particular faith tradition, and not seeking to become a Buddhist or a Unitarian, as so many who have been hurt by Christianity have done? Well, Episcopalians had been in the news a lot for ordaining bishop Gene Robison in the early 2000s. And that really intrigued me. Perhaps, just perhaps, this was not the church of my childhood. Reading about the changes in the Episcopal Church in the New York Times led to a memorable conversation with an Episcopal priest around that time— I don’t even know his name or where he served. But he did allow me to ask a heck of a lot of dumb and frankly, smart aleck kind of questions that night. He was really patient with me, thank God. So please indulge me for a moment and give thanks for that dear unknown Episcopal priest. I probably wouldn’t be here today if he’d been glib or unkind. Which just goes to show that we never know what the fruits of our interactions will be.
As we all know, the Spirit moves us, and she does so in surprising ways. And it was indeed the Trinity – the Spirit in particular, that was my own door back into our tradition. As an ecumenical studies major, my time in seminary included the study of many other faith traditions. But it became clear that my instinct to go backwards into my own tradition in order to move forwards on my personal faith journey was a fruitful one. Through listening and reading and discerning and praying, a way was made out of no way. Our tradition gave me words for things that I had experienced without having ways to describe them. Things like Grace and Mercy and Sacrament. The more I learned, the more I knew that Jesus had been walking beside me all along. The more I learned, the more I was convinced that the Spirit was at work not only within me, but also in people of all faith traditions, and even in those who profess no faith at all. I also realized that it is in relationships, even ones as brief as a 10 minute conversation with a random priest, that these movements of God among us are most clearly made manifest.
Which brings us to the heart of my message: the Trinity is a way to express that God is relational. Relationships are love in action, love incarnate, right before our eyes, so close we can touch it, and so vital that we cannot live with out it. Relationship is love made manifest. Relationship is the ground of being.
Everything we do — every moment of every day — every second of every minute — we are participating in relationships — relationships with each other: not just the ones we know and love, but with all the rest of humanity, past, present and future, those whose shoulders we stand upon as well as those for whom we clear the way. Relationship with creation: with the trees and plants that give us air to breathe and food to eat, with the animals that exist in the circle of living, moving and having being, with the cosmos – the dust from which we are made. And relationship with that which brought us into being — the one who invites us in and leads the way, always asking, never forcing, always loving us and delighting in us more than we can imagine.
Our reading from Proverbs today, especially verses 23-31 are a hymn to the delight God takes in that which she has created. Our Hebrew Bible scholar guest during Lent, Lizzie Berne DeGear, brought us a translation of that passage that makes it clear that this was a love song sung to humanity and creation in the voice of the divine feminine – using active verbs – and that she was the architect, the creator of the blueprint for creation, while the divine masculine voice was the builder. In the original Hebrew, verbs have no tense and they are inherently timeless. Listening to these verses, we hear that there was movement, there was flow, there was relationship — before there was dimension. Theirs is an interaction of love and joy and playfulness, and out of that interaction, creation is spoken into being. She was there in the beginning even before the beginning, so she also was the Word.
Since this is a Hebrew Bible passage, we cannot say it specifically speaks of the Trinity, but it does speak of God’s own self being in relationship —as well as God’s delight in God’s self and in creation. While writing parts of this sermon sitting in the sunshine in Madison Square Park, I happened to sit near where some young children were playing. It is that kind of exuberant, unselfconscious joy that this passage describes.
And what a joy it is for us to ponder those loving voices in conversation with the Trinity — in conversation with a very human symbol which attempts to express how God’s own self is relationship. In its most primary interpretation, we can envision the Trinity as an equilateral triangle — a kind of sacred geometry. And while we may groan and say, “no please, don’t make me do math,” just stop a moment and ponder how that equilateral triangle is about flow and yet also stability. The shape itself invites our eyes to move, doesn’t it? And yet it is also so solid – so secure, so stable — so equal.
St Augustine spoke of the Trinity as Love, Beloved, and Lover — and from that insight, combined with the belief in the incarnation, he reasoned that God is both relational and personal.
We hear that too in the passage from Proverbs: divine voices in relationship with each other and with their mutual creation. God speaks of her many delights, but in the last verse she is clear about her chief delight — the human race. The Hebrew word for delight is Shashua — a word that is the same root word as Jeshua — or Jesus, our beloved.
If the central insight of Christianity is that God IS Love, and God became one of us, then we, we humans, God’s own creation, must be beloved. The one we call Jesus — Jeshua — the delight of God’s being — became one of us — to show us that our very being IS God’s delight.
If God is love, then the Trinity — the idea that God’s own self is relational — is a foundation aspect of the Christian insight. Lo these many years later, I definitely understand why Julia does not want anyone to take the Trinity away!
I’d like to finish with a translation of the first few verses of the Gospel of John —a translation which speaks to the Trinity — to the idea that God is relational. This translation is by scholar Clive Scott, a linguist and professor at the University of East Anglia. He started this translation when he discovered that the famous 16th century scholar Erasmus used a different translation for LOGOS —Erasmus did not translate Logos as WORD. Instead he translated it as CONVERSATION.
It all arose out of a conversation,
conversation within God, in fact the
conversation was God. So, God started the
discussion, and everything came out of this,
and nothing happened without consultation.
This was the life, life that was the light of humanity,
shining in the darkness, a darkness which
neither understood nor quenched its creativity.
John, a man sent by God, came to remind
people about the nature of the light so that
they would observe. He was not the subject
under discussion, but the bearer of an
invitation to join in.
The subject of the conversation, the original
light, came into the world, the world that had
arisen out of his willingness to converse. He
fleshed out the words but the world did not
understand. He came to those who knew the
language, but they did not respond. Those
who did became a new creation (his children),
they read the signs and responded.
These children were born out of sharing in
the creative activity of God. They heard the
conversation still going on, here, now, and
took part, discovering a new way of being people.
To be invited to share in a conversation
about the nature of life, was for them, a glorious
opportunity not to be missed.