Homily, “Trinity, Unity, Diversity”
First Sunday after Pentecost- Trinity Sunday, 2020
Online for St. George’s Episcopal Church
Derek M Larson, TSSF
Today’s Lectionary Readings:
A note to the white church accompanying this sermon: https://derekmichaellarson.com/2020/06/06/a-note-to-the-white-church-resources-to-build-trinitarian-unity-and-diversity/
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”
Today is Trinity Sunday and we hear in our lectionary readings this morning the glimpses of Holy Threeness experienced by the early Church. The Trinity is a tricky thing that baffles most of our minds. It’s hard to wrap our minds around all the precise language that the Fathers and Mothers of the Church came up with to describe it. Words like Essence, Substance, Person, Consubstantial, Homoousios.
I. Trinity and Society
As complicated as the terms may be, I believe our biggest challenge to understanding the Trinity today is the division of our society. Five minutes of watching the news will show you just how divided about everything we are as a country. And we are hurting because of it.
We’re divided in our churches, in our politics, in our socio-economic statuses.
We’re divided in our nationalities, immigration statuses, in what we look like.
It seems that most of the time we can’t even agree on the most fundamental aspect of society: whose lives matter.
And now, after the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, that division has become all the more apparent in protests and counter-protests around the country. A lot of people turn on the television right now and see anger, aggression, and violence. I see pain. People are hurting and their pain is spilling out of their homes and flowing into the streets where it longs to be caught up into a roaring river of justice, if those who oppose it would just stop damming it up.
The world is divided and division causes pain. And in this context, its hard to image such a radical union of mutuality as what we see in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
But that’s what we affirm in the doctrine of Trinity. Three persons, one God. Not three separate gods. Not one person showing up in three ways. Three persons. One God. In the Trinity we see diversity that doesn’t collapse into division. We see unity that doesn’t collapse into conformity. We see communion arising from mutual, shared, relationship.
The Franciscan friar Richard Rohr describes the holy three as “Absolute Friendship.” It reminds me of my four year old son playing with his cousins where joy spills out of their hearts through every pore in their body in a shared pool of mutual love and affection.
While the kings and presidents and CEOs of the world share their thrones with no one, the very heart of our God is mutual relationship.
II. Trinity and Self
And as we see in our first reading for today, we are made in that God’s image. All of creation is birthed out of that God’s relationship. Liberation theologian Leonardo Boff says that “Community is the deepest and most foundational reality that exists.” We were made for community.
A baby cannot live without human touch. I think that’s why children seem to get this so much better than we do as adults. As we grow and become all the more influenced by the culture around us, we start to think that showing affection or asking for help somehow makes us weak. We strive to be independent and to take care of our own needs on our own. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us, however, that asking for help—that living with and depending on others—does not make us weak, in fact it makes us more like God!
Richard Rohr goes so far as to define salvation “as simply the readiness, the capacity, and the willingness to stay in relationship” and that “self-sufficiency makes God experience impossible!” The root of all evil and injustice in ourselves and in the world around us is when we isolate ourselves from God and others. To be saved means to be rescued from this isolation and enter back into the holy relationship with God and all creation into which the Holy Trinity invites us.
The pain we see in the world is because some people have been divided from others. Some people are treated differently than others. And the Holy Three wants to heal that pain.
III. Trinity and Church
So now we come to our gospel reading today, what we call “The Great Commission”. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
It is our mission as the Church, as the body of Christ, to embody the mutuality and interdependence of the Trinity. This is the God into whose name we are baptized.
The great commission is not about converting people to a religion but spreading Christ’s vision of a shared and united humanity.
The great commission is not about conquering others into submission but inviting them into the very family of God.
At its best, when the Church radically embodies this vision, it has participated in bringing about God’s kingdom of healing to the world in real and tangible ways. The Church played an important part in the civil rights movement, for example, and in ending slavery.
But before we can do the work of reconciliation, we also have to do the work of repentance. Unfortunately we in the Church have also caused much division in the world.
Too often we have turned the great commission into a mission of submission.
To often we have either over emphasized distinction and drawn up walls and borders separating the heathen from the holy
or we have overemphasized unity and have demanded or expected conformity and assimilation. We say to another, “you are welcome here as long as I don’t have to change.”
We need to repent of those things.
In these challenging times we face today I think it is important to ask ourselves as individuals and even more importantly as the Church, how do we embody the life of the Trinity?
In what ways are we working towards unity without forcing or expecting everyone to look and act and sing and dress and think just like us?
In what ways are we working to affirm diversity without closing people off behind walls or across train tracks or behind bars or across town?
When we look around in our own church, do we see unity? Do we see diversity?
How often have we crossed the borders of our comfort to meet another person in their world?
IV. Trinity and You
I’d like to invite us today to make a commitment this week to crossing one of those borders. Think about a person or community you feel particularly divided from and spend some time this week praying for them and intentionally seeing them as members of the same Divine, Trinitarian community of which you are a part.
Spend some time listening to their voice, their pain, their thought, their worldview, their story and try to understand it.
This is especially important for those of us who hold white privilege, to listen deeply to those who feel the oppression and marginalization of society.
The Trinitarian God is in relationship with the person you don’t understand or agree with. Are you?
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of ALL nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” I can promise you, the more we join in that mission, the more we will see that Jesus really is with us to the very end of the age. Amen.
* Drone footage taken at Lakeland Highland Scrubs in Lakeland, FL, just down the road from where Derek grew up.