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And How Are We To Go?

June 10, 2017

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As we wandered around the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve a few weeks ago, I was amazed at the incredible beauty of the dunes. Yet, the desert can also be a place of harshness as I have discovered in various places around this world. The Gospel reading is about our call to Go into the World… the path will be prepared, of course, by the Lord.

This is Trinity Sunday and is often a difficult time to preach year after year after year. The doctrine of the Trinity has been befuddling theologians and preachers for generations. In the early days of the church the fight to establish the doctrine of the trinity often led to arguments and even death for those who disagreed with the prevalent theology being put forth by the powers that be. To borrow a phrase from our Jewish friends, trying to define the Trinity would cross a Rabbi’s eyes!

Saint Patrick used the shamrock to describe how God was one and yet three, like the shamrock had three leaves and yet one body. As for this Padre? Well, throughout the years I have tried to dissect what the Trinity is and what it means to little avail. Why? Well, because in the day to day ministry of a military Chaplain and pastor you don’t have a whole lot of time to parse deep theology when you are busy walking with people through the valley of the shadows or trying to help folks find a way through the wilderness or trying to find the way through the wilderness yourself.

That, dear reader, leads to my contemplation on the Trinity and what it means for us today. My dear wife Denise has long said that God is a God of relationship. God wants a relationship with us and, in fact, God is best understood in relationship… Father, Son, Holy Spirit… Creator, Christ, Redeemer… three in one and one in three… or as the hymn says, “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”

God, is a God of love… Jesus taught us that the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets was not completing a checklist but rather to love God with our entire being (heart, soul, mind, and strength) and to love our neighbor (every neighbor) as ourselves. And that, dear reader, is the substance for this old Padre of the Trinity. God is a God of relationship based on love and God calls us to be in a relationship of love with God and with each other.

Psalm 8 speaks of the glory of God and our place in that glory: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:3-5) The additional reading from the Hebrew Scriptures comes from Genesis 1:1-2:4a which is the first creation account. While Christians throughout the ages have often taken the passages to mean that we have dominion (power and control) over creation.

This thinking has led to a gross treatment of the created world by those who have been called to be good stewards of what God has given us to care for. We are so focused on the whole “little lower than God and crowned with glory and honor” aspect that we miss the whole call to be a servant which we see exemplified by our Lord himself.

So what do we do with this Sunday when we celebrate the doctrine of the Trinity? I for one don’t believe that we do much good for the building of God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven by parsing Scripture and at the same time ignoring the call to love and serve… the call to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world.

That is where the Gospel reading for Trinity Sunday comes into play. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, we have Jesus giving the disciples their marching orders.  “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'” (Matthew 28:16-20)

What have you commanded us to do, Lord? It all boils down to love, doesn’t it. Love you with our entire being… Love our neighbors (created in your image) as we are to love ourselves (also created in your image)… walking hand-in-hand with the prophet Micah as he calls us to love you and love our neighbors by doing justice, loving kindness/mercy, and walking humbly with you, Lord. And so, dear reader, this is the lesson of the Trinity for us. How shall we love God and neighbor? Let me count the ways. All of those ways lead us back to the one who loved us that he gave his life for us. Will you join me in this journey of love?

 

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