Sisters and brothers grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
We serve an awesome God. I maybe don't say that enough. We worship an awesome God. As my mentor used to say, a God who is so high you cannot get over God, a God so deep you cannot get under God, a God so wide you cannot get around God; a God who stepped out on nowhere and took hold of nothing and made himself a world.
And at the pinnacle of God's creation, God chooses to create a creature who would be capable of reflecting this greatness of God back into the universe—a creature capable of knowing and loving and creating in the image of God.
“Oh LORD our lord, how majestic is your name in all of the earth,” our Psalm 8 today says. And then a little bit after that, “you have made human beings a little less than divine and you have crowned them with glory and honor." The psalm says the greatness of God and the dignity, the nobility, the grandeur of human beings are related, so that the more this creature would know the world and know itself the more it would be capable of knowing God, and the more this creature, this human creature, came to love itself in its entirety the more capacity it would have to love God, and the more this human creature created in the world the more room it would have, the more capacity it would discover to know itself as God's own handiwork.
Today we hear the creation story from the book of Genesis. And I am fond of preaching and teaching and talking about it in just about any circumstance. Because in our creation story God creates without violence. In so many other myths of creation, ancient and modern, the world depends on violence to come into being. The Babylonian gods have a war and the bodies of the defeated were cut up and made into the world; the process of natural selection and competition leads to the failure of those less fit, and this becomes a myth or an image that shapes our picture of the modern world; the creative destruction of the economy, the conquest of new lands--it’s all the same thing over and over again. The dead are vanquished and used as the fodder for creation. But not not this story that we hear today. In our story God creates the world through speech, through words, through pure and free acts.
So it happens that a world created without violence is understood by humankind to require violence to exist. And so what happens is that a God who creates us in order to love will yet see us justifying and rationalizing and explaining the violence of the world that we create.
Humankind is created free and yet is everywhere in chains.
Humankind is infused with the breath of God and yet everywhere struggles to breathe.
Humankind is created just a little bit lower than God and yet everywhere pushes itself down into the ground.
Today is Holy Trinity Sunday. This is a rare day in our church year that is devoted to a doctrine, not to an event in the life of Christ or of the church, not to an apostle or a martyr but to a truth, a teaching namely: that God is is three persons in one eternal undivided being; Unbegotten, Begotten, and Proceeding; Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Before any creation, before any other relationship between God and any existing thing the Trinity is the understanding that God is a relationship of love within God's self and this bond of mutual love is what flows out into the beauty of creation and stamps itself on every corner of the universe.
So it is fitting it is fitting that on this day when we confess and we celebrate this mysterious truth of our faith we do it in words that remind us of the role of human beings in the world the Holy Trinity creates: that we are the one who bear God's image not in a shape, not in beards and white garments but in our capacity to love and to create. And on this day when we celebrate this awesome mystery of Christian faith we are reminded by these words that we cannot rightly exalt and glorify God without also creating more space for human beings to grow. We are reminded at the same time that we cannot degrade or diminish humanity without also dragging God down and making God in our own minds smaller and meaner than God truly is.
We encounter this festival this year at a moment of two distinct but overlapping and related crises in our world. One is the continuing outbreak of a novel virus which endangers everyone but has most particularly hospitalized, infected, and killed people in low-income communities and communities of color. In these communities live the people have had to keep going to work and for whom adequate protections have not been taken; people who may lack the resources to isolate themselves from family and friends should they become sick. It must be acknowledged at this point that in many places in the country public health and public policy has made no serious effort to suppress the outbreak in those communities. If anything, at times it seems as though there is an attempt to cordon the virus off within them.
And this understandably creates fear and frustration. At the same time we have a crisis of legitimacy in our institutions dealing with the use of law enforcement force and violence in those same low-income communities and communities of people of color. We hear some familiar concerns about accountability, about whether these institutions truly represent the people that they are designed to serve. These crises are a real test of faith for our culture, for our community, and for the church itself.
Because there are always going to be answers and responses that will tempt us to wall the problem off, to retreat from it, to make it someone else's burden to bear. There are all kinds of ways to do this, some of them are more subtle than others. But this is the test of faith to which we are being put but as Christians, today confessing and celebrating this mysterious doctrine of God three in one and one in three persons.
We are not unfamiliar with tests of faith. We have been taught in stories exactly like the ones we hear today that there is in fact no way to separate ourselves. There is no way for any part of humanity to be only the knee pressing down and not the neck that is asphyxiated. There is no way for one to suffer without that suffering boomeranging back on those who perpetrate or who merely watch. There is no way to rationalize violence toward someone else without destroying our own conscience and damaging our own soul. It cannot be done. Because God created one humanity; in all of our beautiful and marvelous diversity but one humankind. But at the same time we have been taught, and we confess, and we cherish the truth that there is no way for us to love our neighbour at risk and at cost to ourselves without also coming to understand how much love we may receive and how much love we need. There is no way for me to protect my neighbor without understanding my own need to be protected. And there is no way for me to liberate my neighbor, to set them free from the forces that oppress them, without myself being set free from the burdens of believing myself to be somehow different.
And so that is the test of faith before us on Trinity Sunday in the year of our Lord 2020 and on every day: to find that love for our hurting selves inside the love of our hurting neighbor. To seek not merely a moment's peace, not merely safety, not merely getting through to the other side, but that mutual freedom, that mutual liberation, that each and every one of us needs. To see the longing which God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a bond of love from before all time--has implanted in your heart and in every human life. Amen.
God's Work. Our hands.