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Psalm 103, as rendered by Nan C. Merrill
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
This is the one Sunday of the year, more than any other, when the church universal asks us to consider and celebrate the unfathomable mystery of God and, more to the point, tempts us to try to explain it—to make it somehow fathomable, to reduce it to a formula: the three-in-one.
Well, I am not particularly interested in going there. Call my decision what you will—refusing to take the bait or failing to rise to the theological challenge—but I am tired of pretending to know what cannot be known. I am less interested in explaining the relationships between Holy Parent, Christ, and Spirit—or Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer—than in recognizing and honoring the Holy in its many forms, in praising the God of many names, in blessing the Beloved with our souls and all that is within us.
What I really want to do, what I really need to do today and every day is to make time and space for awe, to notice and give thanks for the works of God in the world and in my life, to explore how the Divine lives in us and through us, and, to remember that I am not the Love, I am not the Light, nor am I the Power.
I need to confess that there are too many times when, instead of proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and myself as lover, disciple, follower, and even slave, I proclaim myself. I need to remember that, while I am made in the image of God, I am not God.
In the words of Psalm 8, we are made just a little lower than God— and still we are not God. God has crowned us with glory and honor, and made us holy partners in the divine work of loving and healing the world—and yet we are not God.
We are but human bearers of divine gifts. We have these holy treasures in clay jars—in our mortal bodies and our wounded hearts. We carry God-given precious potential along with our very real faults and all our not-so-sacred baggage. It is not our little light that shines, but the Risen Christ light, the Holy Spirit beam. It is not our little light that shines, but the same great light the Creator spoke into being out of the dark void of nothingness.
In these times of deepening division, rampant injustice, the cynical abuse of power, and the distortion of truth, we are, understandably desperate to make a difference for good. In these days of increasing inequality, explicit racism, nuclear brinksmanship, one deadly school shooting after another, and a government that takes young children away from their asylum-seeking parents, we are, noticeably hungry for hope. In a system that seeks to make itself great by tearing others down, it is only natural that we would want to flex our muscle, prove our power, and bask in whatever glory comes our way.
But it is not about us.
We are but clay jars.
The extraordinary power for good that we possess belongs to God and does not come from us.
And yet this can be hard to remember. This is so easy to forget.
Which is perhaps, one of the reasons the church gives us something like Trinity Sunday: to encourage us to consider that it is through the self-giving love of Christ that peace and justice for all who are oppressed comes. That is in the heart of God that we find the pathway of truth. That the God who loves us more than we can ask or imagine is the God who submitted to a criminal’s shameful death. That the Source of Mercy and Grace who removes our wrongs as far from us as the east is from the west is the Spirit that heals and transforms. That the Beloved who makes a home in our hearts is the end of all our longings. The the Divine Parent whose steadfast love for us never changes is Holy Fire that changes us. That the Human One who conquered death lives among us in the least of these. That all these aspects of the Divine cooperate with and complement one another, as if they are a holy community, as if their common life is a beautiful, ungoing circle dance.
That there is, thanks be to God, a higher power—and it is not us.
When we and those we love are afflicted, when the weak are persecuted, when our dreams are struck down, and our best efforts come to naught, it helps to remember that new life comes out of death, that while God does not cause suffering she can redeem it, that the very life and love of Jesus can be made real through our struggles.
It is at times like that, in times such as these, that it helps not to claim that we can explain the Great Mystery, but to proclaim our humble trust in a power greater than our own. In times like these it is well to remember and renew our commitment to follow a path other than our own—until, by God’s transforming grace, it becomes our own. In times like these, it helps to remember what we hope to be true and to try to live into it.
Toward that end, it is my pleasure to share with you a Trinitarian affirmation of faith written by Mary Luti:
We believe in God,
maker and re-maker of everything that is,
in whom there is always more,
and more to come;
and by whose wonder, work, and will,
even the dead find life.
We believe in God.
We believe in Jesus Christ,
maker and re-maker of tables and tales,
in whom the welcome is wide,
the feasting free;
and by whose weeping, words, and wounds,
even the lost are found.
We believe in Jesus Christ.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
maker and re-maker of imagination,
whose eyes see over the horizon,
beyond the end;
and by whose urgency and fire,
even the truth gets told.
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, we also believe
that everything that lives can be reborn,
all hidden things can come to light,
all broken things can be remade,
the empty larder can be filled,
and promises gone stale and hard
can taste like bread again.
And we believe the old, old Story can be told again
to thrill sad hearts like rediscovered love;
that even lost and frightened lambs like us
can be retrieved, restored to courage,
and declare the Truth
that makes the tyrants tumble
and the captives free.
Therefore, we do not proclaim ourselves. Therefore, we point not to ourselves but to the One who lives in us and works through us. Therefore, we can own our doubts and give thanks for the Great Mystery of extravagant, unconditional, creating, and self-giving love. Therefore, we can tell the stories of how that Love has worked in our lives. Therefore, we can give of ourselves so that this transforming Love might also be at work in the world.
Therefore, we can trust that while we may be knocked down we will not be knocked out. That however difficult the journey, we will not be crushed; however discouraging and damning the news, we will not succumb to despair; however oppressed, we will never be forsaken; however prone to selfishness and sin, we will always be forgiven; and that as surely as our bodies weaken and fail we are forever being made new.
Therefore, we can bless what we do not understand. Therefore, we can trust a power greater and so much more gracious than ours. Therefore, we can rejoice—even here, even now.
Thanks be to God.