Trinity Sunday – June 12, 2022
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15
After the radical wonder inspired by Pentecost, we move from the Spirit to the celebration of
God in all the wonderful diversity and presence of God. God is the one and multiple transformer, who gives life, inspires and saves all creation.
God is one: Christianity is a monotheistic religion. In fact, most progressive Christians and process theologians focus on the fullness of God and downplay the Spirit and often also Jesus as the Christ. Affirming the fullness of God, should we speak of diversity in divinity? How can reflection on the Trinity deepen our faith, especially in the context of postmodernism and its focus on experience rather than doctrine? How will the Trinitarian conversation enrich Christian experience and social commitment? These are all good questions, and the answers are not necessarily easy to find.
The readings from Psalm 8 and Proverbs 8 complement each other, and both have a place in worship and preaching. Psalm 8 proclaims the greatness of God. We live in a majestic universe, the immensity of which eclipses the pretensions of humanity. God’s creative wisdom is revealed in all things, in countless galaxies and in the complexity of the human body. Immanent in all things, God still has a unique calling for humanity: to reflect divine creativity and beauty in our own lives and stewardship of the earth, to be God’s presence to nurture the Good Earth. Our “domination” is a vocation and not a question of hierarchy. We are to be gardeners of creation, partnering with God in healing the earth. Our oneness as representatives of God is for mission and healing, not domination and destruction.
Proverbs 8 speaks of Sophia, Divine Wisdom, as God’s creative companion. God is not just male or female. Divine creativity embraces the totality of creature experience. God is he/she/they and more. Perhaps the predecessor to the Prologue to the Gospel of John – and its vision of the Creative Word/Logos of God – Proverbs 8 affirms the feminine creativity of God. From the heart of divinity, she creates alongside the Parent/Creator, bringing order to the universe and delighting the creator. She is almost like a child, creating refrigerator art and spinning tales for Divinity, and perhaps the world in its complexity can be seen as divine offspring, participating in Divine DNA, revealing wisdom divine at all times.
The global Spirit that inspires a democracy of revelation is also intensely personable, speaking to all of us and also to each of us in unique ways. In the spirit of Psalm 8 and Proverbs 8, the reading of Romans 5 describes the immanence of God as Spirit. God has poured out the Spirit of God into our hearts, giving us courage, patience and fortitude. Wherever God works – in all of God’s revelations – there is a moral element. God aims for beauty and creative, orderly innovation in the creation of the cosmos; God also aims at character and creativity in the human adventure. The Spirit of God is our deepest reality, flowing in our hearts and throughout our being, body, mind, spirit and relationship. The body is inspired and the spirit embodied by the creative wisdom of the Spirit of God.
The Gospel of John speaks of the message of Jesus continued by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus, reflecting his message and his values. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not primarily found in speaking in tongues and Pentecostal drama, but in living Jesus’ way of welcoming, embracing, healing and nurturing. Spirit-centered living is above all ethical and unifying. The Spirit of God reveals the mission of Jesus with honesty and integrity. Intentional dishonesty, whether it be conspiracy theories or false election claims, undermines the work of the Spirit and can be described as blasphemy. The living Spirit of Jesus unites us with all of creation, building bridges with diversity, inspiring us to creativity, and mediating divine healing. The Spirit calls us, in all our fallibility, to seek to open channels of grace and inspiration. The Spirit calls us to be the incarnation of Christ in a world of division and violence.
If we want to focus on the Trinity – and that seems appropriate on Trinity Sunday! – our focus must be spiritual and ethical. Western Christians would do well to embrace elements of Eastern Christian theosis, or divinization. The grace of God is as much, if not more, about sanctification and holiness, becoming godlike as possible, than forgiveness. The atonement is not an outward reality, a divine acceptance of the sinner in his otherness, as a unification, a unity with God in purpose and vision.
On Trinity Sunday, we must claim our divine calling. Limited and fallible, yet we are God’s companions in healing the earth, and that healing happens one intentional and loving act at a time.
Trinitarian thinking proclaims a divine bias toward innovation, balance between order, justice, hospitality and unity, and healing. To embody the Trinity of God is to imitate Jesus – and his own reflection of divine healing-creativity – in our daily lives and our political and economic engagements.
Far from being abstract, Trinitarian thinking is embodied in the difficult world of balancing security and hospitality, budgeting with social safety nets, unity with diversity, and national sovereignty with reception from abroad. The answers may not come easily, whether in our lives as individuals, worshipers and pastors, and citizens, but the bias should always be towards unity, healing and affirmation.
Bruce Epperly is a pastor, teacher, and author of over seventy books, including THE ELEPHANT IS RUNNING: PROCESS AND OPEN AND RELATIONAL THEOLOGY AND RELIGIOUS PLURALISM; MYSTICS IN ACTION: TWELVE SAINTS FOR TODAY; PROPHETIC HEALING: HOWARD THURMAN’S VISION OF CONTEMPLATIVE ACTIVISM; GOD ONLINE: A MYSTIC’S GUIDE TO THE INTERNET, and THEOLOGY OF PROCESS AND POLITICS.