Rev.Dr. Molly Scherm
Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday, as we do annually on the first Sunday after Pentecost, to reflect on and give thanks for the Trinity, our conviction that ONE God – the source, the creator, the power that infuses all life and redeems all life - is experienced in three forms, and yet is ONE God.
But this Trinity Sunday 2020 comes in the midst of what has to have been one of the hardest weeks we collectively have lived through in terms of the state of our world and our nation. A deadly virus continues raging, forcing us to isolate from one another and causing economic impact that will undoubtedly affect us for years to come. Those of us who are white have seen the veil ripped off of the broad and deep and ugly racial hatred that that is woven into the very fabric of our country, and we are, perhaps, beginning to truly acknowledge it: our black and brown siblings have never had the luxury of ignoring it. We’ve watched horrifying videos of violence by those we have trusted to protect us, and listened to rhetoric from our President that holds up domination and force as the appropriate way to peace and justice.
So in this context, what do we do with Trinity Sunday? Is it even relevant? Come along and let’s look for what wisdom we might find in our sacred texts.
Our first reading from Genesis - the very first words of Jewish and Christian scripture, making the claim that the whole world is the intentional work of our Creator God, and that it is orderly, and that it is good.
In this first creation story, which we believe to have been the creation of what’s called the “Priestly” author - which means it was written for use in worship - God’s creation of humankind is basically the crowning glory of creation.
The astounding claim is that
God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Today’s psalm likewise praises God for the unutterable majesty of the created world and echoes Genesis in marveling at the place of humankind within creation:
What are humans that you should be mindful of us? *
the children of humans that you should seek us out?
You have made us but little lower than the angels; *
you adorn us with glory and honor;
You give us mastery over the works of your hands; *
you put all things under our feet.
The priests and the psalmist understand and share an understanding of God’s design, God’s intent, what Michael Curry calls “God’s dream” for the world – a reality in which the beloved children WHO ARE MADE IN THE VERY IMAGE OF THE CREATOR bear responsibility for God’s beloved world, and for one another. Taking it just a step further, in God’s design, God’s intent, the beloved children recognize and honor the image of God in one another.
When we acknowledge this and commit to it in our baptismal vows, we speak of seeking and serving Christ in all persons, of striving for justice, and of respecting the dignity of every human being. And, of course, this is where we have fallen short.
We, the Church, we the nation have not even caught a glimpse of what it might mean to live in the image of God. We have passively accepted a world in which some lives have not mattered as much as others, in which basic human rights have been denied to those who do not belong to the dominant majority.
We who live in this beautiful and peaceful corner of Western Massachusetts, we who are educated and housed and fed, who have good health care and access to the all of the things that allow us to thrive, but mostly, WE WHO ARE WHITE have the option of not worrying about those who are not, and who do not have the same advantages and protections. We can say “not my problem”, or “I didn’t choose this”, or at best, “there’s nothing I can do about it”.
I’ve spent some time this week thinking about my own culpability in not being more active in challenging the injustices that don’t touch me personally, and I think this is an important step in moving toward changing things, but I’ve also recognized that dwelling in my own white guilt is yet another way of making it about me, rather than listening to and caring about those who are suffering and figuring out what to do about it.
What I mean to say is that I believe the scripture we have heard this morning calls us to a very high calling. It says that in being made in the image of God, we have the capability of seeing the world as God does, and of caring for all of God’s beloved as God does, and of shaping our shared world for the benefit of ALL.
Injustice against any of God’s beloved IS OUR PROBLEM, and yes, WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. We are NOT powerless.
An important first step is educating ourselves. Heather wrote an incredibly important piece in our newsletter this week that I hope you have read and that I encourage you to save and read again at least a few more times. In it, she provides links to books, to discussion groups, and to anti-racism resources. Remarkably, my cable TV service, this week, is featuring films that explore the Black experience in America. This very morning Heather has posted a link on Facebook to sermons by Black preachers from the last week. These are good places to start, to move ourselves beyond complacency and complicity, toward living up to having been created in God’s image.
But there’s another scripture we heard this morning that I haven’t mentioned yet. And it’s important. It is a promise that Matthew tells us Jesus made in his last moments with his friends:
Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
This life we live, these huge challenges we face, these fears and confusion that disrupt and disturb us – we’re not alone in them.
(And here’s where I’m sneaking us back to the joy and the gift of the Holy Trinity.) The God who creates us in her own image, who entered our life to draw us to himself to then be lynched at the hands of those who sought to protect their own supremacy, who surrounds and sustains us, remains with us.
Our opening and closing hymn – one of my favorites, of course - offers us that image of God the three-in-one and one-in-three WITH US, protecting us and helping us.
The words of “St Patrick’s Breastplate” are a translation of Gaelic poem attributed to St. Patrick in the 3rd century, but probably, really, composed by an anonymous author in 8th. It’s also known as “St Patick’s Lorica”, a Lorica being a mystical garment that protects the wearer from danger.
The style of the hymn’s text is that of incantation, a spell cast using words, for protection on the journey.
It calls for “binding” ourselves through invocation of the “strong name of Trinity”, referencing St. Paul in Ephesians, who speaks of “putting on the armor of God.”
It promises us and invokes the presence of the Holy One:
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
It is not easy stuff, these times we’re living through. We have hard work to do, and we must no longer settle for our own easy excuses. It is time to REALLY start building a world in which ALL of God’s children can live without fear, in which all can thrive.
Jesus has shown us a life lived as God intends for us to live. The Christ within and beside and before us can help us to live that life.
Let us pray.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed
us through Jesus your Son:
look with compassion on the whole human family;
take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our
break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love;
and work through our struggle and confusion to
accomplish your purposes on earth;
that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve
you in harmony around your heavenly throne;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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