Lectionary Reflections for Trinity Sunday
June 15, 2014
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
With summer on the horizon, the scriptures celebrate creation and our place in it. It’s not about us. We have a unique mission but it is part of a larger holy adventure of divine wisdom and creativity. We share in God’s creativity with all creation, and have the vocation of becoming imaginative and healthy creators ourselves. Many churches will celebrate the reality of God’s Trinitarian nature this Sunday. While the doctrine of the Trinity only has a modest place in scripture, these passages point to the dynamic, interdependent nature of the Trinity. The Trinity represents relationships within God and in the call and response of God and the world.
In some quarters, reading the Genesis creation story is an invitation to today’s culture wars, being played out in public school science classes. It seems that some Christians have learned nothing since the Scopes trials. They identify the Genesis creation story, the first of two creation stories, with an exact science and biblical literalism, when the text is about wonder, creativity, awe, and beauty. It is about the “why” of creation and not the “how.” God creates in beauty, and brings forth greater and greater levels of complexity, pronouncing each succeeding level as “good.”
We live in a glorious and good universe in which everything fits together. Note the Genesis author does not say “perfect.” Creation is not finished, it is in process, emerging, and – dare we say – evolving (and the Genesis order of creation comes close to evolutionary theory) as each aspect seeks its proper place within the whole. Humankind is part of this wonderful and dynamic divine tapestry: we are earthy, yet created in God’s image, male and female, to be partners and stewards in creation. There is no literal “special creation” of the human species, as come biblical literalists assert against evolutionary theory; there is wise creation and interdependence, in which humanity has a special role.
This passage challenges both scientific and biblical literalism. The Genesis creation story is congruent with evolutionary theory and affirms an underlying purpose in life. It affirms that the reality of purpose and meaning-making occurs at all levels of creation. It challenges purely random visions of the universe, without posing a deterministic alternative. It is consistent with randomness, and also sees a gentle, benevolent providence moving within all things. It equally challenges images of a primordial perfection and the descriptions of humans walking the earth beside dinosaurs!
While we can’t read too much into one phrase, the Genesis creation story also suggests that purely masculine images of God are incomplete. In God’s image, humans are created both male and female. The divine is larger than any human image: God embraces all that we find in ourselves and then much more. Female imagery for God is just as theologically legitimate as male imagery. We catch a glimpse of Spirit alongside the Parent Creator in God’s breathing the universe into being.
Psalm 8 continues the theme. The Psalmist would be quite at home with the television series “Cosmos,” whether hosted by Sagan or Tyson. We live in a grand universe and awe is an appropriate response to its grandeur. Once again, it’s not about us! When we gaze at the heavens, ponder 125 billion galaxies, and our postage stamp place in the Milky Way, we can – and should – be humbled. Humility reminds us that we are part of a greater creative adventure that can live without us, but still needs our gifts. Do we matter? Is the universe purposeless? Is it all sound and fury, a tale told by an idiot? The Psalmist says “no.” While I am sure the Psalmist recognized the randomness of events, what truly stuck him was wonder and amazement.
Some physicists suggest that in a universe without a true geographical center, every place can be the center. This is also the meaning of divine omnipresence. All places are at God’s center; all creatures are centered in God. In a universe whose grandeur is beyond our imagination, we matter. We have a vocation and it is to be gardeners and shepherds of creation, to bring beauty and order and innovation to creation, and not destruction. Jewish mystics say that the world is saved one person at a time; perhaps the same is true for the universe. We have a role in saving the universe by doing our part to save and beautify our good earth.
The New Testament readings seem almost an afterthought in today’s lectionary readings, but they also have a place. As part of a grand cosmos, our mission is to bring order and share good news, and the good news involves the vision of a dynamic interactive and Trinitarian God.
The passage from 2 Corinthians connects order and humility with the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit. We have a vocation in God’s realm: sharing good news with creation by our love for one another.
The Gospel reading contains an early Trinitarian formula. Our good news involves an always relational, ever-creative, dynamic and interactive God. Trinitarian theology, at its best, always promises God’s presence. Jesus is always with us, giving insight and inspiration, in partnership with God the Creator and Spirit.