The Adventurous Lectionary – The Second Sunday after Pentecost – June 11, 2017
Genesis 1:1-2:4a, Psalm 8, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20
The First Sunday after Pentecost is identified as Trinity Sunday, and this Sunday has the potential of creating as much theological confusion as clarity. Many of us no longer use the traditional Tridentine formula – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in our quest for an inclusive theological vision. Others find the replacement language, perceived as more inclusive – Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer – as too impersonal and untethered from tradition. Still, others, like myself try to have our theological cake and eat it, all with a sense of our own theological integrity, and proclaim, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Creator, Redeemer, and Inspirer, and Mother of Us All. Many of us are functional Unitarians, focusing on the unity and relationality of God, as more important than the image of three “persons” of divinity. In any event, if we are to talk about the Trinity, we need to approach the theme in ways that deepen our relationship with God and one another.
The Genesis reading doesn’t directly address the issue of the Trinity, although it does suggest a complexity in God, with the phrase, “Let us make humankind in our image….male and female [God] created them.” God is alive, many-faceted, and as wondrously complex as God’s creation. The creation story of Genesis 1:1-2:4a has been hijacked by “young earth” Christians, literalists, and creation science advocates, none of whom truly get what’s at stake here. This passage is about the wonders of divine creativity, the beauty of the universe, and God’s imaginative artistry, not a three-story universe or the dating of creation. Such wooden and fundamentalist readings miss the power and providence of a Living God who is constantly creating and bringing forth a universe of creative companions, most particularly humankind. Moreover, this is “our” creation story, our poetry, and needs to be told in light of our understanding of other creation stories and the universe story of today’s scientists.
Radical amazement attends the reading of this story, and any doctrine of God that is not amazing is not worth paying attention to. The Trinity is amazing and wonderful and doesn’t need to be domesticated by literalistic understandings.
Psalm 8 fits well with both scientific and mystical visions. Enchanted in its own time, it is now the material for “re-enchanting” the universe, that is, joining mysticism with science, and poetry with the Hubble telescope and fossil fields. As a planet, we barely matter; our lives as persons are brief in the context of the 14 billion year journey of the universe, and yet we matter to God and have a vocation right where we are on this tiny dot in space. Infinitesimal, we are yet of infinite worth, and have the vocation of being, without affirming speciesism, God’s regents on the Earth, whose task is gardening and beautifying rather than destroying.
The passages from 2 Corinthians and Matthew represent early attempts at articulating the Trinity, the wondrous incarnational presence of God. This is not the “threeness” persons, misunderstood by Islam’s founders, as separate beings, and thus idolatrous representations of the One God. Instead, it is a unity of the spirit in which, despite the grandeur and infinity of God, the apophatic and “hidden” God, God is one in the Spirit and one in Christ. God’s moral nature is unified. Grace is not an anomaly. Predestination is not dualistic. The only God we get is the one we see in Jesus and the only Spirit we can affirm is the Spirit of unity and love, seeking wholeness for all things. God creates in love, God redeems in love, God inspires in love.
Like most Christian doctrines, the Trinity is best understood flexibly. We speak of what we can never fully understand, and must be open to diverse and growing understandings of what is most Sacred. Today, we called to radical amazement (Heschel), to awe and wonder, to the quest for beauty, and the commitment to love and create in the spirit of our Dynamic God. Trinity Sunday may be an “era piece,” but it may also be a day to celebrate a God who is still creating, who speaks in diverse ways, whose creativity and redemption embraces all creation, and who challenges us to go beyond all divisive and exclusive theologies to affirm the wonders of God’s creative love.