Today is Trinity Sunday. It is also the day when we mark the end of our program year. At our 10:00 service, some of our children and youth will be assisting in the service in more expansive ways than is typical. They will read the lessons, serve as ushers, and be Eucharistic Ministers. We will also recognize all of the volunteers and leaders who work so hard throughout the year to make our Christian formation program a success.
We do these things on this day because the church tends to follow roughly, the academic year and with graduations occurring at UW and the high schools in these last weeks of May, and many of us looking forward to travel plans this summer, the pace of life at Grace will begin to slow. That’s a welcome development after all of the hard work and excitement that we’ve experienced over the last few years.
Still, not everything will come to an end. Even as we mark the ending of our program year, other activities are ramping up. The long moribund Outreach Committee has been re-invigorated and will have its initial meeting after the 10:00 service today. This summer will be a time when we plan carefully and lay the groundwork for some new programs and new ministries that we hope to roll out in the fall.
While all of this is going on, it’s actually remarkably fitting that we reflect a bit on the Trinity today. This is the one Sunday in our liturgical year when we focus on one of the doctrines of our faith. In many ways, the Trinity is that element of our faith that distinguishes us most clearly from our monotheistic brothers and sisters in Judaism and Islam. For while we agree with them on the central confession that God is one, for us Christians, the Trinity is our effort to explain and understand how we experience and know God, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit as well as God in Godself, and how the threeness of God relates to the one-ness of God.
I’m not going to try to explain the Trinity to you—it would take much more than the 10 or 12 minutes available to me in a Sunday sermon. Instead, I would like to explore a little bit some of the implications for our faith and shared life of this belief that God is three in one. I would like to focus on two elements in this, first, that inherent in God is community, fellowship. And second, that God is creative, that God’s power and love flow out of Godself into the world and into us.
First, that God is, by nature, a God who seeks and is community. Just as we rejoice when we welcome and recognize the gifts and talents of the younger members of our community, just as we celebrate the presence among us of people from diverse backgrounds, just as we embrace strangers and visitors, the life we share in community is a reflection of and witness to the life of the God who is One in Three, unity in trinity. And as our gospel reading reminds us. The ongoing life we share is a life in which we experience God’s continuing presence and guidance, and that the questions and struggles we face as a community are resolved through the Holy Spirit’s continuing presence and leadership among us. The gospel reminds us that that our struggles to be faithful, our doubts, uncertainties, our conflicts are overcome when we listen to each other, listen to the Holy Spirit, and discern the movement of God among us. When we do that, the future opens up in all of its possibility and creativity, and we move forward in ways we cannot imagine on our own. We experience the creative power of God at work in and through us.
Indeed, at the heart of the Trinity is creativity, creativity that flows out into the universe, flows out into us. We see that creativity at work and at play in today’s reading from Proverbs. The reading from Proverbs is a poem of Wisdom. Wisdom, personified here as female is speaking:
“Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
“On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out.”
We may find it hard to imagine Lady Wisdom taking her stand at the crossroads, beside the gates of the town. Such imagery may bring to mind the sort of protests of which we are familiar around here, but that’s a little misleading. In the biblical tradition, the city gates or portal was the place where justice was meted out; where injustice was decried and people who had been wronged received their due. The crossroads or marketplace was a place where ideas were exchanged, decisions affecting the community decided. So here, Lady Wisdom is proclaiming her role in creating community. She speaks from the centers of human life, from and about economic and social relationships.
But Wisdom isn’t just present in human society. She also is present in God, at the creation. She reminds us that it was through wisdom, in wisdom, that God created the universe. She helped to give it order:
“When he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.”
Here, Wisdom describes herself as the master workman, and in the reading we get a strong sense of Wisdom participating in creation in some way, helping plan it or at least observing it. But, wait. There is another possible interpretation here. What’s translated as “master workman” could also mean, “little child.” That offers a completely different meaning of the text. Let’s read that verse again.
“When he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was with him, like a little child, I was his delight, rejoicing before him always, and delighting in the human race.”
I love that dual image, of Wisdom as a master worker, wisdom as a little child. I especially love that last verse, “I was his delight, rejoicing before him always, and delighting in the human race.”
I think we tend to miss out on something central in God’s nature when we overlook God’s playfulness, delight, joy. In the Psalm from last week (Ps104), a marvelous song in praise of creation, there’s a verse I particularly love:
27 There move the ships,
and there is that Leviathan, *
which you have made for the sport of it.
We see the beauty and wonder in creation, but we also see unimaginable creativity. To think of the wonder of creation as evidence of God’s sheer joy and playfulness, and wisdom, running like a child beside God, as uncontrollable as a four or five year old is when they overcome and overwhelmed by the joy of life.
Wisdom is God’s delight, the delight of a parent for her joyous child. We are God’s delight. When we live in hope and faith, when we open ourselves to the possibility of the future and trust that God is holding our hand as we run headlong, we are God’s delight. As a community, when we open ourselves to God’s creative possibilities, and open ourselves to the gifts of others, we are God’s delight. As a community, when we reach out and grasp the hands of our neighbors and allow them to share with us their joy and their creative wisdom, we are God’s delight. When we do all that, we participate in the creative power and creative wisdom of the Trinity, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.