[Jesus said] “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength & our redeemer (Psalm 19:14)
Delmer Chilton tells a great story about when his parents were still living, he used to call home about once a week. He called it the “News from Lake Woebegone” sort of phone call—though in his case it was the “News from Slate Mountain.” He would get an update on the latest spat at the church and how the weather and the crops were doing and finally the obituaries, which were always a bit confusing because he never really knew who was being talked about—neither who was dead nor who was mourning. This is part of that story he told: Daddy would say, “Well, I don’t reckon you heard about William McCorkle dying?” While I was smart enough not to point out to my father that a 75-year-old man dying in Slate Mountain, North Carolina was unlikely to be big news in Atlanta; I was not smart enough to refrain from admitting that I did not know who William McCorkle was. “Sure, you do,” he would protest, “He was your Great Aunt Vesta’s first boy by her second husband, Old Man Willard McCorkle. She married him after your Great Uncle Grover Cleveland Chilton died.” Me: “I still have no clue, Daddy.” My father: “He ran that little store up on Highway 52, almost into Virginia.” Me: “Oh yeah, I remember him. He would sell beer to me when I was still underage and in high school.” Daddy, “Well, he wasn’t a real Chilton, but anyway—he died. Funeral’s at the Holiness Church on Tuesday.”
The thing that always fascinated me about these conversations is that while abstract, technical connections were important to Daddy – “Great Aunt Vesta’s boy by her first marriage,” – they meant nothing to me. But, whenever he could identify an activity, something the person did, I would often remember who they were.
Identity and activity are closely intertwined. When trying to describe someone else, after we say they are tall or short; fat or thin; young or old; blonde, brunette, gray, or bald; what do we have left to say? We most often shift to talking about something they do: how they dress, how they talk, what they like to eat, the books they read, the hobbies they pursue, stories about funny things that happened while you were with them. All of this is about activity, about doing.
More on Identity & Activity in a moment.
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
The characterization of Wisdom as a playful companion of God, made before the earth and all of creation, is particularly delightful in this passage. Wisdom speaks loudly and clearly and to all people, without prejudice. Wisdom plays in and with creation and invites us to do the same. If we pay attention to Wisdom’s guidance and stay alert to signs and symbols, Wisdom assures us we will find favor with God.
Wisdom is also fierce and strong in this text. It stands on the heights and at the crossroads and besides the entrance gates to town when Wisdom cries out to us all. The voice is not subtle or kept for only a select few.
Wisdom was in and with God before all of creation and humanity and has cared for and loved humanity since before we existed.
It is not coincidence that Wisdom is found at the places of transition and change. Wisdom communicates during times of movement and the formation of new things. Is Wisdom present in status quo? Perhaps. But Wisdom clearly reveals itself most specifically in points of growth and progress into the unknown. What a wonderful call to a church and a group of mission-oriented leaders at our own crossroads. Luther said the essence of our work is to uplift Christ and console Christians.
Many congregations will honor this as Trinity Sunday, freely admitting that for all our knowledge and study and prayer, there are some great mysteries we are called to rest in. How God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit can be separate and also the same entities continue to mystify philosophers and theologians alike when it comes to explaining the coexisting truth.
Jesus clarifies the role of the Holy Spirit by defining its purpose as a repeater of Jesus’s words, not a writer of original material so to speak. In this passage the Holy Spirit is lifted up as a guide who leads us and supports us being positioned for what is to come. Through the Spirit we are led where we need to be so we can be ready to support and engage in God’s work in the world.
Could there be a more timely message for such a change-filled as we live in now? In our fear, insecurity, or even anxiety we may be nervous about planning for the future. We may be reluctant to increase our donations to ELCA World Hunger or cautious about committing our time during upcoming seasons.
Jesus assurance that the Holy Spirit remains with us is a desperately needed affirmation during this time. We find ourselves where we are meant to be.
We don’t necessarily know how or when but we know that Jesus has declared to us that those on the margins will inherit the earth. Jesus has promised us that that the beautiful kingdom will be restored. Our job in this time is to continue to allow the Advocate to speak for us, declaring what we learn and receive with boldness and bravery until God’s kingdom is healed.
Today is Holy Trinity Sunday. Traditionally, some Lutherans use the Athanasian Creed on this day.
The Father is infinite, the Son is infinite, the Holy Spirit is infinite. Eternal is the Father, eternal is the Son, eternal is the Spirit; And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal; there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited.”
All the abstractions about both God and William McCorkle may be true and technically accurate, but for most of us, they are not particularly revealing or relevant to the way we live out our faith.
What is important to most of us about the Trinity is the way it helps us understand and participate in the activity of God in the world. Who God is and what God does in the world is revealed to us in the Living, active Word of Scripture, and the way we learn there about how God acts to save the world and us. The three basic cycles of revelation in the Bible are 1) – God as Creator and Parent, Provider and Liberator told to us in the Creation, Exodus, and Promised Land stories.
2) – God as Redeemer shown to us in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. And 3) – God as Sanctifier, the one who makes us holy, bursting upon in the stories in Acts as the church grows upward and outward. We traditionally talk about these using the language of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But, both in the scripture and in our lives, it is not so easy to separate things.
Our lessons for today explore the ways in God has acted in the world to establish for us who we are in relation to God and to each other. Our text from Proverbs established God as the Creator, who made the world and everything in it with intention and wisdom. We are not an accident of nature, not a random product of a cold and intentionless universe—we matter.
In Romans, we learn that this God does not see us as cogs in the divine machine, helpless pawns in the march toward the ultimate kingdom; rather we are the beloved of God, loved so much that the Creator became a human being to live with us, teach us, love us, died for us, rise for us, make peace with us. (Romans 5:1) How do we know? “Because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) IS that it, is that all; peace has been made and now we just go on, relieved that God isn’t mad at us?
No. In John, Jesus tells us that when he has left and ascended to heaven, we will stay connected with him and the Father through the Spirit, which will “guide us into all truth.” (John 16:13), teaching us and leading us into the future as God’s Holy People. Whatever else it may be, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is important to us as a short-hand way to remember the “many and various ways” God has revealed God’s self in the past, and as a guide to the possible ways God will continue to reveal the Divine Presence in the present and future.
The Trinity reminds us that our God is an active god, not content to sit back and see what happens. Our God is a god who has been and will continue to be engaged in the lives and goings on of the world and God’s many loved children.
The Trinity reminds us of our calling to be actively engaged in carrying out God’s will and way, mission and ministry in the world. We are invited to jump into the work of creation, caring for and bettering the earth, which God made and then placed into our hands for safe keeping. We are invited to carry on with the task of redemption, taking Christ’s message of love and forgiveness, grace and renewal, to all people in all places. We are invited to live life in the Spirit, being ever more attentive to the intimate presence of God in our lives, praying, meditating, and living out the fruits of love born through our interior communion with God.
I hope that we will remember the truth is as much experience as quantifiable data. That does not mean truth is subjective even if our interpretation of it will be.
My prayer for Trinity Sunday is that we take the opportunity to take the limits off our understanding of who God is and embrace the humility of never fully figuring that out. At the same time, we have the glorious possibility to discover more of the character and nature of the Limitless God.
Jesus promises that the Spirit of Truth will lead us into all truth. It takes a journey. It is the journey. And along the way, God shows up in all sorts of ways.
- God is Comforter in times of grief.
- God is Encourager in times of despair.
- God is Healer when we experience illness and disease.
- God is Righteous and Just when the world is not.
- God is Everlasting when we are overwhelmed by the temporary.
- God is Love when hate surrounds us and consumes us.
- God is Friend and Companion, Power and Source, Alpha and Omega, and so much more.
The more we know of who God is, the more we understand the image in which we are created. Humanity is a collection of the Creator’s “mini-me’s” deployed in the world and following the path of God with Us to be community and to live in love and truth.