A sermon by Keith Herron, Pastor, Holmeswood Baptist Church, Kansas City, Mo.
May 26, 2013
Today it’s Trinity Sunday, a day in the worshiping life of the church we worship God as Creator, God as Redeemer, and God as Sustainer. The faith teaches us that God appears in history and in Scripture in three distinct persons and yet the Triune God is enigmatically understood as one. Beyond that, I don’t know what else to say that will explain the trinity or make it more understandable, which is to admit we don’t comprehend it at all. The many analogies give us something to think about, but do not answer the key questions. Does reason have to have an answer to every deep truth?
But I do want to affirm that forms and numbers are important. I believe we think of the basic building blocks of the universe in two’s and three’s and whatever powerful evolutionary process were involved that moved life from dyads to triads marked a distinct level of complexity in forms and relationships.
On Trinity Sunday the power of “threes” permeates our thinking: Every story has a beginning, middle, and end; a good education? reading, writing, and arithmetic; what about how we mark time? yesterday, today, and tomorrow; Jesus’ followers? Peter, James, and John; or the whole of anything? the sun, the moon, and the stars; how about turning a double play? Tinkers to Evers to Chance; Vegas! win, lose, or draw; a scary moment? lions and tigers and bears (oh my!); and how about a sandwich? BLT or PB&J (OK, that’s technically only two things so how about ham and cheese on rye?). Just the thought of â™« one, two, three … â™« one, two, three … â™« one, two, three … and the whole world starts waltzing.
The power of two’s and three’s makes up most of what’s interesting about life. God as three-in-one is a basic archetypal framework which we understand as a means to make connection or to overcome separation, or to simultaneously and mysteriously recognize when we declare “God is One,” we get a “three-fer” as we discover God’s other persons as well.
Trinity Sunday, then, is a day for experiencing the world through wonder and awe and acknowledging that what we know about any facet of God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer is vitally connected to the holy and indivisible One.
Psalm 8 reminds us that the night sky is simply breath-taking with a transforming power so startling we are forced to see ourselves differently. “Context is everything,” we’re told and when we reframe our existence to consider an immense sky overflowing with stars, we are rightly humbled. When we realize they are beacons of other worlds, testifying of their existence at the mind-numbing speed of light hurtling through space for thousands of years, we are made to think differently about “my little world.” These stars are lights that bear witness to fires of times past, offering us their lights as they twinkle above us. It is in those quiet moments we come to see that the universe that holds our existence is overwhelmingly above and beyond our capacity to understand and that our own lives are miniscule and insignificant.
The ancients surmised that behind the veil of the blue sky, water was stored like a sea suspended above, so they described the created world, our earth, as though it were covered with waters held back by a membrane pulled taut to hold back the waters. They surmised too that the earth also sat above “the waters below” on four pillars, something we see described a few chapters later when Noah was instructed to build a great ark for the deluge that was created as the punishment from God. In that great storm, the veil above was ripped open producing torrential rains and the mantle of the earth below was broken open thus flooding the earth in a watery chaos that reverted creation back to chaos. In flooding the earth, God cast a judgment over sin so harsh that God wanted to wipe it all away and to start over.
One can’t help reading Psalm 8 without recognizing how it is linked to the creation story of Genesis. The psalmist bears witness of God the Creator whose power rules over all creation. As we point to the luminaries of the night, we are in essence pointing to the One who made the night lights and cast them across the sky.
The sky can be mesmerizing day or night with a power to make mystics of us all. The ancients looked deeply into the sky above and saw a color we call appropriately, “sky blue,” a shade of blue with ever-deepening depths of its blueness until at the end of the day it has crossed through the deepest hues of the color spectrum all the way to the inky blackness of night.
To look up into the night sky is to accept the risk we may become a different person. It is to open oneself up to the larger world that strips us of our ego-centrism whereby we delude ourselves and think we are something we are not.
Sojourner Truth was a freed slave, who although she was free, at one point decided to return to her former owner because her slave life had been easier than her free life. In doing so, she “looked back to Egypt” as she described it. Most of us would probably agree that freedom is usually harder than slavery. Responsibility is more demanding than dependency. But just as she was about to go back to her old life, she had a vision from God. In her vision she saw that God “was all over, and that there was no place that God was not.”
“O God,” she cried, “I did not know you were so big!” She felt overwhelmed and terrified and in her vision she thought she was in danger of annihilation by the all-consuming God and she couldn’t even bring herself to speak.
But just as quickly as she was swallowed up by the bigness of God she felt a mysterious presence. At first she didn’t recognize him because until now Jesus had been a just another famous person along the lines of George Washington or Lafayette. She hadn’t known Jesus as a personal presence. Suddenly she sensed someone who was there so she might bear the immensity of God’s overpowering nearness. Instead she felt a sense of trust with Christ’s presence and later learned his name.
In her story, we have a description of an experience of awe and reverence. She had an experience of the transcendence of God and the immensity of God startled her. But alongside God’s immensity, she also felt the closeness of God like a tender presence. Like all transcendent moments, words were inadequate in describing what she experienced in worship. Surprisingly, God’s immanence helped her understand God’s transcendence. Even as she felt as though she might be swallowed up, she felt that God was loving and kind.
And in that spirit the Psalmist looks to the night sky and wonders, “Who (are we) that Thou art mindful of (us)?”
In her love of nature, Emily Dickinson imagined her own playful Trinity. Let the poet bring the sermon to a close with her brief benediction: “In the name of the bee, and of the butterfly, and of the breeze, amen!”
© Dr. Keith D. Herron 2013
“The Narrative of Sojourner Truth – 1850,” dictated by Sojourner Truth (ca.1797-1883); edited by Olive Gilbert http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/primarysources/the-narrative-of-sojourner.html
 Emily Dickinson, “Summer’s Obsequies,” Book Three, Nature, The Works of Emily Dickinson, London: Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 1994, 138
Intentional interim minister at Countryside Community Church of Omaha, Nebraska, the Christian partner in the Tri-Faith Initiative, a partnership with the American Muslim Institute and Temple Israel. He is author of Living a Narrative Life, Exploring the Power of Stories (Smyth & Helwys, 2019).