by Jodi Renee Giron
My first ever experience in a mainline church was on a Pentecost Sunday. I walked hand in hand with my Grandpa into his family’s church - a small Hispanic Presbyterian community housed in an old but well loved building. It was also my first encounter with a woman pastor. I remember how she seemed so lovely and mysteriously regal in her red stole. The tiny sanctuary was decked out in red balloons blowing with chaotic glee from the blast of a few window fans. Men in bright red jackets and ties were gathered around a radio in the fellowship hall listening to the Broncos game while the the women set out coffee and put on a festive parade of dresses in every Pantone of red, crimson, and scarlet. There was joyous liturgy in Spanish and English. Hymns sung and blessings passed with gregarious hugs. My little Baptist self was overcome. This was really my first time going all in for the Holy Spirit.
I didn’t get it, really. There was GOD who I supposed just sat like a big cosmic supervisor while Jesus came to earth and took care of that whole salvation business. And - every now and then - when we wanted to talk about something we couldn’t explain, we brought in the Holy Spirit. As far as worship went, we had our GOD songs, our Jesus songs, and our occasional Spirit songs. We baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But the business of the Trinity seemed irrelevant to any real life notion of my Christian existence. Pentecost I got. And then it seemed like business as usual until Christmas and Baby Jesus rolled around again.
The “Trinity” is never mentioned in the Scripture. But here we are, getting ready on Trinity Sunday, to claim and celebrate our place in the community of heaven and earth who sing Holy, Holy, Holy!
Those of us with any kind of Sunday school or youth group history surely remember the object lessons: the one apple comprised of skin, core, and seeds. The ice cube: water, gas, and solid. So many attempts to give us notional understanding of how the Trinity could be one GOD with three elementally different personas.
While those clunky moments of theological teaching might actually hold some value, at the end of the day - or the beginning of a Trinity Sunday sermon - the real question is: why does the Trinity matter to the Christian life?
The texts this week have a beautifully woven theme that brings us deep into the heart of Trinitarian theology. Isaiah’s vision of an unnameable and magnificently enthroned GOD who destroys guilt and sin, the Psalmist crying out to the earth and all of heaven to join in the chorus of GOD’s beauty and greatness, Paul appealing to the church in Rome to remember their new identity as children of GOD who are led by Spirit, and Nicodemus sitting in the cover of darkness to seek out the kingdom of GOD in Jesus.
All of our texts this week are narratives of humankind interacting with the Holy One and seeking to understand ourselves and our GOD through these often wild and upside down encounters. This notion is at the center of any conversation or teaching about the Trinity.
To assign this Sunday to a breakdown of procession and economy is to miss out on the formative invitation to dive into our own experience of the Trinity while leaning on the narrative of our faith.
The Gospel of John takes us into this new covenant - where we’re reborn of Spirit into a curious anticipation and participation that gives life wherever it moves (The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes). And not just any kind of life but life eternal gifted through knowing and living in the way of the Son - Jesus Christ- the one sent by the Father.
Here it is - from the horse’s mouth so to speak. An invitation to the identity of GOD who is simultaneously unnameable and unknowable. Trinity Sunday is about identity and relationship.
We move into our new identity as sons and daughters, running towards the signs of Divine life popping up around us with no fear and ecstatic with expectation. We are created in the image of a GOD - in perichoresis -- we are created for participation in the life of each other. Trinity Sunday is our embrace of this identity as well as a celebration of a co-indwelling of Love held within GOD’s whole self. A Love spilled out into all of creation that sustains the Universe, binds up the broken hearted and liberates the prisoner, and redeems and restores where sin threatens to destroy.
Our only possible response when we look at the world see this GOD at work is wonder-infused action. Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”
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