Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Holy Trinity Sunday—where the Church defies mathematicians everywhere. One God, Three Persons. Not three parts, not three manifestations, not three elements. Three Persons, one will. Three Persons, one desire. Three Persons, one purpose—to bring life and hope and peace to the world through the God of Love, through grace.
That’s the theological approach. Not very satisfying, is it? Because first, as Jesus said, this is the kind of stuff we simply cannot bear right now. We don’t get it. We try to explain it, and our words fall short. Our reasoning falls short. Our rationale falls short—as it so often does when it comes to God. And so, we are forced to land on mystery. To say, “We don’t know how, but we trust that it is.”
But all of this misses what is most important—to quote Karrie, our Director of Discipleship, “So what?” So what? What does it matter that God is Triune—One God, Three Persons? What difference does that make in my life? How does that mean anything to me?
It’s actually important for a number of reasons. Primarily, it is a reminder that God’s Truth is always beyond our understanding. God just does not fit in a box, no matter how large it is. We would do well to enter with humility and silence before that which we can’t understand, let alone explain. God’s mysterious ways are beyond ours. Or, as God says in Isaiah, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Worshiping a Triune God also tells us something important about us because we are made in God’s image. This God—diverse and whole—makes us whole through diversity.
God makes us whole through diversity, not in spite of it.
Richard Rohr often talks about the limitations of dualistic thinking. We like things in boxes—including our God. We like things to be either black or white. Gray just confuses the matter. Either you’re right or you’re wrong. Either you’re good or bad; either it’s true or false. And what we see through our Triune God is that two legs form an incredibly unstable and dangerous stool to sit on.
Rohr calls it the Law of 3—the nature of flow—of energy circling between and through—a dynamic existence that doesn’t end in competitive and oppositional thinking. Look at our politics. I know, I keep coming back to things like this, but it’s such an overwhelming example of how badly we keep missing the mark. In our politics, we get stuck arguing with each other, trying to convince the other that we are right and they are wrong. We set up false dichotomies—pro-life and pro-choice, as if those who want choice don’t want life and as if life for one doesn’t mean death for another. Security at the border—as if those who fight for asylum seekers don’t want a secure border, as if those who want a secure border have no respect for human life.
Dualistic thinking causes us to form camps, pitting us against one another, seeing each other as enemy. It creates a chasm between people. It divides us rather than helping us form relationships. But we are created in the image of God—the God of relationship. The God who is not either-or but both-and. The God who is more than black or white or gray but encompasses the whole spectrum of color.
This God who makes us whole through diversity, not in spite of it.
Now, that doesn’t mean that God is making us the same. Can you imagine? Everyone the same. That would be awful. And yet, isn’t that what we tend to strive for? Isn’t that what we often expect? We shake our heads—and sometimes our fists—at people who don’t meet our definition of ‘normal.’ We demonize those we don’t understand. We get angry, and sometimes even violent, when people refuse to be like us. Of course, depending on who you are, those expectations will differ, won’t they? From my perspective, the deviant person might be someone who takes pride in their arsenal of weapons; but to my atheist neighbor’s perspective, ‘those’ people might just be Christian pastors.
And I’ll often preface my conversation about ‘that person’ with, “I just don’t understand why they have to…” Because I expect everyone to think and act like me—to understand the world just like me—to understand God just like I do. That would sure make my job easier. But being ‘One’ doesn’t mean being the same.
God is diverse. We are diverse. And this is good. This is holy. This is very hard.
But, then again, if you’ve ever had a joint replaced or gone through cancer or had another serious illness, you know that the process of healing is often as difficult as the illness, itself. And yet, we need it. We need the healing. We need to be made whole.
And God makes us whole through the challenge of diversity, not in spite of it.
In Romans, Paul reminds us that our hope in God’s glory comes from our sufferings. But not just any sufferings—God knows we love to see ourselves as victims of the world. No, the suffering Paul refers to is suffering for the sake of Christ—for the sake of one another. Suffering in the midst of building community. Suffering and dying to our own need for power and righteousness in order to see God’s kingdom in a different way—in order to see one another in a new way.
The Church is suffering right now—and I wouldn’t term it a holy suffering. We’re suffering because we refuse to be reconciled with one another. We refuse to allow opposing views to live in the same body. Paul would rather we suffer as a whole body together than separate individuals alone in our rightness. That’s the suffering his letter to the Romans refers to—a suffering in wholeness, not independence. A suffering brought on by being made one, not being made right.
You see, just as the God of Jesus would be incomplete without the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—we are incomplete without each other. We cannot be made whole without being made one with each other. And yet, we resist. The Church is still the most segregated place in the country on Sunday mornings. And that isn’t just racial segregation.
I’m sorry to say that I recently heard that someone from Our Saviour’s was visiting with a friend who was looking for a place to worship. He asked about OSLC, but the person couldn’t recommend us—because they weren’t sure whether this man and his husband would actually be welcome here. And that broke my heart. Because I know that the LGBTQ community needs a safe place to worship. But more than that, I know that we need the LGBTQ community—we need the community here among us, fully themselves, without reserve, so that we can be made whole together.
I know that we need people of disabilities here with us—so that we can be made whole together. Yet, we have a long way to go to be truly accessible beyond physical needs. I know that we need people of different races and cultures and languages here with us—so that we can be made whole together. I know that we need the people from the correctional community here with us—so that we can be made whole together. I know that we need the children and the families and the single people and the older people here with us—so that we can be made whole together.
I know that we need this God of diverse oneness with us to make us whole, to make us One, to inspire us in our differences, to gather us from the four corners and bring us into one place, to make us whole through diversity.
Pastor Tobi White
Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church