Trinity reveals to us the God who is relationship. We are created in the image of relationship, baptized in the name of relationship, and sent out to invite others into relationship.
Vicar Bristol Reading
The Holy Trinity, year A
Texts: Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Matthew 28:16-20
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
It’s been a week since we celebrated Pentecost, with its wind and fire and tongues. This week has felt incredibly long, but the flame of the Holy Spirit is still igniting in our hearts, still spurring us to let Spirit speak through us. Across the world, in all languages, voices are being raised to cry out for justice, to name the human siblings whose lives have been ended by the violence of systemic racism.
It’s been a week since we celebrated Pentecost, and really, it’s been a week. Although the fires burning in our local communities have been extinguished, the anger at repeated instances of police violence still burns. People are still in the streets, demanding real, lasting change.
But anger isn’t the only force that’s still burning this week. There is a tremendous amount of compassion, generosity, and courage that is blazing through our communities. It is, as they say, spreading like wildfire.
People are protecting their neighborhoods, donating supplies and money, and calling their elected officials. People are helping to house and feed those who have been displaced by unrest. Along Lake Street, there have been hundreds of people out with brooms and dustpans helping clean. In the Longfellow and Powderhorn neighborhoods, street art is covering buildings and sidewalks, and food distribution sites are popping up on corners – even in our own parking lot at Mount Olive.
Down on Chicago Avenue, at the site where George Floyd was killed, there are people handing out free chips, popsicles, and hotdogs. They’re making sure that those who come there to witness, to grieve, to pray are sustained for the long haul. It’s not just the food that sustains, but the community, the being together. Even in the midst of a pandemic, when we can’t get as close as we’d like, we’re still getting as close as we can.
It’s been a week since we celebrated Pentecost, since we told the story of the wild and holy spirit of God coming into the world like a noisy wind, kindling divine power within each person like a flame, and bursting into beautiful expression like a diversity of tongues. And because– even in this time when a week feels like a year and a moment all at once – our liturgical rhythm still accompanies us, this week has brought us to Trinity Sunday. Today, we proclaim that the one holy God is three – Father, Son, and Spirit.
When we declare that God is Trinity, we declare that God is relational. Like parent and child, like a body and breath. More than declaring that God is relational, we declare that God is relationship. God is communal and connected, interdependent and interactive. God is a dynamic dance.
And, as the Genesis creation story makes clear, every person that lives is created in the image of that God, created in the image of that relationship. To be human is to be made in relationship. And that is, as God says, very good.
That’s why we call George Floyd our brother, because he was human, created in God’s image. That’s why we lament the breaking of relationship that results from systemic racism. To deny another’s dignity and rights, to fail to see the divine image in another human being, is sin. God grieves such sin, and so do we. In this season, the grief of that sin feels so great that it is almost overwhelming.
But don’t let that grief stop you from living into the relationship for which you were created. Don’t turn your eyes away from seeing the realities of racism in our society. Don’t turn your ears away from hearing the cries for justice. Don’t turn your back on your human siblings who need you to show up for them, in whatever way you can.
If you’re feeling doubtful – doubtful that you can make a difference, doubtful that you know the right words or actions to take, doubtful that anything will ever really change – if you’re feeling doubtful, then scripture has a word for you today.
Our Gospel reading is from the end of the book of Matthew, when the risen Jesus appears to the disciples. They recently watched Jesus, their teacher, friend, and savior, be crucified. They’ve witnessed and experienced violence. They’re beleaguered, terrified, grieving, and exhausted. And the text tells us that when they saw the risen Christ, they fell down in worship, “but some doubted.”
It’s not hard to imagine why they might have been feeling doubtful – doubtful of the reality of the resurrection, doubtful of their own commitment to Jesus, doubtful of their ability to carry on the ministry in his absence.
But no matter why they’re feeling doubtful, Jesus still calls them into mission. “Go out into the world,” he says, “and invite others into the relationship that is God. Teach people about the life-giving way you have learned from me. Walk with people as fellow disciples. And when you mark their transformation with the practice of baptism, seal them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; seal them in relationship.” This is what Jesus tells the disciples.
Despite their fear, despite their grief, despite their exhaustion, despite their doubt, they’re called into mission. They’re sent out to bear the good news that has changed their lives.
And despite their doubt, or maybe even because of their doubt, Jesus still gives them a promise: “I am with you always.” Jesus keeps that promise, always – to those disciples, and to you.
You are the inheritors of this mission and this promise. Take seriously your calling to be the bear the good news of Christ into the world, even when you’re worn down and scared and filled with doubt. And take seriously the real presence of the Triune God that is with you, always. God is present in the world, even during a week like this. God is here.
It is especially hard to remember this when you’re separated from your sacred space and normal liturgical practices, when you can’t worship together in person or receive the sacraments, those signs of God’s gracious presence.
Some of the volunteers who came to help distribute food from Mount Olive’s parking lot on Thursday told me that this was the closest they’d been to the church in months. I know others are grieving that they aren’t able to safely come even that close to the sanctuary and neighborhood they love so much.
But the Lutheran tradition emphasizes that church is not a place but an event; it is something that happens. Martin Luther understood church more as a verb than a noun. Church happens because God is active in the world, in you.
And often, when and where and how God acts is a surprise! Church shows up in ways you least expect. You can see signs of it, but you can’t summon it or own it or control it. You can’t pin church down for a photo opp. The church isn’t a building, even when that building is full of people and certainly not when that building is empty.
There will be a time when you can gather again in the beautiful nave to worship together. And in the meantime, God is still acting so church is still happening. Where do you see signs of it? Where do you see evidence of the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit? In your homes? On the streets? In shared food and colorful art? Keep watching for it and participating in it.
The God who is relationship is up to something in the world, and in you, always. The God who is relationship connects, heals, uplifts, transforms because that’s what healthy, loving relationship does. You were created in the image of that relationship, you were baptized in the name of that relationship, and you are sent out to invite others into that relationship. And that is, as God says, very good.