The Way We Experience God
Holy Trinity, 5-22-16, John 17:12-15, Romans 5: 1-5, Ps 8: 4-9, Proverbs 8: 22-31
This celebration of The Holy Trinity has never been something I really looked forward to, mostly because I have never heard an explanation for the doctrine of The Holy Trinity that really satisfied me. It has always been a mystery for me. It has been like wandering in a big dark cave with a little flashlight.
These days, the bookshelves are increasing filled with books which not only don’t explain the doctrine, but instead point out the difficulties or fallacies the author finds in it. They find some example of how The Holy Trinity seems to be self contradictory, or seems to have gaps in understanding. I come away thinking either it’s just too deep for my brain, or else it is an elaborate excuse for not understanding God at all. Then, people ask me to explain it. So I avoid the question by preaching on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. At least with that, I’m on really solid ground!
But this past week I read something that made sense, so I want to share it with you. John Foley, a Jesuit, wrote this: “…the Triune God is not some kind of brainy speculation by scholars. It is simply the way we experience God in the world. Christian living is the Trinity in action.”
I work with a young mother whose parenting style I really admire. She and her husband just came back from a week in Disneyland with their 5 year old daughter. She has high expectations of this little girl, and teaches her very traditional values of respect and obedience. But she deeply loves the child and is very attentive to her; she is lavish in her praise and rewards for good behavior. This mother enormously enjoyed the week in Disneyland because she saw it through her child’s eyes. She was not concerned with how Disney designed or constructed the place, or with the reality of the Disney stories or characters. Instead her eyes were open to the charm of the buildings, her daughter’s delight in meeting the characters, the details of the presentation, and the wonder of it all.
From that perspective, I ask you, what is wrong with finding a way to express how we experience God in our daily lives, without focusing on what we don’t yet understand about Divinity or without trying to put some rigid human imprint on God? In fact, isn’t it very right to take great delight in how God creates a myriad of ways for us to experience and rejoice in divine love, grace, mercy, and companionship? Isn’t it exactly right to fill ourselves with the experiences of God as God comes to us, and then have that fullness to take into our needy world?
Someone once wrote that God is not like a blind date, someone we might wisely be a little guarded with. With God, there’s no need for precautions to safeguard ourselves. We do not have to arrange a time and place to meet; we don’t have to struggle to make ourselves more attractive than we think we are. We don’t have to find a dating service to test us and find someone “compatible”. God is never darkness, always pure love, and finds us beautiful from the moment our first cells are created. God is available 24/7/365, never on vacation, never holds a grudge and always forgives us. We can argue with God, because God is always right and patient with us. God will never stomp away, disgusted with us, wanting to leave us for someone else. How do we know this? By the way God self-reveals to us – in our experience and in the experiences written down in scripture. We share the miracles we experience and our revelations of God with others, and we discover that God is forever finding the perfect way to reveal who the “Great I AM” is at any moment.
That is exactly what our scriptures tell us today. Proverbs presents Wisdom as a woman, with God from before the creation of the earth, who was God’s craftsman (participating in the act of creation). Wisdom is God’s delight, and who delighted in being with God, and who found delight in the people that God made. Meditate on that one!! This is not your old stogy idea of Trinity, but draws an image of a God full to the brim of joy and creativity, of delight and companionship, who gives us the best and the most in our world. If you read the rest of that chapter in Proverbs, you find the Wisdom of God calling to us. She reaches out, ready and able to teach us, to give us understanding, and to fill us with her treasures. That may not be what you’ve heard in some Trinity Sunday homilies, but I beg you – read it again and take in the deep, deep love and longing that God has for us.
The Psalm is a reflection on the works of God we see around us and how God self-reveals in our world. Who are we that God should be aware of us? Yet God made us little less than gods, and allows us to rule over his creation. We are not puppets or toys; we are “of” God.
John speaks of how God guides us and gives us direction and understanding. In today’s language, we will get the memos, we are in the loop, we get the word straight from the top. There are no barriers between us and administration, we are valued, we are part of the family, and we will receive an inheritance.
In Romans, Paul says this in a more tradition way. He reminds us that God has chosen to free us from sin and guilt, that we are in peace, not contention, with God, and faith brings us grace and hope. Like Paul, we can experience the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. God proved this love through Christ’s death on the cross even while we were not yet willing to trust in God’s love. Now, forever changed by this Love, we boast of God, whatever our circumstances, because the hope God gives never disappoints.
All of these writings reveal God in different ways, and your experience of God may be different still. But the love and goodness of God are consistent through all the ways God is revealed. The more we open our eyes, the more we see of God in our world, despite the evil that God allows for the time being. So if we experience the revelation of God in our world, the next logical question is, “Does the world see God revealed through us?” That, my friends is where the celebration of the Holy Trinity ultimately leads us.