The Rev. Peter M. Carey
St. Mary’s, Cathedral Road, Philadelphia
11 June 2017
Almighty and Loving God, you live and move and have your being with us and among us and within us always. Shower your grace upon us, and let us feel your healing presence in our lives always. You gave us a vision of perfect love and community in the Trinity, allow us to find an entry into the way of Jesus so that we might too live in such a way that your love is communicated through us to the suffering and hurting world. Be with us, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today we embrace the sense that God is Trinity, three persons, and yet One God. God as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit. God as Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier. Today we embrace the reality that God not only was present to his people in the past, but is present to us today, and will be ever present with us in the future.
The mystery of the Trinity is one that may confound us. How can something be One, and yet Three. How can we claim to believe in one God, when it seems we are leaning towards polytheism? The theological questions are deep, centuries old, and have confounded even the greatest theological minds of the church.
However, even these confounded qualities of the Trinity are a gift. While we rely on our logical and rational brains in our day to day world, there are deeper truths beyond our own thinking. In our day to day world, we live and move in a dualistic world. We look at things as either, or, as up and down, as good and evil, as life or death. However, much of life is not merely either/or, but is both/and. Our faith moves us deeper. Jesus leads us into this strange and wonderful existence where we are called to “Love our enemies,” to “pray for those who persecute us” and where even the “poor are blessed” and where “our burdens are light.” In a few moments at the altar, we will again affirm that even death will not have the final word. We will affirm that there is even resurrection and life after death. And so, today, on Trinity Sunday, God confounds us once again by showing us that One is Three and Three is One.
In the earliest centuries of the church, the “movement” of the Trinity was described in Greek by the word: perichoresis. Peri, meaning “around” - where we get the word perimeter for the distance around a geometrical object. And then”choresis” - where we get the word choreography, dance, movement. And so, this movement of the church is an interconnected three-person dance. As Richard Rohr names his book on the Trinity, “The Divine Dance.” A loving dance of three persons of the Trinity - three “persons” and yet One God.
And so, what can we glean from this image, how might this mystical and theological image have any relevance to the likes of us? How might this Trinity Sunday give us something to reflect upon, how might it challenge us, how might is get us to see God, and our lives in a new way, how might it inspire us to get to work in building God’s kingdom?
A model of movement. Love overflowing. Other images of the trinity. Shamrock. Pouring buckets. Just as the Trinity has three persons who are interconnected in a holy and loving dance, so to, are we empowered to build loving and interdependent relationships. God calls us and empowers us to go beyond a static pattern of our lives to a dynamic and robust one. The interconnected and interdependent Trinity offers us a model of relationship that is also essentially interrelated with others.
One of the clearest and most passionate descriptions of this kind of relationship was described to me by Archbishop Desmond Tutu through his writing and speaking. I was blessed to have a few occasions where I was able to spend time with him and learn about Ubuntu.
Ubuntu - a relational life - not merely us alone
A person is a person through other persons.
I am, because of you.
Tutu: “One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”
When we reflect deeply, we know that our life is fundamentally relational. Our life is fundamentally dependent upon others. We are shaped by our family and friends, by our schools, and our workplaces, and by our worshipping communities. We are each dependent on others, but also others depend on us. We need others, and others need us.
Interdependent. “I am because of you.” “A person is a person through other persons.” This is the joy of God, the grace of God that confounds us, but is a deep truth and a deep gift for us.
Nelson Mandela: “A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn't have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food and attend him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?”
This image of the Trinity can inspire us to also live and move with the deep knowledge that we are deeply connected to one another. This Trinity Sunday gives us an image of three persons, but one God, of perichoresis or the “divine dance” of God, which may help us to also reach out and deepen our own connections one to another. The love of God flows between and among the three persons of the Trinity. This love is poured out for us, and we are empowered to pass it along, to pay it forward to others. God offers us a confounding and wonderful love. Healing in the midst of pain, Life in the midst of death, Joy in the midst of sorrow, relationship in the midst of loneliness.
Holy Trinity, One God, you live and move and have your being with us always. Shower your love upon us, and let us feel your healing presence so that we may be known by our love for others. Help us to remember your love always, and the ways that we are connected deeply with one another. Amen.