Trinity Sunday C
I don’t think I can explain the Trinity without inevitably committing some sort of heresy. God is three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; but the three persons are still one God. Divine math just doesn’t add up like we’re used to: 1+1+1 somehow equals 1. What I think I can confidently say about the Trinity without finding myself in heresy, is that in the Triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we encounter God who is intimately present with us in many and various ways. The Triune God is deeply in relationship within itself and with us human beings.
This God encounters us in the form of Wisdom. She was present with God at the beginning of God’s work of Creation and has been with God for every step of the way. God’s Wisdom or the Word of God seems to show up all over the place in this text. She is on the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads… by the gates of town, at the entrances to the portals (Prov. 8:1, 2). Wisdom shows up in these places and she raises her voice demanding to be heard. God’s wisdom is not restricted to be found only in temples or within the minds of distinguished religious sages. Wisdom is speaking to all people and she speaks from the most public of places. She is all over town and she calls to everyone.
So what is she saying? What is wisdom? Surely no one can plumb the depths of God’s wisdom, but we get a snapshot of what God’s wisdom looks like in some of the verses that were omitted in our lectionary reading:
Proverbs 8:5-7, 13, 20
5O simple ones, learn prudence;
acquire intelligence, you who lack it.
6Hear, for I will speak noble things,
and from my lips will come what is right;
7for my mouth will utter truth;
wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
13The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
and perverted speech I hate.
20I walk in the way of righteousness,
along the paths of justice
In short, wisdom is intelligence, truth, opposition to wickedness, and the pursuit of justice. Where would Wisdom show up if she popped into our lives and what would she be saying to us? She would show up at our courthouses demanding that mercy and restoration triumph over vengeance and fear. She would show up at our schools encouraging children and teachers to value education and to use it for the betterment of the world. She would show up when someone utters a hateful, racist or sexist word to open their eyes to the beauty of God-given diversity and love of neighbor. She would show up at government buildings demanding just laws that protect the most vulnerable of our community. She would show up at our churches raising her voice to compel us to hold fast to our hope in Christ and share that same hope with the world- not to be an underwhelming social club.
God cares about us enough to be present with us and to send wisdom to us and to send hope to us. We experience our relationship with God through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- through the God who creates, redeems, and sustains. We experience that relationship here and now. God is not distant, but is ever-present. It is that conviction of God’s steadfast presence that allows Paul to make the audacious claim that in Christ, suffering produces endurance which produces character which produces hope and hope never disappoints us. Paul, however, is not simply writing a prescription for suffering. He is not saying you should stay in an abusive relationship or that your illness was given to you by God or anything like that. Paul is saying that when we encounter pain and suffering, despair is not the only and final result. We have hope knowing that Christ is for us and with us always to the end of the age. We have been given the gift of faith to believe that the very worst thing the world can throw at us, death, has been defeated and stripped of its power through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. That gives birth to a powerfully defiant hope.
At this year’s Unity Walk where people of many faiths prayed over the murder sites of our city, I heard someone speaking about their radical and faithful hope based in the goodness of God. This person had lost loved ones to violence and the murderers had never been discovered. She had every right to despair and give up all hope of ever finding peace. But she spoke of her faith in God and how that helped her through the immense pain she was feeling. At one point, she said, “People ask me if I’m angry. I tell them, ‘I used to be, but now I’m too busy working for justice to be angry.’” Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us. This brave woman was able to work for justice and raise awareness about violence prevention, to improve the lives of her neighbors and that of strangers, because she had faith that her God was with her and her son who had been killed. She knew that God desires to love and care for her son in death and that God would love and care for her in life, and that faith gave her the boldness to hope in a future when that salvation work of God is fully realized here on earth.
The Triune God shows up wherever we are and promises to give us wisdom, courage, and hope.
Father Greg Boyle started a ministry in Los Angeles that provides job training and social services for gang members. Boyle had been invited to speak at an event in San Francisco and decided to bring two of the young men from the ministry, Ricky and Adam, with him. A short time earlier their younger brother had been murdered in a drive by. It was also their first time riding in an airplane.
Father Greg has a dark sense of humor, so he teased the young gang members. Pointing out the window before takeoff Father Greg says, “…is that a crack in the wing or am I seeing things?” The guys nervously dismiss the joke. When the pilot speaks over the intercom telling the passengers at what height they will be traveling and other information, Boyle shakes his head and says, “…I hate that… It’s ten a.m. and I think our pilot has had a couple of 40s already.” The boys look at the priest and say in unison, “OK… cut… that… out.” Adam asks,
“Well, what I want to know is, where’s the parachute at?” …”Well there is no parachute,” I say, becoming Mr. Rogers on a dime. “NO PARACHUTE?” [he] squeals, a bit worked up, “Well, what we sposed ta do if THIS [THING] CRASHES?” Now I’m Mr. Rogers on Valium. “Well I’ll tell you what to do in the event of a crash.” They could not be more attentive. “Are your seat belts securely fastened?” They check and nod earnestly. “Okay, now lean forward… No, you have to lean as far as you can- is that as far as you can go?” They are so low, I can barely register the nodding of their heads. “Okay,” I say, steady and calm as she goes, “Now… if you can reach… kiss your [butts] good-bye… cuz that’s all you’ll be able to do if this thing goes down.” They can’t even believe that their chain has been yanked so egregiously. “Qué gacho, right there.” “You… ain’t… right.”
Takeoff… transforms these two big gangsters into old ladies on a roller coaster… there is great sighing and clutching and rapid signs of the cross. [The guys] can’t take their eyes off the tiny window to their right and manage plenty of “Oh, my God’s” and “This is proper.” Terror melting into wonder, then slipping into peace… Then, after we climb above the bounce, Ricky pats Adam’s chest, as they both look out above their own clouds, and whispers, “I love doing this with you, brother.” (Tattoos on the Heart, 164-166)
“I love doing this with you, brother.” “I love doing this with you, sister.” Those are the same words of the Triune God who accompanies us at the crossroads, the town gates, the entrance portals, the heights, the turbulent places of our lives, the suffering places of our lives, and the peaceful places of our lives. The Triune God sends shouting Wisdom and faith that produces hope. The Triune God does this, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, simply because God loves to do so. “I love doing this with you, brother.” “I love doing this with you, sister.”