Kelly’s sermon preached on June 12, 2022

Posted by on Sun, Jun 12, 2022 in Season after Pentecost, Sermons, Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday

June 12, 2022

In the name of the one holy and undivided Trinity.  Amen.

Many of you know that I work as an occupational therapist in public schools. One of the students I’ve worked with greets me by smelling my forearm.  This student does not speak or sign, but I take this routine to be a greeting.

And  I suppose, through my scent, I am communicating something, too, although the message is mysterious and out of my control.  Even so, we are relating to one another, and for that I give thanks.

It occurred to me recently that how this student and I relate to each other helps me think about my relationship with God. 

So I wonder, how do you relate to God? In silent moments of presence? Through interactions with other people, or in reflection on the ebb and flow of your life?  How does God relate to you? 

I’m asking because I  think that how we imagine God guiding us in our lives shapes us.  That is, after all, the point of prayer and worship: an ever-deepening relationship with God that changes us, and changes our interactions with others, too.

Prayer is many things, and one of those things is a framework that can form us into people who behave as though we really are loved by God.

Today is Trinity Sunday, a yearly feast  designed to give us a moment with a mystery that is both so elemental to the language of our prayers and the creed we claim every Sunday,  and yet also so beyond our comprehension: the nature of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Vast mysteries such as these cannot be held by human minds for very long.  But they can be experienced, with awe and wonder. And sometimes, in a brief, unattended moment….like a familiar, comforting scent wafting into your  nose… the presence of God enfolds you in the midst of your daily life, and you know it. 

I know you have those moments in your life.  I know you do because some of you have shared your stories with me. They are precious, holy experiences of connection with God. They are personal and emotional, and almost too much for words.  But they are real.

So I want to speak with you today about how we relate to God, with the aim of coming out on the other side of this sermon more fully equipped to live intentionally  as beloved bearers of the divine image in this frightened world. In order to connect our powerful, wordless experiences of grace that are beyond our control to our goal of living intentionally as witnesses, let’s do some exploring together, and drop some pins into the  landscape of our lives. It will be like google maps for the spiritual life. 

Let’s begin with the gospel.

I.

Just a moment ago we heard Jesus’s affirming words in the Gospel of John: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  But when the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you in all truth.”

It’s as though Jesus is asking his friends to remain open to the mystery…to imagine a possibility beyond words and stake their lives on the promise that God delights in them.

Western Christianity on the whole has been criticized by some as being over-verbalized and under-experienced.  I do wonder if Jesus knew this would be our temptation…knew that some messages, however clearly defined, would become meaningless if not given wordlessly and integrated  into real-life.

Rather than the many words, he gave a hopeful promise hinged on relationship:  “what is mine will be declared to you.”

This passage is one of the foundational texts for the Christian concept of the Trinity.  The Trinity is arguably  the most uniquely Christian and singularly unifying doctrine across historical and denominational lines, and one that we have failed to fully verbalize for over 1500 years. The word “trinity” appears nowhere in the bible,  and yet, to claim to be a Christian anywhere in the world is to affirm it- to claim Jesus as Lord and to claim his relationship with Father and Spirit as our own through his gracious mediation. 

So, this is the first pin we will drop into our spiritual landscape: trust. 

Trust that God has many more things to say, that there’s more here than we can verbalize, and remain open to the mysterious communication in our daily work and play. Just as the disciples were promised more of God, so too are we.

II

With God’s help, our creeds and prayers can cultivate in us a spiritual imagination that helps us map the journey from wordless grace to intentional faith, too.

Consider this:  In order for a person to create a new motor plan like learning to write, or jump rope, or ride a bike, or drive, it helps for a person to have a mental image of themself doing the action first.  Studies show that if  you can imagine yourself doing the activity, you can activate the motor pathways in the brain required to coordinate the activity, and the chance of actually succeeding when you try the action is much greater. Over time,  a motor plan allows you to  bypass the prefrontal cortex so you don’t have to think about how to do what you are doing, even if you are writing new words or riding on different roads.

There is an automaticity to the motor movements that allows your brain to focus on the novel aspects of the experience and respond accordingly.

I think our prayers are  like that.  Communal prayer in the Trinitarian format of our creeds and collects  is like a framework that can help us build a new mental pathway for following Jesus, and better attend to the Triune God in our personal lives.  And as we pray the words together here, we build a spiritual motor plan for recognizing and responding to God in other contexts, too.

So this is the second pin we will drop:  Repetition. Regularly praying communal prayers and creeds of the Church with one another deepens our relationship with God everywhere.

Far from being rote reading or dispassionate spiritual discipline, the language of our communal prayers changes our minds and increases our  attentiveness to God.  The words form in us a shared framework- a way of imagining our everyday tasks and activities as connected to God’s presence and love. 

Perhaps one of the best models of living in light of this relationship is Brother Lawrence, a French carmelite monk who lived in the 1600s and wrote a small volume called The Practice of the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence committed himself to recognizing his daily chores and humble, repetitive tasks as forms of prayer.  Ever attentive to God’s presence in all things, washing dishes became a sacramental act of worship and service. 

Coordinating kitchen responsibilities became acts of blessing and sending. 

Formal prayer and worship became catalysts for continuing the conversation with God in practical life, ever trusting that God still had many things to say to him and through him.

….

So  far, we have a promise from scripture to trust, and a framework from tradition to repeat as pins in our spiritual landscape to help orient us within this mystery.

III.

We also have the person of Jesus- God incarnate who serves as a model for us in maturing from passive receivers of God’s grace to active sharers of it. 

When Jesus took on human flesh, he was always referencing his Father in funny ways. He would say to the disciples, “ I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.” Last week we heard Jesus admonish Phillip for asking Jesus to show him the Father, saying “ Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”  Today, a few chapters later,  we hear it this way:

“He (the Spirit) will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

We hear it from Jesus in Matthew like this :“you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and then you will be my witnesses…”

Jesus is consistent throughout the gospels, but it all seems a bit convoluted, unless we recognize that Jesus’s life was not his own; it was a communal one. It was a window into a divine companionship.  Jesus bore witness to the Father and the Spirit, the Spirit bore witness to him and  to Father, and so on. 

And now, the Spirit bears witness to us, and we are witnesses to others. 

Now we are the windows.  We are to bear witness to God’s graceful activity in our daily work and play.   We trust the Spirit of Truth to guide us, and with that powerful support, we stand and proclaim through our actions that God is good, is still speaking, and is here among us to redeem what is lost.

So, this is the third pin we will drop into the landscape: Givenness. Grace and truth are given through the Spirit to be shared and given away. Jesus has entrusted the wisdom of the Spirit to us so that we can relate it to others.

This is my last Sunday with you here at St. Michael’s, and I have to tell you that being here among you in this community has been full of gracious and divine enfolding for me.  You are bearing witness to the truth of God’s love here, and it has changed me.  It will change other people, too.  Because the world is desperate to know they are loved and welcomed into a mystery beyond their comprehension.  That is the truth you bear witness to here.

So however you personally relate to God, know that you are part of a community that is called and equipped to bear witness to the truth together; to be a window into the divine power of God’s dynamic love. It is a love that runs deeper and wider than anything else. So mark the bright spots, and trace the paths between them.   You have the map.  And when the Spirit invites you to share it, say yes! 

© 2022 Kelly Moody. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.