Trinity, Black Lives and Covid-19
The Lord appeared to Abraham[a] by the oaks[b] of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. 3 He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures[c] of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” 7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. 8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
9 They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.”
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
It is Trinity Sunday, and if that didn’t make your heart leap with joy, or get a rise out of you at all, it is understandable.
Trinity Sunday is not the most exotic or sexy, or adventurous Sunday in the Christian year.
There are tons of stories in the bible of life and death, of love and lust and sex. There are betrayals and reversals. There is mortal combat and battles galore. There is poetry and wisdom. There is racism and pandemics. Some of the best movies and best novels have taken their storylines and their themes from scripture, because there is just so much juicy stuff there about humans and their failings and their struggles and their victories and their desires and their interactions.
But the Trinity really doesn’t have a story in the bible.
There are phrases that hint at it such as we read in Matthew’s gospel when the disciples are encouraged to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
But there really isn’t a story about the Trinity. It is an idea. And the word Trinity is not even in the bible. The word Trinity doesn’t appear until something like a hundred or a hundred fifty years after Jesus and the doctrine of the Trinity is affirmed in the form we know it over 300 years after Jesus.
According to the standard doctrine of Western Christianity the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct yet, also coequal, coeternal and consubstantial.
And maybe if you grew up in the church you heard a minister or Sunday School Teach try to explain the Trinity by talking about a Shamrock or a Clover with is three leaves but one plant.
Or maybe they referred to the three states of water. Ice, water and steam.
Or another one is a tree, with roots, stem and branches.
Or another is egg with a shell, egg white and egg yolk.
And by now you are thinking… I am not sure I understand the Trinity exactly, but what does it matter?
Are there not more important issues to deal with.
The world is in the grip of a Covid-19 pandemic that has not only had had over 6 million cases but almost 4 hundred thousand deaths.
And more than that the pandemic has devastated the world-wide economy and has severe economic repercussions on everything.
What does the Trinity have to do with that?
And then there was the death of “George Floyd over a week ago, at the hands, or more precisely the knee of a white police officer while other officers stood by…
which has not only exposed the inherent and systemic racism in North America and the world, but sparked protests and violence in the aftermath.
What does the Trinity have to do with that?
Why don’t we refer to some other story from the bible like that of Isaiah’s call for justice in Isaiah 61 which Jesus read from in the synagogue:
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
And I confess, I have had my moments of not understanding the Trinity and wanting to preach some other story or text from scripture that was more exciting, or more relevant, or more current, or even just more interesting, than the idea of coequal, coeternal and consubstantial.
But if we just take a moment and think about the Trinity and understand the Trinity as a relationship of mutual, equal and totally loving persons, who are so on the same page, as to be one.
God is a family that is equal, loving, mutual and united in thought and purpose, and that thought and purpose is to love and include and forgive and make the world a part of the Trinity.
Make us equal and loving and united in purpose to serve and love another…
Then I think the Trinity has a lot to say to our world today.
It says that Black Lives matter. Black lives are equal to white lives or any human lives no matter the shade or colour of skin.
That it is our job to live equally and mutually and in love and harmony with all people.
Racism is a blight on humanity, but God’s nature, the Spirit’s nature, Christ’s nature is mutuality and equality with Blacks, aboriginals, and people of all skin colours.
All are children of God. All are part of the Trinity because we are all created in the image of God, and Jesus and the Spirit lives in us.
The Trinity is not about God being some static definition, but the divine is a dynamic and diverse entity of love flowing and moving and dancing and crying in humans.
When people by the thousands are marching in the streets crying for justice to flow like a stream and righteousness to be like a river that never goes dry,
Then the Trinity is marching with those people demanding and crying out for loving, mutual and equal relationships.
When people are gathering to mourn George Floyd and laying flowers and candles, then the Trinity is crying along with the mourners and is comforting the mourners.
When Nursing Homes and Care Homes are being exposed for shoddy treatment of Seniors and Vulnerable people and people in those homes have been sick and dying, then the Trinity is suffering and dying along with those people…
And whoever cries out for better treatment for Seniors and Vulnerable people, the Trinity is crying out that Seniors and Vulnerable people are equal and mutual and loving partners with the rest of the human race.
One of the oldest paintings of the Trinity is found in Moscow, Russia and is an icon of the Trinity, it was painted by Andrei Rublov in the 15th century. It is based on the story of the three men who visit Abraham and Sarah and tell them they are going to have a child, when it is obvious that Sarah is long past child-bearing age.
Abraham invites them in and is hospitable even though the men are strangers. But as one of them says that he will return and Sarah will have a child, Sarah laughs, and then the story takes a turn and the next line is: The Lord said to Abraham.
So, people believe that the three men are the Lord. So Rublev painted this story as the Trinity comes to Abraham and the story is about hospitality and inclusion and openness.
The Trinity is about hospitality, inclusion and openness and wants new life to born in our society where we have been barren…
Where we have been prejudiced…
Where we have been selfish…
Where we have been violent…
Where we have not reconciled…
Where we have been racist…
Where we have excluded, hated, hurt or put down people because of their sins, their skin colour, their age, their sex, their sexual orientation, their socioeconomic status, their language, their culture, their sexual identity… etc..
Let me quote from Debie Thomas and her article “the Undivided Trinity” on the Journey with Jesus website:
Why should we care about the three-in-one? We should care because we are children of the Trinity at a time when the world is reeling and desperate. We are the children of a mysterious, fluid, diverse, communal, hospitable, and loving God who wants to guide us into the whole truth of who God is and who we are. We should care because the mystery of the Trinity has the power to transform our hearts, leading us towards coherence and dynamism, unity and diversity, hospitality and self-giving love. This week and always, may our lives reflect the transformative beauty of the Triune God.