Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Trinity Sunday Year A

Trinity Sunday A

Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; II Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
(Revised Common Lectionary Year A)

(Just as each of the four gospels is a unique narrative about the same event, so each of the two creation narratives in Genesis is distinctive.)  In the version that appears first in the Bible, (but which is surely from a later time in Israel's history, probably during or after the Babylonian captivity), the opening scene is very haunting: "the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the earth...."  A vaguely identified "wind" from God "swept over the face of the waters."  Now that the scene has been set, the first dramatic action takes place-- God speaks!  "God said, 'Let there be light': and there was light."  God sees the light and pronounces it "good."  God separates the light "calling" it "day," from the darkness, "calling" it night.  Seven more times God speaks and creation is fully formed, including woman and man.  Each time God sees the result of speaking and describes it as "good."  When all is finished, God sees that it was "very good," and rested on the seventh day and "hallowed" it.

Verses 8 and 9 of Psalm 8 and are a poetic rendering of the first creation story. The Lord is represented as a designer/engineer of all creation, down to the smallest, most delicate detail. Humankind's position is made clear: less than divine but "crowned with glory and grandeur."

Paul's benediction at the conclusion of his second letter to the Christians in Corinth testifies to his cumulative experience of God, which is most clear in "grace" as experienced in Jesus, and the Father/Creator's "love" and "communion" of God's ever-present Spirit.

Matthew's version of the passing of God's work in the world from Jesus to his followers follows a baptismal formula unique to Matthew: "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Those who believe and follow are promised that they will have the God-given capabilities to fulfill this bold responsibility "to the end of the age."

Heidegger, Gadamer, Derrida, Wittgenstein, Ricoeur and many others generally regarded as "postmodern" push our awareness of a trait unique to humanity in opposite directions. Language, they insist, is both more limited and more powerful than had been understood before. (Less than divine, but crowned with glory and grandeur.) It is limited in that there is always a slippage between the reality it seeks to describe and the actual experience. Yet, it can also make meaning that is adequate for humankind to navigate the vastness and complexity of reality with both failure and sometimes success.

On Trinity Sunday, preachers can easily get lost in many words that attempt to make sense of a "doctrine" of the "Trinity." Gadamer offers a timely reminder for the preacher that illustrates the limits and power of language: theology "can certainly take part in the conceptual explication of faith," "but it cannot take part in its consummation; that is the affair of faith itself."
Heidegger's Ways, p. 177) The preacher might place "consummation" ( to make complete, as in to "consummate" a marriage, to fulfill promises made) over "explication" on Trinity Sunday!

In the Hebrew scriptures, God became voice right at the very beginning and, then through Moses, the prophets and the psalmists, became sacred texts, narratives that describe God's love affair with creation. In Jesus, that same "Word became flesh," giving God a face, hands, feet, a body and vulnerability to human caprice.  Now we are to see each other through the eyes of God, just as Jesus did. These past experiences of God are still possible for us due to the persistent work of the Holy Spirit. These three revelations are equally powerful. None supersedes the others. Each illuminates the others. All three lead us to the same staggering conclusion: "God is love." "...[T]he Christian life unfolds... according to a free innovation that never ceases to perform the only love story in the history of the universe."  (Jean-Luc Marion, Prolegomena to Charity, p. 144)   Right from the beginning, still surrounding all we think and do and "to the end of the age" the version of reality offered is that it is soaked in pure beneficence. This is not a conclusion based only on "explication," it is more like a decision based on faith, a "consummation." To paraphrase G.K Chesterton: human knowledge tries to make everything clear and ends up making everything murky; faith allows one thing to be a mystery and everything becomes clear.