Trinity Sunday, 2016
Readings appointed can be found here
What's in a Name?
I was speaking with my friend and mentor the Reverend Kate Elledge earlier this week and as we discussed this Sunday she quipped, “Trinity Sunday, a feast day dedicated to a concept!”
Other feast days are dedicated to people or events. But, this one, this one to a theological concept and a doctrine of the church. Yippee. Skippee.
And, so I considered not talking about the Trinity at all today. Instead, perhaps an exploration of life in the Johannine community—of the struggle they faced to maintain their community in the face of persecution. Or even some dedicated sermon time to the epistle writer, Paul, whose personal experience with suffering mark his attempts to convince us of God’s love.
Then, Lady Wisdom—the mysterious and enigmatic! The Lady whose nature, when coupled with the theology of the Gospel of John, encompasses the Word in Creation and the Holy Spirit.
Look, look at me, not talking about the Trinity!
But, rather like demanding that you not think about elephants, and then insisting on repeating the word elephant. I cannot help but be drawn to what will surely be a futile attempt to explain the inexplicable.
Because, trying to describe the Trinity is akin to trying to describe everything about a person by looking up the meaning of their name.
Edith, derived from the Old English Ēadgyđ, Eadgyth, a compound name composed of the elements ēad (prosperity, fortune) and gyđ, gyth (war, strife): hence, "prosperous in war."
Now, I’m pretty sure that my understanding of the origin and meaning of the name Edith—an understanding gleaned through a quick google search--has nothing to do with the baby in our congregation who happens to be named Edith. It says nothing about who she is, nor does it say anything about who she is to become. It does not tell us that she has two big sisters that love her and how her parents care and hope for her.
It does not tell us that she is to be baptized in a Christian community. Nor does it tell us that the people of St. Clement’s are covenanting to be part of her life and help her as she grows in faith.
In short. Edith is her name but it is not her.
Just like the word Trinity, is a name, but it cannot encapsulate all that the name represents.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Holy Trinity, One God. Holy Trinity of Love.
Lo a rose by any other name, and they all fall short of the glory that is.
The glory that is expressed when we look beyond the name and into the fullness of what is offered.
And, for this I go back to Edith. Not the name, but the full person in relationship with her community and the God who loves her—because the relationship we have with this child will teach us far more about Edith and about God than any google search on the meaning of her name! Likewise, our relationship with the Trinity and each other will teach us far more about God’s love for us than any treatise on the subject!
So what does being in relationship with the Trinity look like? Some theologians describe each person of the Trinity as being akin to a dancer in a shared dance--the term used to describe this is perichoresis, or mutual indwelling…perichoresis, it wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve started to wonder how long this sermon will be.
Because, big theological words fail us, just as the names and the symbols cannot sum up the truth that we seek to convey. The truth of our relationship with the Trinity. The truth that we who abide in Christ are also abiding within the Trinity through our participation in the body of Christ. The truth that in the moving, abiding, and creating persons of the Trinity, we find ourselves—moving, abiding and creating. Three in one, and all in one, and we are one.
Each being enclosed within the vastness of creation. And, in using the word enclosed I find myself turning to Saint Julian of Norwich and her description of the Trinity, “And the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother, in whom we are enclosed. And the high goodness of the Trinity is our Lord, and in him we are enclosed and he in us. We are enclosed in the Father, and we are enclosed in the Son, and we are enclosed in the Holy Spirit. And the Father is enclosed in us, the Son is enclosed in us, and the Holy Spirit is enclosed in us, almighty, all wisdom and all goodness, one God, one Lord.”
Wisdom our Mother, Trinity our Lord, almighty, all wisdom and all goodness. And thus, like a Russian nesting doll we are one and many, each enclosed within each, abiding within and ever present. I am absolutely positive that I’ve expressed some heresy here—as I illustrate this point with Star Wars nesting dolls.
But, in reaching for an image, I’m reaching for a means to connect. And, in reaching for a means to connect, I am reminded that the connection of our lives to each other and to God is what we are reaching for.
And so, while we fall short and commit heresy, we are reminded that while, as theologian Richard Rohr puts it, “Every name falls short of Your goodness and greatness. We can only see who You are in what is.” We can only see God in what is. So what is?
Look around, see what is. See the people here, and the beauty of this space. Consider what brought you here and where you are going next.
Really, I mean it, let’s take a moment and be as silent as any gathering of God’s children can be, and consider what is.
A baby to be baptized. A child whispering and wondering. The prayers of the community. Concern and care and worry. Love and joy and praise. Rustling and restlessness, bodies moving and breathing and living. This is what is…the “what is” of the the body of Christ and our participation within it.
8:15 ending--And, ultimately, the name and the symbols matter very little—because what matters is the interplay of relationships that open up to us an understanding of the what is where we see God.
10:30 ending--And so, at this time, I invite your participation. Full participation, as I and the children of this community, along with baby Edith and her family gather around the baptismal font.