Trinity Sunday, 2016

Wisdom and Truth – two very desirable things – today are placed before us for consideration by our lessons.

Here, in poetic prose, ‘the teacher’ gives wisdom a voice and an ancient claim on all Divine activity.  Here, in the wake of “THE SPIRIT” settling on those formerly frightened disciples, the lesson from John’s gospel offers us a brief trip back in time; an ‘I-told-you-so’ moment that comes courtesy of the Revised Common Lectionary, on the Liturgical feast of the Trinity.

Jesus – himself a stand-up member of our Holy Trio – offers some startling words of preparation prior to his arrest: “I still have any things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now…” (John 16: 12, – NRSV)

Presumably they cannot bear to hear them because there is so much happening – so much about to happen – that the disciples senses can’t be trusted.  Fair enough; but if Jesus can’t get through to them – live and in person – what hope is there?

There is the hope offered in the form of the ‘spirit of truth’ -This Spirit will reveal those things – slowly and deliberately – that would be too much to take if the knowledge came all at once.  This is a Spirit that, surprisingly, does not speak for itself.  It reveals only what is has been told, and the purpose of these revelations is to glorify Jesus, whose purpose is to glorify God – and so we catch a glimpse of the divine circle of support.

And from a much older tradition, Proverbs presents us with the poetic reflections of wisdom personified – a description that suggests that while God may have created “from nothing” all that is, God did not work alone.

Much of what we did not read describes wisdom as a virtue – something to which all should aspire – but the real news here is that even God had a helper.

It is through texts like these that the church developed the image of God as Trinity – three “things” that are distinct yet united – to help us understand the scope of God’s presence, purpose and power.  We baptize in the ‘name of the Trinity’ – I offer my sermon each week “In the name of God; Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer” – Trinitarian language is found in all the common Christian creeds.  It is a mark of the Christian Church, this mysterious amalgamation of “Three-in-one” and whether or not we understand how it works, most of us have agreed that “Trinity” is an acceptable description of God.  But based on this morning’s lessons, I’ll suggest that our notion of the Trinity has more to do with us than with God.

Back to those two desirable traits – Wisdom and Truth – for a moment.  As elements of God’s character, they offer us assurance that God is both an able and willing covenant partner.  But when these two traits are offered as prizes – if we imagine that they are goals to be reached on our journey to understanding, they soon become problematic.  Our desire for the truth – our pursuit of wisdom have led us down some challenging paths.  We are occasionally guilty of taking, out of turn, that which “we cannot bear”.  Wisdom and Truth, like Faith, are gifts of God – offered at the right time, for God’s own reasons.

We confuse certainty with truth, and we confuse knowledge with wisdom. When we embrace certainty and call it truth, we assume power that is not ours to wield, and when we gather knowledge and call it wisdom, we rob the word of its virtue.

Jesus describes a ‘spirit of truth’ as a guide, not a state of mind.  This spirit will “guide you into all the truth” – one step at a time.  The truth is shared, little by little, and so the character of God, the kingdom of God, the way of God is revealed; slowly, deliberately, to the point of frustration, truth is uncovered.  Not because God is slow or deliberately frustrating, but because there are things that we still ‘cannot bear right now’.

And wisdom, rather than being the pinnacle of a life’s work, or the result of our live experience is described as an integral part of ‘all that is’ – not simply present at Creation, but “like a master worker…”.  So so it is that wisdom might be discovered; gradually revealed by our exploration of and engagement with God’s vast and glorious creation.

Trinity has everything to do with our need to bring some measure of clarity to something that is complex and mysterious, and that is understandable.  But if we could really accept that the promised helper was guiding us (gently and deliberately) into all truth; and that wisdom’s work was everywhere, waiting to be discovered, then perhaps we might begin to understand that God is not a prized to be claimed, nor an idea to be defended, but a present, purposeful power to be experienced.

Jesus points us in the right direction; what we need to know cannot come to us all at once – we could not bear it.  Wisdom, truth and every other good gift will find those who are humble and patient before the eternal mystery of God.  That was Jesus example to us, even as he faced persecution, arrest, and certain death.  Our path, wherever it leads, has been illuminated by his great light.  We would do well to follow him.  Amen

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