Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sermon: Trinity Sunday (May 18)

[Music: Fanfare for the Common Man]

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good…

I though it needed a soundtrack and I think Aaron Copland (Fanfare for the Common Man) would be a good choice.

In the beginning,
-the beginning of our story
-the beginning of the bible
-the beginning of everything

The beginning of the book of Genesis and the Creation story is a wonderfully imaginative story of our creation. As God created, God looked upon the creation and saw it was good. Lately whenever we hear about creation, we don’t talk about its goodness but we seem to fall into the trap of making it a story of controversy. The creation story is not some competing explanation for the world, totally separate from other understandings of creation like the Big Bang theory.

Faith & science need not be enemies. We can indeed believe in both. The Creation story gives us a wonderful image of creation, of God’s why it all happened. The Big Bang theory may tell us how it happened. But Science can only look back so far before there is nothingness, and in that nothingness, is a spark at the beginning, that bang, and in the end it was all good. So why did it happen that way…

I look to poets to help me with that understanding.

And God stepped out on space,
And He looked around and said,
"I'm lonely -- I'll make me a world."

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said, "That's good!"

This poem from James Weldon Johnson, an African American sermon of about 100 years ago, gets me thinking about why God created us. Out of loneliness, out of love, with just a smile and bang the light was born, and it was good! I think he picks up on an aspect of creation that God created because God desired relationship.

On this Trinity Sunday, we understand God as one being and yet known in three ways. And people have understood that three-in-one in many ways over the centuries. Traditionally, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Lover, the Beloved and the Mutual Love is what St. Augustine called the Trinity 1700 years ago, although he said it in Latin.

Robert Farrar Capon, in his book Genesis: the Movie, thinks of the Trinity as: The Producer, the Star and the Director. A thoroughly modern way of looking at the Trinity but I think it works: God the Father is the producer of the whole creation, God the Son is the savior and the star of the show and the Holy Spirit is behind the scenes directing it all.

“The truth is that God meets you in the Scriptures, whether you recognize him or not,” says Capon. “This is the case, of course, with any great film: it's not until you've lived with the entire picture in your mind that you can decide whether you've met anybody worth meeting — let alone who it is you've met. But it's also the case with the church, the community of faith, that's been watching the biblical movie unfold ever since the Exodus.” (p. 28)

This understanding of being part of the biblical narrative, of watching it unfold, knowing the players behind the scenes and the star, of re-creating these events year after year to have those events be a part of our story too, is what living in creation is all about. It is part of our faith journey. To carry Capon’s image a little farther and in his words…

“It is seeing the Bible as a movie to be taken in rather than a book to be deciphered. They show you the liberation from literalism you might find if you can stop asking questions of the biblical text and just watch it. Only God knows the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Only the Father, who holds Truth Itself in his beloved Son, actually owns It.” (p. 297)

Understanding the creation story, understanding the role of God as Trinity plays in our lives, is to watch the film, take in the bible not as something to decode for our lives, with some secrets embedded if we but search long and hard enough but to watch the whole thing, get the whole picture and in that catch a glimpse of God’s truth and then participate in that truth with our lives.

As Hildegard of Bingen said nearly 1000 years ago…

We are dressed in the scaffold of creation:
in seeing—to recognize all the world,
in hearing—to understand,
in smelling—to discern,
in tasting—to nurture,
in touching—to govern.
In this way humankind comes to know God,
for God is the author of all creation.

We are living in God’s creation, made in God’s image, we are loved and the bible invites us in to know God and to take our part in the biblical story which is part of our lives. It is as the poets have told us:

He looked on His world with all its living things,
And God said, "I'm lonely still." Then God sat down
On the side of a hill where He could think;
By a deep, wide river He sat down;
With His head in His hands,God thought and thought,
Till He thought, "I'll make me a man!" (JWJ)

Or maybe it’s the stars and planets that sing about creation as in Joseph Addison’s hymn:

In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
Forever singing as they shine,
“The hand that made us is divine.”

Or maybe it’s a song like Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man or Franz Joseph Haydn’s The Creation. Poets and song help us to place ourselves in the midst of God’s creation, realizing as Julian of Norwich did that creation began and “it lasts and ever shall, because God loves it."

God’s creation began with a bang long ago, the light of which has never stopped travelling, the truth of which we are still coming to understand. Let us this day, celebrate creation, celebrate God who made us in God’s image, who wants a relationship with us, desires us and know that in it all, it is all very good. Amen.

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