TRINITY SUNDAY (Psalm 8, Matthew 28:16-20, 2 Cor. 13: 11-13)
Yesterday at our Strawberry Festival we got to see and hear a three-person band made up of Bill Webster and Otis and Karen Stroup. They call themselves “Three 4 All”, a memorable play on words, sounding a lot like free for all, but carrying an important meaning of being three people committed to the entire community. They sang a fun song about why we don’t see unicorns today. The song describes the unicorns being left behind when Noah loaded the animals in the ark—the unicorns apparently were so busy playing in the rain that they missed the boat, literally. If you missed it yesterday, you can find Three 4 All singing on our Strawberry Festival Youtube link on the website and enjoy it whenever you like.
Three 4 All sounds to me like a helpful way for us to understand the inter-relationship between what we refer to as the three persons of the Trinity: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Or Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Or Father, Son and Advocate. The variety of names, or titles, help to describe some of the different roles of God. Together the three form what we call the God head, or the Trinity. Truly, God is Three 4 all. God exists for relationship with all of God’s creatures—including the green alligators, the long-necked geese, the cats, the rats, the elephants, and especially the humans. God is Three 4 All, not just for some. God is Three 4 all humans all around this world.
The Presbyterian Outlook magazine recently offered a four-part series on deep questions that are each answered by several authors. The questions have been: “Who is God, really? Who are we, truly? What does God have to do with us? What do we have to do with each other?” The answers have been thought provoking and enriching. One writer, the pastor at First Presbyterian in Shreveport, LA, tackled the question: What does God have to do with us? Rev. Chris Currie insists that God refuses to be without us. As a way to deepen our understanding of the concept of God with us in Jesus Christ, he goes into an explanation of that portion of the Apostles’ Creed that always runs the risk of tripping us up: Jesus descended into hell. Currie’s point is that there is no hell that we can experience that removes us from God. Jesus has already been as far as possible from God, making it clear that there is no place we can go and nothing we can experience and no depth we can fall to where God has not already been; making it clear that there is no place where God is absent.
Amid the most recent racialized violence in this country and the protests and rallies which continue in response, we need reminders like this: God is three 4 all! As low as we go, as hard as things get, we can not get away from God being with us. As Rev. Currie says, God refuses to be without us. That is three forms of God knit together into one, God is for us all, that is, God is for humanity with a capital H. The professional soccer team in Chelsea, England, created a message during their practice this week as they formed a large “H” on the field, kneeling down as a symbol of their solidarity with those members of the human race who are being marginalized, mistreated or even murdered. God is three 4 all, not just for some.
God is Three. Yet God is One. God is One in Three. Our texts for today lift up the various persons of the Trinity as a way to focus us on this amazing mystery of God being One in Three. We heard the words of Psalm 8, extolling the characteristics of God the creator of all that we see, even the Strawberry Moon, that last full moon of spring named by the Algonquin tribes because it comes at the time when the strawberries are ready to be picked. God of the moon, the stars, the mountains, the seas is the sovereign Lord over all the earth. Yet even in the Creator’s awesome majesty, God is mindful of and cares for the human beings who dot this planet. God has entrusted the human beings with the responsibility to care for the works of God’s hands—from sheep to birds to fish. We have learned during this time of pandemic just how much impact the rat races of our lives have on the planet entrusted to our care. When we all stay home, the earth breathes better!
Jesus’ words to the disciples at the end of the gospel of Matthew form the beginning of a view of the God who is Three in One and at the same time, Three 4 All. This is his last communication with this group of 11 disciples, and he speaks with authority in heaven and on earth. He is basically giving them instructions to get to work: Go—get moving—this is not the time to sit on your hands. Go and Make disciples: tell others what it means to be a disciple of mine, show others how disciples live out their faith. You make disciples by baptizing and by teaching. First, baptize the disciples in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—all three! Then, teach the disciples to obey all of my commands—love God and love neighbor. And remember: I am with you always. God who is Three 4 All is always with us, in fact, God refuses to be without us.
Jesus says to baptize people with this trinitarian formula that is likely very familiar, no matter which church you have been shaped by. It is familiar because we share this doctrine with all Christian churches. Just because we have it in common with Christians of all stripes doesn’t mean that the Trinity is an easily understood mystery. The doctrine is born in Scripture and then has been developed through the ages by the Christian church as a way for us to name the multiple ways God behaves toward us, moves among us. and connects to us. It remains a mystery. I find it helpful to think of God as Three (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) 4 All. God in three forms, always with us, never without us, always advocating for us, always working so that all can breathe. We connect more directly with different forms of God depending on where we are in our lives. We could be outdoors on a hike and get overwhelmed by the intricate work of the Creator who made the strawberry moon, the long necked geese and every one of us. We could be painfully aware of our own shortcomings, biases, and omissions, leading us to be especially appreciative of Jesus’ loving grace toward us all as he gave his life on the cross and rose victorious from the dead. We may find ourselves in a time of confusion or fear or loneliness or grief and connect in a special way to God’s Spirit who breathes through us and among us even in those times. I am thankful that God is Three in One, and that God is Three 4 All.
Not only at the sacrament of baptism, but also in the sharing in the sacrament of communion we find a symbol of our connectedness to Christ, to God, to the Holy Spirit and to one another. As we eat the bread and drink the cup this morning, together, but separate, we are declaring that as the body of Christ we are Many 4 all. Yes indeed. As we eat the bread and drink the cup, we declare Christ as Lord and Savior. We commit to be his disciples, to teaching others all that he has commanded us, to loving God and neighbor, to making this world a place where all can breathe. We serve a God who is Three 4 All, and we are Many 4 All. All of Humanity. All of God’s creatures.
We will close our service today with the words from the end of Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, oft repeated words of blessing in a trinitarian formula: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. May the Spirit of God breathe through you all. Amen.