Sunday, May 22, 2016
Holy Trinity Sunday
So today is Holy Trinity Sunday, as I already mentioned, and this is one of the hardest days to preach because the concept of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a difficult one to explain or grasp. We believe God is three and yet one. One plus one plus one does not necessarily equal three. You can see how pretty quickly we can all start to get confused! But as I was reading the scriptures we heard this morning and reflecting on what it means to me that God is both three and one, a word came to me, quite clearly: Balance. Our faith in God the Holy Trinity is about balance.
I hope I’m not the only one here today struggling to keep my life in balance these days! I think a lot of us have ideas about what our life SHOULD look like and then the reality of what our life actually is…for example, I would need about 2 or 3 hours of house cleaning before I invited any of you over for lunch today – there are just some things that don’t get done these days for our household! We strive to eat healthily: three “balanced” meals a day. We improve our balance physically through regular exercise – yoga, Tai Chi, weight lifting, walking or running. We try to keep a healthy work-life balance: fighting burnout from working too many long hours too many days in a row, spending time with our families. And by the time we get to tending to our relationship with God, we discover we’ve completely lost our balance – there is no time or energy left for God. Many days our lives can feel like a balancing act, and that we end up shortchanging all of the spheres of our lives: personal, professional, physical, and spiritual because we’re trying to do it all. And we can’t.
It was a gift for me to hear this week that the very identity of God – Father, Son & Holy Spirit, seeks to restore the balance. God is the only One who CAN do it all! God’s very self is a balancing act: a holy dance of the trinity. Jesus tries to get at this when he explains to his disciples in the Gospel of John: ”The Spirit will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine.” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are at work in our lives, in the delicate balance of trying to keep it all together. In God’s perfect balance of the Trinity we see healthy relationship as God intends and desires for us: physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological wholeness, well-being, balance. Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father are in holy conversation with each other, Jesus tells us today in John. The Word imagined in our Creator, the Word taking on flesh in Jesus the Christ, and the Word spoken, heard, and shared in the Holy Spirit—all of these persons of God are at work in us. But what does this mean for us, for our daily life and relationship with God?
Well, we can start with how we pay attention to who God is in our lives in a diversity of ways. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity reminds us that God is always more than we can imagine – our heavenly Father, but more than a Father. The One who will come again to judge the living and the dead, but also the one who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. A Spirit of presence that is unseen but also visible in God incarnate, Jesus Christ. Often I notice, even in myself, that we can get “stuck” in relating to God in one mode. We might pay more attention to all the scriptural verses that talk about God’s great love for us, but overlook how God also calls us hate evil and repent (or vice versa). Think about how you talk to God when you pray, for example. Do you focus primarily on asking for healing for others? Do you ever pray for yourself? Do you find yourself forgetting to say thank you to God, or to praise God for joys you experience in your life? There are a few acronyms that I’ve found helpful in my own prayer life that come from ancient Christian tradition. Adoration (praise), Confession (confessing our sins and asking for God’s forgiveness), Thanksgiving, and Supplication (asking God for what we need or what others need). Those are big words, so I’ve also found PRAY (Praise, Repent, Ask, and Yield) helpful as well. If you notice in our prayers of intercession in worship, we pray for the church, the world, creation, and individuals in an effort to balance who and what we pray for (not just our church, or people we think to care about). As we move into the summer months and our schedules become less routine because of travel, vacations, and family visiting, trying out one of these prayer practices might be a way for you to stay connected to God intentionally, because you can pray anywhere, at any time. In this prayer practice God might reveal to you who God is in a bigger, more expansive way than you’ve experienced before. And you may also find God bringing balance to your life in a way you’ve not experienced, either, because when our spiritual life is in balance God brings equilibrium to other aspects of our life as well.
There’s one final aspect of of our relationship with God and balance that I want to highlight this morning. Just as I try to work for balance in my life by paying attention to my spiritual life daily, I see God at work balancing my spiritual life through relationships. What I mean to say is that God is at work throughout my life in all of those spheres, not just in the time I set aside to worship, study the Bible, or pray intentionally. Now, I’m not telling you that means you don’t need to tend to your relationship with God in intentional ways – in fact, when you do, God will reveal to you how God’s been at work in all aspects of your life even more! God’s at work even when I’m not paying attention or specifically categorizing the time as “God time.” One of my colleagues, Pastor Neil Harrison, is the director for congregational renewal in the ELCA. He starts out any renewal presentation he leads by saying, “Relationship, relationship, relationship.” This is what our Christian life is all about – tending to our relationship with God, relationship with each other, and our relationship to the world. Jesus put it another way in the great commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. For me, these words of Jesus are what I strive to live my life by: the balance of loving God, loving my neighbor, and loving myself. I try to pay attention to all of those relationships. And what I am discovering more and more is that again it’s not like each of those realms are categories set apart, but when I love my neighbor, I often discover something new about my relationship with God. When I carve out time for prayer, not only am I better in tune with how God is at work in my life, but I am loving myself by nurturing my spiritual life, paying attention to my spiritual health.
God works through relationships to bring health, wholeness and balance. The balance of our lives starts and ends with God. We don’t have to have this Trinity thing all figured out. But as Jesus reminds us again today, the Holy Spirit will take what is mine and declare it to you. God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, will speak to us, will declare great things for us, and help us live life in the balance. Amen.