The sailboat was 47 feet long,and just wide enough, for nine people to live and move in close quarters. The food stores were full, the water tanks brimmed. The stereo could only seem to play reggae music. We were in and out of the water so often, passing showers so common, We became used to being neither clean nor dirty, smelling of sunscreen and the salty Caribbean sea. A Texan, an Indian, an Iowan, a Georgian, a Japanese girl, two Floridians, and Australian and my American nomadic self. It was sea camp, three weeks learning to sail and scuba and windsurf. Seven teens, two adults, alongside a dozen other yachts just the same. We had everything we needed in that fleet and on that sea. Food for bellies and shelter for bodies and rest for busy souls. Bold blue firmament above and sparkling blue firmament below.
The captain of my sailboat he loved the ocean. For decades he loved inviting young people to the paths of the sea. Teaching us how to hoist the sails, handing us the steering wheel, guiding us in how to dwell together, two parts Jimmy Buffett, one part Stephen Covey, one part Mister Rogers. And this captain of my boat, happened to be the director of the whole program. There is something quite daring about inviting boatload after boatload of teenagers to sail p precious ships. Young people with their whimsy and curiosity and enduring sense of their own power, brimming with hope, romance, brokenness and challenge. I once asked the captain if anyone had run a yacht aground. He said oh yeah, once a decade ago, really bent up the rudder. Cost a bunch to get it fixed. I asked him if that kid was allowed back for another year. The captain raised his head, looked around toward shore. Sure he said. He is right there…our windsurfing instructor.
The Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This Triune God gives shape to the experience of the disciples and early Church. The experience that God who is the ground of all, and somehow is the same as this Jesus, inviting us into God’s self, and somehow is the same universal potency of deep wisdom and energy called ruach in the Hebrew. It is hard to collapse into ink and paper, and the Trinity is a holy mystery, fascinating and tremendous, something to be known and trusted whether or not we can capture it with words.
The Captain figured out early that I was pretty good at cooking, and not so good at cleaning, and rearranged the chores accordingly. Yet I was not known as the pancake maker, and the captain was never the paperwork filler-outer, even the windsurf instructor was not called ship runner a grounder. We were called by our names, and not our chores or things we have done. We related to one another as friend, leader, bunkmate. A God who is known in plurality can of course be illustrated by a range of words, they do not have to be precise or perfect, they can bend to fit the moment.
However we should recall that the potent life of the Trinity is rooted in its relationships, not responsibilities, or duties or characteristics. You can memorize all the orthodox definitions about the Holy Trinity, or lean on a dozen verbal configurations of the triune, but that is not the Trinity itself. Knowing all the parts of the sailboat is very different than working together to set sail and make it to our destination.
Maybe you would rather just step over this Trinity nonsense, sing the words and hope nobody brings it up. Let me offer two reasons why the Trinity matters to the practicing Christian. First it is the hallmark of Christian unity in all our diversity. The rock bottom characteristic of what makes us Christian and not Christian-ish is: Holy Scripture as word of God, Trinitarian Baptism,
Holy Communion. A world of graceful diversity and opinions and practices can dwell within that definition. And diversity is the second reason why trusting in Trinity is not just an abstract argument. The Trinity tells us that God is diverse within God’s self. God is plurality within God’s self. All our bloodshed over theology and practices, who is in and who is out: the testimony of the ages is that this does not matter if we do not act with the love for God and neighbor that has been poured into our hearts.
God can handle our wayward categorizing and over defining, what God wants is for us is a human race that is an image of the divine relationship: self giving, ever original, diversity bound to one another. The Holy Trinity is a sketch of how God is, never-ever ending as the sea nor ever casting overboard, God is a moving community, reaching back and sailing onward.
So here is where I invite you to do something wholly outrageous. Make a trinitarian metaphor, illustrate with word pictures your experience of the mystery of the Trinity. Let it be a quark with its three moving parts that are the same stuff and what everything is made of. Or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or three ladies dancing. Humans build trust through relationship, people have relationship with ideas and concepts through play. Metaphor is playing with ideas like a child plays with objects, and God invites us into relationship with Godself in three shapes, or matrixes, or names or whatever frame you need. So go for it. Make a trinity metaphor. Spend enough time with intention and study and originality to make your wise and ancient and modern Trinity metaphor. I promise, God can handle it.
It’s not perfect, for many reasons, especially remembering the pranks we pulled with all that passion and creativity; I am not to sure what to make of the Holy Spirit being a prankster. But this holy exploration is essential to living into our Baptism. We promise lifelong formation upheld and guided by God’s foundational, motivational and sustaining help. Whatever creative act can lead you deeper into relationship with the living God, whatever song you need to sing to invite surrender into Jesus’s healing embrace, whatever picture you need to paint of the Spirit’s dream, DO IT. hoist the sails, take the wheel, you have all that you need, the greater shore lies ahead. Do it with the love he has poured into your heart. God rejoices in it and says that it is delightful. In the name of the Holy Trinity, a fluid foundation, an ongoing guide, and an energy beyond our imagining. Amen.
Trinity Sunday, May 22, 2016
St. Paul's Episcopal Church Walla Walla, Washington, USA