You know your cross is off center right? I know a guy who can help put it back in the right place for you, if you want, said a well meaning person to me shortly after I arrived. Why would we want to “put it back” I asked this wonderful soul. Cause it just doesn't make any sense all the way over there, I like order and harmony, God’s at the perfect center of everything, they said. Well you know, I said to them after a prolonged pause, faith is not perfect so why should God only show up when we are perfect? While there intentions were honourable, and make a lot of sense aesthetically, we are not talking about an idea or a look when we talk about the cross- we are talking about a living faith. Today’s feast and readings asks a deeper question of our faith; How do we know and experience God? We do it in community.
Community in the church is represented by the mysterious and confusing Trinity, father, son and holy spirit. The Trinity as the heartbeat of our faith, is the system that makes everything we know and see whole, and yet it is the one thing that makes the least sense. Think back to our sundays school days, when people tried to explain the Trinity: it's like this or like that. It’s a shamrock, or a tree, or a chain of love. The problem is just that it's not “like” anything. It just is. As humans we love to know how to understand something, how to read or apply something. Our brains are wired for black and white answers, which is what makes the trinity so hard to understand because it is always something more. We run the risk in faith of living life in a isolated way, believing in a transaction which is quantifiable rather than a way of life which is messy and off center. Indeed, trying to understand the Trinity has become just as convoluted, with councils throughout the centuries trying to write down the unwriteable nature of God. We desperately want to know how to relate to this statement of faith, to fit it into our world, to explain the three in one and one in three, yet we struggle because God remains bigger than these ideas. Just like our cross, God isn’t at the center he is the center of our lives. God isn't at- being a static dichotomous relationship, God is the center- being a lived, messy, and multifaceted relationship. God being the center of our relationship brings us into the Divine Dance of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A dance we experience within community.
Jesus in this morning's Gospel from John catches us out in our beliefs when we listen with the ears of Nicodemus. Here is a smart and wise man, someone who has spent a lot of time learning about God, he even has the idea to pronounce the royal “we” regarding belief in God. He asserts a belief about God in Jesus saying “We know,” in verse 2. We know! Of course we know! We know you are a teacher Jesus, because of all the signs that you do. Of course we know that, but have we experienced that? Remember that the point of John's Gospel is about Jesus’ relationship with us as Incarnate Word. John's Gospel is about Jesus’s relationship with us, which can be easily replaced these days with a static statement of faith, yet Jesus is a living breathing human. Relationships can’t be boiled down to statements of faith in isolation, faith and its statements are meant to be lived and experienced, which makes it messy and often off center. Jesus’ ministry revolved around the off center experience of life, healing, teaching, eating, and staying with and in the places other abandoned as unredeemable. Jesus, throughout the Gospels continues to show us through his life what a lived faith looks like, which is left for us in the image of the Trinity which we celebrate today.
Our prayer station receives a permanent icon today, in the face of the Trinity. While we will still have seasonal icons to help draw us into prayer, the Trinity will be a window into the divine because of its invitation to us. Notice its colours each member of the icon shares colours with each other, Red, Blue, Green, and Gold. Red- for humanity, green- for the environment, blue- for heaven, gold for divinity. Each member has a predominant colour, The holy Spirit has blue/ green of heaven and earth, the son has Red/blue- uniting humanity and heaven, and the Father has all of them. Each figure shares the colours with the others, all of whom are encircled in Gold. Encircled in Gold, suggesting a never ending connection between them, uniting them forever. Notice the set table and the hand pointing to the open space at the table- you and I are being invited to join the dance of the Trinity. This invitation is one at the center of our community, inviting the stranger, the friend, neighbour to experience the love of Jesus here at this table in this place for the last 65 years. This icon is a window into our mission, into our life, into ourselves.
But why does this even matter? What does this have to do with our off center cross or the Trinity anyways? It's about an invitation into relationship with a community of God which transforms our life. It would be alot easier to just explain the doctrine of the Trinity, for us all to nod agreement and move on just as Nicodemus has in our Gospel. However, Jesus calls you and I together into a real and lived experience of community that means this idea that we can do things on our own and work in isolation- is a non starter. Think about when we go dancing, if we danced on our own in the middle of the dance floor people would look at us strange and we’d probably get cut off at the bar. Dancing is about partners, and in the Trinity we are given three partners in this dance of life to accompany us. The joy of the Trinity is that in our dancing, no matter how hard we try or how challenged we feel, when we feel one dance finishes we are turn around to find the next dance partner in the trinity waiting to sweep us off our feet. Just like our off center cross, being in the community of the Trinity- dancing to the heart beat of that mysterious relationship means that we are never alone in our lives. God the Father, the maker of heaven and earth, God the son- the salvation of us, and God the Holy Spirit- the animator of life, is enterally present with us in this sacred and crazy dance called life. So how do we live it?
Ground yourself in the presence of the Trinity by invoking the Trinity in your everyday life. At the beginning of a task at work, pause and say to yourself with intention “I do this work in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.” Bring the Trinity into your homes, your workplaces, your friendships.
At the end of your day reflect on the places where you felt creative (Father), Saved (son) and animated (spirit), and give thanks for the dance you had this day. Give thanks for the beautiful and the hard, with the same sense of mysterious wonder, while never forgetting that this is a God who suffered and died on the Cross to be closer to us- God can handle our rage just as much as she can handle our joy.
Come and dance in community here with the three-fold person of the Trinity. Come and be refreshed in the presence of a God of such intimacy that he both died to be closer to us, and is present in three ways so that we are never ever alone again. Come and lean into the fullness of life in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the broken, joyful, crazy, off centered ways of your life.
God is here, and is holding open a space for you at the table. How will you respond?