The Eucharistic preface for Trinity Sunday is one of the harder prefaces to sing in the prayer book. I vividly remember this because I chanted it on the feast of St. Michael & All Angels, 2015, my first Sunday with you all. Despite all my practice, I messed it up badly. After communion, when Mark Taylor helped me with my cope, I muttered about my mistakes and said: “that’s really a difficult preface to sing. I don’t know why, but it’s hard!” Mark said: “Hmm. Imagine that, something about the Holy Trinity being difficult.”
There is, as many of you know, much to be said about the Trinity. Today, Trinity Sunday feels unsettling to me. I have been wondering all week: can the world be saved through the Holy Trinity? The Gospel tells us that Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but that the world will be saved through Jesus. Once in a while I catch myself thinking: Really? What’s taking him so long?
Two weeks ago, what began as a non-violent, 40-day protest on the border of Gaza turned violent and dozens of people were killed, thousands gravely wounded, blood spilled by the people of God on the troubled soil of the Holy Land. The violence in this one protest opened our eyes, if only for a few days, to the violent and oppressive life lived every day behind the Gaza blockade. These events may have faded from our consciousness as the news media moves on, but people continue to suffer in Gaza.
Ten days ago, ten students were killed and ten more wounded by one of their peers in a high school in Santa Fe, Texas. It was the 24th shooting in a school this year. In 2018, more American kids have been shot in school in than American soldiers in combat.
Last Thursday, the Seattle Times published a story about the body of a man found in a recycling center in Woodinville. He had fallen asleep in a recycling container somewhere else in the city and was likely crushed to death in the compactor of a recycling truck.1 His name was Jay Parker. Jay attended St. Paul’s for several months and participated in the Karen Korn project. At the Nacho Theology gathering in April, Jay and I were the only people there over the age of 27. He was a carpenter.
These things make me weep and they make me pray. Woe, woe is me, woe are we. We cannot respond, or we do not know how to respond. We resist in all of the ways that the prophets and saints throughout history have always resisted: we are too far away, we are too old, too young, too poor, too rich, too distracted by the next crisis or by our own daily lives, too full of despair. We are a people of unclean lips, unfit to respond except with sadness and hopelessness. What will save us? What burning coal will cleanse our unclean lips and make us say: “Here I am, send me”?
Can a doctrine formulated in the fourth century make a difference to people dying on the Gaza strip? Can it save parents who have lost their children to a gunman, or children who have watched their friends and teachers die? Can the Trinity create a safety net of community for someone like Jay?
I think it can if we become not just imitators of Christ but imitators of God who is Trinity. Our three-in-one God is a social God. Our one-in-three God is a relationship, and we are part of that relationship. So perhaps we partner with our social God to gather and hold, with God in the Spirit, gather and hold these broken pieces of the world which are our own brokenness, sparks of light eclipsed by human failing and human misery. 2 Perhaps we pattern our actions and our relationships on our God who is a relationship. Think about moving through the world as though we, too, were three in one, one in three, God who gives, God who suffers, God who unites and animates. We are held within this one-in-three, three-in-one universe. The Trinity is our context for being repairers of the breach, healers of the world’s brokenness.
What if we engaged the Trinity in our walking-around response to the fractures and the terrors of the world? Imagine that we are expressing God-given generosity and providence by sending something as simple as funds to an unimaginably troubled place like Gaza. What if we suffer with Christ on behalf of the broken and wounded there, caring for them from afar with gifts that will clothe the naked and feed the hungry? When we add to this generosity and suffering our prayers, through the Spirit, for all sides in that irreconcilable conflict, we become practicing Trinitarians.
When the 24th school shooting this year happens, where is the Holy Trinity? How does our triune God, Abba, Christ, and Spirit make an appearance through us? Even without biological children of our own, we can be mothers and fathers. We can love the children in our lives as God loves us, in the midst of their anxiety and vulnerability and acting out. We can seek out struggling children and families who are different from us, and learn from them. We can pray to the Spirit to help us notice young people who are lonely or mad, bullied or being bullies themselves. Just as Jesus names the Spirit our advocate: we can advocate for gun laws that protect children, not just children who are victims but children who might buy guns. We can look for Christ in victims and in killers, and with Christ we can suffer with them. We can be united by the Spirit as a community of prayer. We can cry, Abba, because we, too, are children of God.
How can we be Trinity for the next Jay Parker who comes among us? As practicing Trinitarians, we might be intentional, each of us and all of us, about offering everyone who comes through our doors, or who sits in our labyrinth, a community that practices the generosity, companionship, and hope of our three- person God. Generosity, companionship, and hope. I like to think that the next person like Jay who finds us will become one with us.
Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? Our God is an us, holy, holy, holy, God in three persons, blessed Trinity. And we, too, are an us. We, too, can be expressions of God’s providence, God’s humanity, and God’s connecting Spirit.
Each week we join the seraphs who surround this table as we sing “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might.” Heaven and earth are full of God’s glory because our whole cosmos is poured out by God and held in God: water, air, and earth, darkness and light, day and night, misery and hope. The Trinity we celebrate at this altar is the fullness of all of this, the enormity of the life to which God calls us. The Trinity we encounter in bread that is made, gathered, broken, poured out, and shared for us and by us is the same Trinity in which we are sent to gather up the broken pieces of the world. May our gathered prayers, our brokenness, and this Eucharist be the burning coal that sends us forth in the name of the Holy Trinity.
1 The Seattle Times, May 24 2018. “Homeless man probably crushed to death after sleeping in recycling container.”
2 For the language of gathering up the brokenness of the world and sparks of light I am indebted to an article about Tikkun Olam on www.tikkun.org, “How the Ari created a Myth and Transformed Judaism,” by Howard Schwartz, March 28, 2011