Find out what's happening at St. Paul's

The Divine Life

The Divine Life
June 16, 2019
Series:
Passage: John 16:12-15
Service Type:

“Jesus said to the disciples: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”

It is odd timing to hear today’s gospel at the very end—beyond the end—of the Easter season. In anticipation of his death, Jesus speaks to his disciples in this intimate and caring way—“I wish I could tell you everything!” I cannot tell you everything now, but you will hear it. The Spirit of Truth will be with you. All that the Father has is mine. Intimacy. Generosity of Spirit, generosity of self. Sharing in abundance, the abundance of all of creation.

This is the nature of God, and this is the nature of the divine life into which we are invited. If you are a visual thinker, imagine a doorway we walk through, into a relationship with God and with the whole created community. (If you like Trinitarian analogies, imagine that this one-of-a-kind doorway is shaped like a triangle.) All of these themes of self-giving, community, and abundance, present in our three-person God, our social God, set us up for our return to the Gospel of Luke starting next week, and a series of wonderful gospel stories told as only Luke tells them.

To say that God is Trinity is to say that God’s capacity for community is infinite. Not only is God’s capacity for community infinite, God’s capacity forself-giving is infinite. We see this in the incarnation, Epiphany, in Jesus’ death and resurrection…we see it everywhere.

Trinity has less to do with threes than with relationships of any number, community of any size. Whenever I talk about the Trinity I say that a Triune God isn’t like a relationship, or isn’t in favor of relationships, our Triune God is relationship, a social God who calls us further and further in to divine life and further and further in to community with one another.

It’s wedding season; I officiated a wedding last week and will officiate another next week. The marriage liturgy is full of vows and blessings in the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In order for a marriage to be successful, it must exist in some respect within the divine life of God that is modeled in the Trinity. Partners in a marriage must exhibit qualities of self-giving, expansiveness, connectivity, abundance. A community of two, with infinite capacity to grow and change.

*

This is the time of year when our labyrinth gets more and more use from our neighbors. Someone pointed out that people deal drugs in the labyrinth. People certainly take drugs there. It’s what not all, but many poor people do in a societal structure which most of us take for granted: the very poor have a different relationship to survival than most of us. As a result, they live violent lives, take drugs, sell drugs, and use the bathroom in places we wish they wouldn’t. I’ve been thinking about this for much of the week and noticing how much I think in terms of we and “they.” What if “they” were us?

Remember the St. Paul’s response to the AIDS crisis in the 1990s? Of course you do. We talk about it a lot. It defines who we are. For a long time, it came up whenever we talked about outreach and service. People suffering and dying from AIDS, ostracized by their other communities, were not they, but us. St. Paul’s community was transformed as result. What if we talked about the poor people outside our doors as if they were us?

Maybe it is in this kind of expanding community with our neighbors that Jesus continues to say to us, through the Spirit, the many things that his first disciples cannot bear.

Last November, after a considerable process, St. Paul’s vestry adopted a new vision for the parish. Vision takes who we are, and points to what we see. The vision begins by restating our identity:

As people anointed at baptism, nourished by the Eucharist and daily prayer, held in our Triune God, inspired by music, and sent forth in the Spirit—

And then goes on to describe what we see, based on many hours of conversation and reflections on who we are as a parish:

  • We see a church present and invested in community…let us eat, laugh, sing, and share stories and silence together.
  • We see a church engaged in advancing God’s…justice, and embodying the Kingdom of God; let us equip ourselves for action, and direct our resources toward the healing of the world.
  •  We see a church seeking…to understand how God calls us; let us nurture and support each other as we continue to be formed as disciples.

On the face of it, it doesn’t sound all that bold…We like these words. They’re nice, carefully thought out words. But I hope that these words call us to engage practices that will in turn transform us so that we can enter that divine Trinitarian life where there is no we and no they, no fear of change or loss. I like to think that our vision is infinitely expansive, like the Kingdom, like our three-person God.

As we reaffirm our Trinitarian faith in the Nicene Creed and pray together as God’s people, in the name of the Holy Trinity, let us pray for the courage and the expansive heart to enter into the divine life that God longs to share.

.