Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

John 16:12-15

I gave two preachers in my family the chance to avoid Trinity Sunday today. It crossed my mind to avoid it myself, what with two extra preachers in town for Ian’s baptism. But I somehow needed to stay more connected to today’s worship, with two important events and Trinity Sunday. We just celebrated the Spirit last week, and we now celebrate the whole of the Godhead. Notice the triangle on your bulletin cover. To recap, we’re using images from our denomination’s symbol for several weeks, and there are many symbols within that one complex graphic. The flames at the bottom suggest an equilateral triangle, for the three equal members of the Trinity – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – the Creator, Christ, and Spirit of God.

This is as esoteric as anything most of us think about. It’s easy to get tied up with philosophical language about personae, essence, and so on. The Trinity seemed to arise from the church’s process of figuring out how Jesus was related to God, as if the question were, “how like God is this human we worship?” But one commentary I read this week actually made it click differently. The Trinity is not about metaphysical speculation, figuring out if Jesus is like God, it’s an affirmation that God is like Jesus, that our intuition is true.

Some of us have trouble with God. The idea may be too abstract, too judgmental, too “Old Testament.” You may not have trouble with Jesus (at least before theology comes along). Jesus who loved, healed, taught, forgave, gave his life? We’re all over that. We may similarly connect with the Holy Spirit (God within us). The Trinity looks at these two and says that any talk about (or to) God has to know this love, this expansive truth. We also have to know the transcendent, Holy One, who is accessible only through religion, but that God is the same as God-with-us and God-in-us.

That’s what Jesus says in the reading from John: “all that the Father has is mine.” Everything God is, Jesus is too. And he says that another character will come who has and is God too. The Holy Spirit shares from within, Jesus shares around us, and God shares reality itself with us. These three share everything together. That’s what God’s about. God is about what we know of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and God earnestly wants to share everything with us (and all people). God calls us into being and desires life for us. Jesus seeks our healing and peace. The Holy Spirit calls us to share.

So this is how to have everything God wants for you: to share it (all). Sharing is God’s essence, if you can think of an essence beyond our language for being. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – the Giver, Gift, and Receiving – the First, Second, and Third persons (by any name) – live in sharing. They share in a way that we can’t, ultimately, because they share without losing themselves, but without any bounds between each self and the others. We come close to this sometimes, in some families, marriages, or friendships, but never perfectly. But even in our imperfection, God is what our lives point to (we’re made in God’s image). Our best relationships point to perfect sharing as Jesus shared himself.

Jesus talked about sharing as love. He said, “there is no love greater than to give your life for your friends.” On Memorial Day, we honor those who gave their all. They gave their lives in partnership with their comrades. Ask someone who has been to war, and they’ll tell you that people fight because their buddies would be at risk if they didn’t. But we honor their sacrifice always with the humble awareness that war is awful, and that their buddies were only at risk because the fighting had already started. We celebrate valor despite the circumstances, never because of them; if only we could avoid even the best war. Yet we give thanks for that radical love, even in the tragedy of war. And in our congregation, we celebrate others whose self-gifts were less obvious but just as real.

Jesus teaches self-sacrifice without being at war. Woman Wisdom, as Proverbs describes the Holy Spirit rejoices in goodness for its own sake. That’s just as real as the God (the “Father”) who we believe gets justly indignant at injustice and hubris, and it’s essential to understanding God. God is able to give us life and call us to account because God is giving and wise. There are layers of truth, personae, in God, and if any of them are true, all of them must be, or else we’re not talking about God. So we can’t talk about Jesus (who died and yet lives) unless he is God. Or we can’t talk about God (who is out there beyond the universe) unless God is also the Holy Spirit within us.

The brutality of war can reveal these layers of truth. You who’ve been there know this, and the rest of us can only ask you. I think of my Grandpa Williams, who went to WWII with a recommendation from a parent to read Psalm 91 each day so he could remember God’s protection for him. Grandpa says that somehow that Psalm never rang true to him: the “thousands falling on each side” were no more evil than he. It’s not that Psalm 91 is false – we each feel our relationship with God as if we were the only one in God’s world – but there was more comfort in Psalm 139, with its affirmation that God is always present, even if you go down to grave. That was more resonant with his experience.

I heard similar layers of truth in a friend’s prayer for Iraq, earlier in that war. My friend had been to the Gulf with the USMC in 1991, and it was moving to hear him pray for Iraqi parents and children “who love life as we do.” It’s not that one prayer changed the war or even really condemned it. It was more to lament it, to grieve for those who would undoubtedly suffer. To pray for our troops and theirs, our citizens and theirs, at the same time, is to see the complexity of war.

Life is profoundly complex, irreducible at any level. It’s full of joy and sorrow; goodness and violence; truth and lies. And yet Wisdom stands and smiles with God as She surveys their handiwork. And yet Christ gives his life in service and love. We affirm that these too are God, that whatever else we say about God also means giving, sharing, and compassion. The deep order and rhythm of the universe often beats beyond our hearing, beyond our knowledge, but it is also right with us. We trust that that rhythm is like what we know, only truer. We trust that God’s three-in-one truth marches on to peace.

Amen.

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