Descending and Dwelling
Theos, Logos, Pneuma
God, Word, Breath
Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Creator, Christ, Holy Spirit
The Holy Trinity
Today is Trinity Sunday. It is a Sunday when we celebrate this beautiful teaching of the church. Maybe you find my description of the trinity as beautiful. Maybe you accept the teaching, sing it every Sunday morning, know it is central to the Christian church, but never thought of it as beautiful. Maybe some of you would prefer the adjective confusing or complicated. Maybe you see it as a condundrum. That’s fine. But let me explain why I think it is beautiful.
The Trinity points to a God who includes within God's self a diversity. The Trinity tells us even God is diverse. Creation’s diversity mirrors God’s own diversity. Not just diverse but united as well. The Trinity say that God embodies e pluribus unum, out of a plural, one. This is beautiful to me.
What’s more, I think of the simply creed God is Love. Well, if we claim God is Love, love can only be understood if it is living within a relationship. A Love involving only one person is meaningless (unless you are Narcissus). We say we should love our selves. But self-love is not godly love. Godly love is a love that relates, that reaches out, that reaches down. This Godly love, a love that relates and reaches out to us, begins with the Trinity, between the love shared among Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit. God, Logos, and Spirit. And the godly love shared among Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit spills over into Creation. It spills over into us. It spills over into the church. Love is the basis, the ground, the uniting tie of the Trinity. And Love is the basis of all things connected to God. This is beautiful.
I begin there. But it doesn’t end there. The Trinity is important to contemplate these days, these days of Covid-19, these days of racial unrest and cries of Black lives must matter.
Let me preface the following by informing you of the word we often translate as Spirit. It is the Greek word Pneuma and the Hebrew word ruach. Both the Greek and the Hebrew words usually translated in English as Spirit can also be translated as Breath. Spirit and Breath are the same word in Greek and Hebrew, or biblical languages. So when we say God is Spirit, we can also say God is Breath.
Interestingly, that God is Love, that God is Word, that God is Breath relates to the reality of Covid.
As you may know, Covid is spread very, very easily. It can be spread when cough, surely. It can be spread when we sneeze. It can be spread when we sing. In fact, Covid spreads more seriously and widely when we cough, sneeze, and sing. Hence, our masks.
But Covid can be spread when we speak even. When we say words, especially if we are saying them loudly as in yelling, particulants containing Covid can be spread, that is if we have Covid whether we know it or not.
Covid can be spread by breathing too, especially if we are breathing heavily. That is why sports like basketball that have players not only touching one another but also breathing heavily on one another is potentially dangerous. This is why we are wearing masks today.
Why is this related to our discussion of the Trinity? Well, Covid reminds us that Love reaches down and spreads. Words do the same. Sound doesn’t rise. Sound descends. Sound spreads too. The sound and meaning of words reach down to us and spread among us.
That is what Christ, the Word of God, does too. The Word was made flesh which descended and dwelled among us. Covid is something we don’t want descending and dwelling among us. Christ is.
Covid also reminds us that breath like words descends and dwells among us. A small room of Covid patients living and breathing in that room is a dangerous room as any nurse can tell you. Because breath moves throughout that room and particulants within our breathing eventually descends as well.
God is Breath. And as we learned last week, God as breath, as the Spirit, descended upon the heads of the disciples of Christ, commencing Christ’s church. The Holy Spirit descended and dwelled among the early church and its members. That is what Holy Spirit does. That is what Holy Breath does.
That is what Love does too. God as Love reaches down to us and dwells among us.
The spark that lit this fire of protests against anti-black violence in this country and the whole world was a knee descending and dwelling on the neck of a Black man named George Floyd. The horror of it all was captured on a phone camera, downloaded onto a computer, and spread throughout the world.
One of the most heartbreaking parts of that horrific video was George Floyd calling out for his mama. Did you know his mother has been dead for a few years now? Did he see her above him when he called out for her? Did he see her descending from heaven to reach down to him, dwelling with him that very moment, and bringing him to her where he could dwell in peace among the saints? That’s what love does after all. That’s what a mother does most of all.
Love, like Words and Breath, descends to us and dwells among us and eventually brings us home.
That is what we as God’s children, as Christ followers, as people of the Spirit are called to do, too. We are called to reach out to the least among us, to the most vulnerable among, to those brought low by the powers that be, by the powers that keep knees to necks.
The parable of the Good Samaritan has been on my mind these days. One of the last public events I was part of a pastor here in Middletown was the Lenten Study at the Methodist church where we discussed the Good Samaritan story. That story that Jesus tells is the parallel, mirror image of what we saw in Minneapolis some two weeks ago. The Good Samaritan, a Black American of his time and place, reaches down to a Judean left to die after being robbed and beaten. He reaches down not with a hateful knee and hands in pockets but with love-filled hands and knees to the ground. Moved with compassion, the Black American of his time and place tends to the needs of a fellow human being in dire straits. Not only that, he dwells with him awhile, carrying him on his donkey to Jericho and to care in an Inn there.
Let me end with this. That we are called to be kind and compassionate to strangers is not the most important lesson Jesus tells us with the story of the Good Samaritan. Of course, we are supposed to be kind and compassionate. That’s what human beings ought to do. Every child knows this. The real point Jesus reveals is this: the Other – the the dismissed and despised in his day Samaritan, a Black American, a Brown Immigrant – is who we are to follow. Jesus is calling us out of our easy chairs, out our comfort zone, out of our default settings, out of our this is the way its always been done modes, out of our whiteness so we can see the Black American of the story as our guide, as our teacher, as our model to follow, as the hero of the story. The real scandal and truth of the story is that we must move beyond ourselves and follow the Good African-American in the story.
And for us who are White that means what? That means us, myself first and foremost, descending from our high places where we are above it all and getting into the muck and mire and ugliness of our history. That means us coming down from our power and privilege and dwelling among Black Americans, even if at first through a book or a documentary. It means us being moved by compassion, which literally means felling pain with another. It means us reaching out to the down and out, to all who suffer beginning with those who suffer most and hearing the hard stories have to tell, the difficult lessons they have to teach, and the tough compassion they guide us with.
Reaching down and dwelling among, that is the truth we need to hear and be doers of
May it be so. May it be so. May it be so.In the name of Father God, Mother Spirit, and Christ the Son, Amen.