Today is the day we celebrate the doctrine of the Trinity. It is a “hot potato” kind of day for preachers – saying much about the Trinity leads right into heresy. So I am going to boldly introduce you all to a new heresy today – one I have made up.
The idea of the Trinity is not a math dilemma, but a perceptual dilemma. We are not adding one plus one plus one and declaring the answer as one, but instead asking: How can this be? It is a Great Mystery. There are other great mysteries in the church: the Annunciation, the Incarnation, the Epiphany, the Ascension; all of the Sacraments are considered Great Mysteries. We will never be able to completely box them into a definition. The best we can usually do is catch a glimpse from our peripheral vision – we can almost get it on our best days.
After seminary training and Bible study and life experience, here’s what I know of the Trinity. The Trinity is a wholly complete glimpse of God as three unique beings in perfect communion at all times – all uncreated and eternal from before time.
God – the Father, Mother, Creator, Parent of us all – is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, the source of all love and life – maybe the origin of why we all long for relationships.
Jesus – the fully Man and fully God – the Incarnation of God who fully died and rose again and ascended taking his humanity with him – is the Word made flesh - The Word who dwelt among us and showed us how to be in relationships to everyone around us as well as Creation itself.
The Holy Spirit – the most mysterious part of the mystery and where I am going to focus my thoughts today. I believe (and I have a seminary professor who liked this thought) that it is a primary attribute of the Holy Spirit to be mysterious. The Holy Spirit can be referred to as male or female – look at our reading this morning. In The Shack, the Holy Spirit was a feminine shimmery being who intentionally faded away if one stared too closely. I believe that everything we experience of God is through the Holy Spirit – the One who pours God’s love into our hearts and lives – maybe it is the Holy Spirit who energizes us in relationships – and helps us to care for each other’s well-being. The Holy Spirit is always depicted as a form of movement: wind, fire, breath – maybe the Holy Spirit inspires us to moves towards the “other” when we would not choose to do that on our own.
I have another theory to run past you all here – it is something I have been pondering for about 5 years now. Music is one of the mysteries in our daily lives. I have been driving along and hear a song I haven’t heard since my junior year of high school, yet I can still sing every word. Freaky – isn’t it? I always wonder how much math got kicked out of my head, but those inane lyrics remain stuck there:
I was working part time in a five-and-dime
My boss was mr. mcgee
He told me several times that he didn't like my kind
Cause I was a bit 2 leisurely
Seems that I was busy doing something close 2 nothing
But different than the day before
That's when I saw her, ooh, I saw her
She walked in through the out door, out door
She wore a
The kind u find in a second hand store
And if it was warm she wouldn't wear much more
I think I love her Prince. “Raspberry Beret,” 1985.
I read an article about 5 years ago – an address given to music student and their parents. A professor was talking to them about the power of music in our lives. He talked about the experience of listening to a piece of music – even one you could swear you have never heard before – and being overwhelmed with emotion. All of a sudden your heart quickens and tears are falling out of your eyes, and you cannot even begin to guess what just happened.
The music professor went on to tell a story that I believe is particularly appropriate for this Memorial Day weekend. He talked about doing a concert and how he plays one song first, then talks about that piece and the next piece before he continues with the concert. He spoke about a concert in which an older man sat in a wheelchair in the front row. During the first piece, the old man started crying – the professor noted it but was not concerned – this sort of things happens. When the professor explained the piece of music, he talked about how the composer of the piece had dedicated it to a pilot lost in the war. Once the concert began again, the old man left. After the concert was done, the old man went backstage and told the professor that he had been overcome with emotion and could not stay there. He said that during the war, he had watched a friend, another pilot get shot out of the sky – and during the first piece (before the liner notes were explained) he had very vividly relived watching his friend die. He had not thought of it for years. This is part of the mystery of music.*
I have seen it over and over again at weddings, at funerals, at the Symphony. Music touches something very deep within us that we cannot fathom. Music is a Universal throughout all cultures and time. Even in the most dire of circumstances – and maybe because of the dire circumstances – music is essential to humans. It seeps into our souls, below the words, below our defenses, and heals hurts we don’t even realize are there.
And here is where I wonder – and here is the new heresy I am introducing this weekend: If God is Love – and is found in every relationship we have; If Jesus is the Word – spoken, heard, written, told and shared; Could the Holy Spirit be the Music – the relationship between sounds – some guttural and some beautiful – in relationships that we hear beyond, around and sometimes in place of words? I wonder. I would never presume to define the Holy Spirit to only music – just as I would never presume to confine God to love or Jesus to words - but I wonder if music is a way that the Holy Spirit speaks to each of us directly to our souls?
It’s a thought to ponder that I will leave you with today; maybe another way to think of some of the work of the Trinity. As we move through this life of worry and doubt and fear, may we continually see how much we are loved by this Trinitarian God who calls us to share love.
May we all be healed of the hurts in this world by the mysterious moving of Love, Word and Music – in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit – One in Three and Three in One. Amen.
*Text of address from Karl Parlnauk here