Trinity Sunday Sermon

May 26, 2024
Preacher: The Rev. Eric Stelle

We humans want to worship.

We might not call it that, especially if our experience of worship has been somewhat lackluster, if it’s felt contrived or riddled by doubts or distractions or boredom.

But that’s not worship. Or at least not the kind of worship I’m talking about.

We want to worship! To adore! We want to lose ourselves in something worthy of losing ourselves to; to belong and be part o+f something big and glorious and – when we let go – to be absorbed into it. That’s the worship I’m talking about.

And…I’ve never experienced that in my life. Or at least not to that degree. But that’s what I’m holding out for.

Another way to say it is: I want God. And to be in the presence of God.

I don’t want ideas about God, doctrines about God, books about God. I want God. Not a god to possess or control, but to know and to worship, to belong to and be one with.

And it’s okay that I’m not there yet. It’s okay that I still need to hold on to the rails – to hold on to ideas and theologies and liturgies. They’re all part of the apparatus that is bringing us to that ultimate place of our longing and belonging.

I’m speaking of myself, but also for us all, for we are human. We share this longing, even if it’s been tampered down; even if we give voice to it in any number of ways that might seem anything but our thirst for God or worship. But dig down, layer beneath layer, and that longing is there – alive and universal.

I spoke of theologies and liturgies that serve as handrails towards God, but that’s just one “churchy” example. Most everything in our lives serves as some kind of handrail – something we can hold onto – in our quest for more. It’s not that we’re greedy (at least in any pejorative sense). No. We’re simply hungry!

And as hungering people, we can’t starve ourselves, holding out until some three-star Michelin meal is set before us. We need food now – every day. So we’ll survive on whatever food’s available. And so, in this life, we will take hold of any number of things to satisfy us. Which is appropriate! These are real, good things that serve real and tangible purposes, in our real, tangible lives. We have and need meaningful relationships – with family and friends and co-workers. We seek adventure and renewal in the beauty and immensity of nature. We read and we learn and we seek amusement. My father-in-law, Clyde, loved water skiing.

And, you know, inherent in all these good things we turn to, is this elemental sense of belonging. “I belong here. I am part of this.” On summer Saturdays, Clyde could escape the drudgery of work, out there on the lake. His weight pressed upon the ski which pressed upon the water which held him aloft as he flew across it. He was alive! He belonged to the lake and to the wind and to the world! Hiking a trail, the crunch of gravel beneath our boots, breathing in the mountain air, the fresh new growth of fir now in us, we belong to the trail, to the mountain, to the forest, to the earth. When we harvest food and prepare a meal, blending textures and flavors that now nourish our bodies, the food becomes us and we now part of the whole circle of life. Every relationship we enter into is a union of being – be it the pleasant banter with a stranger in line or birthing a child or a marriage sustained through the years – all of it is union; it is belonging.

We have no existence at all that is truly alone. Even our thoughts – our most private, intimate thoughts – are our ponderings of finding and knowing ourselves within this universe of our existence. There is no “I” without also a “you” – whether that “you” be human, or animal, or plant, or water or wind – all these “yous” with which we are, in whom we share our lives, our being.

And yet, even with this whole universe of our shared existence, it’s not enough for us. Still, we hunger. Something’s remains a little off – a little forced, a little false, a little out of sync.

Walking out of a cabin one evening, the world around me was awash in pastels: pale pink clouds against a pale blue sky, a meadow filled with pale yellow flowers, and all of this reflecting upon the lake before me. Everything was as still and gentle as could be, beckoning me. I strode down to the dock, stripped off my clothes, slipped carefully into the water, carving my way into it, craving to be one with it all. But I wasn’t. At least not enough. I felt it, the lure of it; I’d done all I could to immerse myself in it. But “it” remained separate; “it” was a union I was intruding. Or so I felt it to be.

As do all of our belongings. They’re good. They’re real. They’re necessary. But nothing in our experience completes us with the totality our spirits crave. Even our spouses – our most complex and intimate of relationships, even in the best of marriages – yet remain an “other,” a mystery still in their separateness. And we, too, remain a mystery to every other.

And so we hunger. We hunger for that other in whom we will be complete and completely alive – utterly, wholly, perfectly – alive and awake, fulfilled and fulfilling; and also at rest – peaceful and safe.

And that is the fountain of our yearning. That is the worship our spirits crave. So what is it? What can we call it, this object of our yearning – our union, our completeness? Will we call it, “God?” Yes. What else could it be, but God? So, yes, call it “God.” But even that’s a risk, because “God” is already a tainted term – a name conceived and diminished by the limits of our imaginations and fears and disappointments.

There are no words or names that can ever contain or reflect this Holy One of our Longing. And yet, we must make do with them. We humans use language and language is sufficient in its way, so long as we can see these words, these names, for what they are: handrails, too, supporting us in our journeying towards that real thing.

And one of these names, conceived in wisdom and passed down to us through the generations, is “Trinity.” Oh, Holy One, You Three in One and One in Three.

Now stay with me for a moment. Resist that cultural permission to turn off your mind whenever the Trinity is discussed. That’s ridiculous! This name, this concept, this “Trinity,” is a gift to us, for our benefit. Listen! With your mind, with your spirit. Because this name opens the way for us to see in God that very thing we are yearning for.

Just like us, God doesn’t want to be alone.

Just like us, God wants to be – to exist – as a union.

But unlike us, this divine union of being already is, and is complete.

This is the Trinity. Our deepest wisdom of God is that God can be whole – can be pure, can be total, can be “One” – yet in no solitary, detached, or isolated way.

God is Father. God is Son. God is Holy Spirit.

God is Lover. God is beloved. God is Love

What is the essence of God? but a perpetual community – a community of love, of relationship, of shalom.

This is not a foreign concept to us at all. It is the energy that drives us in all our yearnings: I want to be Eric – we each want to be ourselves – as distinct and worthy beings. And we want to be and belong with each other, in each other, completely. We want it with our lovers; with the eagles flying overhead, with the pastel-hued lake – to be together, to be one, in perfect peace and wholeness.

And that which we want, God is.

And we are made in the image of God. We crave what we are made to be.

And so Christ woos us, weaving us into this mystery our spirits already know and desire: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me. And I am in you and you are in me. And we are One.”

We belong.

We belong to God, and in God; to one another, and in one another; to the world, and in the world.

Oh, Holy Trinity, you are One in each other, and you in us, and we in you.

This is the mystery of our faith. It is the hope of our faith. And it is and will be the destination of our faith, and all the deepest longings that dwell within us – even those that have long lay dormant.

“When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 15b – 17a).

We belong. Wholly and completely.

And that God of our belonging – that God of our longing – will be the God of our worship, forever and ever more. Amen.