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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, June 15, 2014:

First Reading: Genesis 1:1--2:4a

Psalm: Psalm 8

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20


This Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday, one of those festival Sundays that seem a bit baffling, at first (like Christ the King Sunday, which comes at the end of the liturgical year). We understand the significance of Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. But what exactly do we celebrate on Holy Trinity Sunday?

At first reading, the Gospel doesn't seem to help. And Jesus certainly didn't spend any time indoctrinating his disciples on these matters which would later split the church. He alludes to the Triune God: we see him pray to God and he tells the disciples that he will send a Comforter. But he spends far more time instructing the disciples on how they should treat the poor and destitute, about their relationship to the larger culture, about their role in creating the Kingdom in the here and now.

You get a much better understanding of the Trinity by reading all the lessons together (thanks to my campus pastor from days of old, Jan Setzler, who pointed this out in his church's newsletter almost a decade ago). These aren't unfamiliar aspects: God as creator of the world, God as lover of humans, Christ who came to create community, the Holy Spirit who moves and breathes within us and enables us to create community.

Notice that we have a God who lives in community, both with the various aspects of God (Creator, Savior, Spirit) and with us. It's an image that baffles our rational minds. It's akin to contemplating the infinity of space. Our brains aren't large enough or we don't know how to use them in that way.

My atheist and agnostic friends will sometimes pull up these issues of a triune God when they ask me to defend the faith. I tell them that I can't do it and that I'm content to be living as part of this great mystery. Baffled, they look at me. They say, "You're an educated woman. Certainly you can't accept something you can't explain!!!"

Well, frankly, there are many things I can't explain: electricity, computers, internal combustion engines, arcane French literary theory. Does that mean that I'm going to live in the dark or not use my car? Of course not.

The message that Jesus brings us is refreshingly simple, in that it's easy to understand: "Go and make disciples."

Obviously, it's not that simple, and here, too, interpretations of this text have split the church. Does our commitment stop once we've baptized people? What does it mean to make disciples? There's an infinite supply of answers.

The God that we see in our Scriptures is a God of action. We see God creating in any number of arenas. We are called to do the same. This is not a God who saves us so that we can flip through TV channels. Our God is a God who became incarnate to show us how to be people of action: Go. Make disciples. Teach. Baptize. Keep the commandments. We do this by loving each other and God. We love not just by experiencing an emotion. Love moves us to action.

Our job is not done once we’ve baptized. Our job is not done with the Rite of Confirmation. Jesus, as always, points the way. Why not share a meal together? Why not do some work (fishing perhaps? Building housing for the poor? Weeding the gardens?) together? Why not read the same book?  Why not pray together? Why not create a beautiful work of art together?

Our Triune God calls us to go and make disciples, but two thousand years of Church history shows us a delightful diversity of ways to do that. Theologian Frederick Buechner reminds us in his book Wishful Thinking: "The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." Jesus promises to meet us there.

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