June 4, 2023 SERMON: ‘INComprehensible!’
Rev. Jane Courtright
You may realize by now that today is Trinity Sunday!
I remember reading near the beginning of my ministry
that if a preacher had any sense at all,
she or he would call in sick on Trinity Sunday!
I remember hearing advice like,
“Maybe it’s best not to bother with it much.”
Pastors can hope it falls on Father’s Day or Memorial Day
or Honoring Sunday School Sunday.
SOME way to finesse the topic
as long as no ever asks them to explain it!
Well….I didn’t call in sick today!
LAST Sunday was Pentecost, Communion, Baptism,
Confirmation & Memorial Day!
Father’s Day is the Sunday after next.
No finagling out of Trinity Sunday for me!
Just as well, because actually,
I LOVE TRINITY SUNDAY!
I see it as a marvelous opportunity to come to grips with,
to explore and expand our concept of God!
Now, it would make my sermon a lot easier & shorter
(though not nearly as interesting or fun)
If I could give you a description of God in 25 words or less.
BUT I CAN’T
(Even my seminary position paper on God was 27 pages long,
and far from complete!)
So, please be patient!
humans have been trying to sort out the God question
since the first primitive person awoke one morning
wondering why the sun rose every day!
And in our struggles to imagine God,
We’ve come up with quite a collection of concepts!
Some are wild, some are pretty wacked out,
and a few are genuinely wonderful.
Ralph Milton, in his book GOD FOR BEGINNERS,
describes a few of the more popular ideas about God
using everyday, straight forward language.
Some of these ideas will probably make more sense to you
than others, depending on your experience.
Some of them will really turn you off, even horrify you.
(or at least they should!)
As I share with you some of Milton’s concepts,
I invite you to play a little game.
Pick the one & only TRUE description of God & you win:
Eternal happiness, plus a free trip to Disney World.
God the General:
God sits up there in command headquarters,
directing the troops down here on earth.
If the infantry gets a bit outnumbered, General God
can always bring in the air force (angels) to join in.
General God is always totally on YOUR side
& against the enemy,
whoever the enemy happens to be that day.
God the Coach:
If you pay attention to the signals from the bench,
you’ll win for sure. But God has scruples.
If you don’t play by the rules, you’ll get benched.
You might even get kicked off the team!
God the Computer Hack:
This God doesn’t care at all what happens to us.
Computer Hack God set up the world,
worked out all the programs, booted up the system,
typed in the ‘do’ command
& then went on to invent something else.
It doesn’t matter how many bugs the software has,
Computer Hack God is busy with other things
and really doesn’t care.
(This God is just 1 version
of the ‘Big Bang’ theory of creation.)
God the Cop:
The sheriff God has your little computer brain
hot wired into master control,
& if you press the wrong button
or try to access a protected file
or get your pinkies into the wrong cookie jar, ‘El Zappo!’
GOD’LL GET YOU FOR THAT!
God the Rock Star:
Some people think of God as a prima donna artist,
a very popular flamboyant Super Star
who has lots of fans, lots of money & connections,
and above all, lots of ego.
If you want to be a part of it,
you’ve got to be one of the groupies
who follows the Star around saying flattering things,
giving the star credit for everything good that happens
and taking responsibility yourself for everything bad.
**A variation of this is the Superhero God,
who will fly in & zap the ‘bad guys,’
do marvelous things for the fans,
and make you feel good all over.)
God the Social Worker:
This God is very helpful,
but only in the sense of giving good advice.
You still have to make your own decisions
and take responsibility for them.
This Social Worker God is ready to talk to
anyone needing a bit of advice.
**A variation of this is the idea of God as ‘Best Friend,’
someone who is with you all the time,
provides moral support when you’re feeling down
& goes for long walks with you when you’re depressed.
God the Parent:
God is a very good & caring parent.
The Parent God is traditionally &
scripturally referred to as Father,
but also referred to & scripturally imaged as Mother.
This parent God is loving and tender,
& has read all the books on how to raise children
to be mature and responsible adults.
Parent God hurts when the children mess up.
But even so, knows that’s the only way for children to grow!
They’ve got to have freedom. TOTALLY.
Parent God respects us, and believes passionately
that we can and will grow up.
This Parent God gets really upset when the kids
fight with each other or refuse to share.
God the Lover:
Like the Parent God in many ways,
Lover God has read all the human potential literature
and wants us to be totally free to love back.
So, Lover God is never manipulative or bossy.
There’s always a shoulder to cry on,
& when you ask, Lover God will go to bat for you.
There are a bunch of Christian contemporary songs
written about the Lover God (also about Jesus,)
and yes, they are slightly sappy & even erotic!
God the Artist:
This God loves to make beautiful things:
trees and ducks and people and worlds.
The Artist God is wildly extravagant,
using the whole universe for a star-studded gallery!
It’s a living art exhibit, and the show keeps changing.
God has appointed humans are curators of this gallery.
We’re asked to look after it, to keep it neat & tidy,
to love it and to appreciate
the intricate, delicate beauty of it all,
and to make sure there’s no vandalism!
SO, NOW, GUESS! Which concept of God is the right answer?
THE RIGHT ANSWER IS:
All of them. (well, almost all.) And none of them.
Why? Because any one of them, even 2 or 3, is a distortion,
kind of like a child’s perception of adults
as mostly kneecaps & loud voices.
Or maybe more accurately, like the story from India
about the 6 blind men who came upon an elephant.
Remember this story?
Each one of them felt a different part of the elephant &
began to argue what an elephant was REALLY like
from their own limited perspective.
Fortunately, the Rajah heard their argument & said to them,
”Foolish ones, you are right.
You have each felt a part of my elephant.
Put your ideas together &
you’ll have a more complete picture!”
There is SO MUCH to know about God,
infinitely more than we can each see in our own way.
If we share what we experience & learn with one another
(& that includes with all ages, backgrounds and religions,)
we can discover a more complete picture of God!
And let’s not forget that our understanding of God will grow:
That our scriptures are not only
the story of experiences with God,
but also the story of our changing understandings of God,
that our lives are the continuing, living canon of our Bible,
that God continues to create and to speak!
Finally, on this Trinity Sunday,
I gift you with words from the poet Marn Tirabassi,
who believes that ‘The doctrine of the Trinity means
that there is relationship within God –
In fact, that God is nothing so much as relationship!
In her poem, ‘For Trinity Sunday,’ Tirabassi declares:
God, well, God is like an old-fashioned back porch,
where you just come & sit for a spell & tell your stories.
Sometimes, in the evening, on this porch like God,
there are a couple of young people kissing in the swing,
and sometimes a dog or a cat sleeping,
or maybe a pie cooling, and sometimes there is
some pretty stormy screen-door slamming,
stomping down the stairs, slow coming back,
And God is like where that CAN happen –
God is like an old fashioned porch
and God is not like a condo.
The Trinity –
our experiences with – our understandings of God.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? How do you image God? Amen.