If you hang with us long enough talking about church-type-things, you will come to know that we have difficulty with a popular responsive declaration:
God is good (all the time).
All the time (God is good).
It's one of those things that some folks love to say and hear. And we believe that our human ability to comprehend God is far too limited to say those words aloud without profound discussion about their Truth. We are aware of the many folks sitting in the average worship service who have no ability to affirm such an idea. (Our discomfort with this phrase is connected to the phrase "everything happens for a reason" when people attribute it to God.....thus implying murders, earthquakes, and cancer are intentional movements of God....some shit just happens...but that is for another discussion).
When we profess that God is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent, somewhere in there, we have to acknowledge that we cannot even begin to understand God. Describing God as Good falls short if we do not share the breadth of understanding of how our human minds limit that descriptor.
This Sunday is Trinity Sunday, a "feast day" of the church. As protestants, we're not very good at observing feast days...but if we pause and reflect, this might be one of those days, like Pentecost, to pause and let out a little bit of an astonished gasp. God is pretty amazing - more complicated than we can fully understand. Last week we celebrated the "birth of the church," as the Holy Spirit came crashing into Jerusalem igniting believers. On Trinity Sunday, we reflect on the complexity of God - the interrelated balance of a God in three "forms" - Father, Spirit, Son; Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer; Goodness, Love, Wisdom. Our very humanness limits our ability to describe this God and our work, in many ways it is to know in our core even what we cannot begin to describe.
Our readings this week open up this question about God's nature. In the Hebrew scripture, Isaiah describes an experience of call with God. The prophet sees an amazing vision of God on a throne, attended by Seraphs. Isaiah hears the praise offered by the Seraphs, confesses his unworthiness, experiences a ritual cleansing as his mouth is touched by hot coals, and receives a call to be sent out in God's name. This is a form that our worship can take on Sunday mornings. Here on Trinity Sunday, pay special attention to the words that the prophet uses to describe his experience. Amazing, unfamiliar, astounding beasts attend to the LORD whose hem literally fills the Temple. The very vision highlights the prophet's own smallness, unworthiness. And yet, he is called. Even though he cannot begin to understand all that he sees, he recognizes his role when he is called. Have you received such a call?
The Psalmist describes an awesome God above all things--words like glory, strength, splendor, majesty. This is praise for a truly awe-inspiring God.
In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul encourages the community to live according the the Spirit, not the flesh. In our rational, logical world, this can feel like a call to accept the limits of rational thinking. But Paul alludes to those moments in our life when no human power will pull us out of the depths and we cry out to God. Has that happened to you? In those moments, we are relying on our deepest soul-beliefs. Do we have the commitment to live in that deep soul-belief when we are not in crisis?
Finally, John's gospel describes an encounter by the cover of night a meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a pharisee...and it seems that he is intrigued by evidence of Jesus' divinity. He seems to "know" at a cellular level that there is something remarkable about this "man." But Nicodemus' earthly understanding is limiting his ability to accept that a "man" can be "divine." He's really befuddled by this notion of being "born" again. Get out of your head, Nicodemus! Jesus isn't talking about the physical birth that we can all access in our rational rolodex. Nope - this is a different kind of birth. And Jesus tries to explain how God has sent him into the world out of love for that very world. Hard stuff to wrap our minds around.
We're not suggesting that we check our brains at the door when we consider God. But we do need to confess the limits of our humanity if we embrace the full divinity of God - embodied in the three in one. We need to fully engage our minds and spirits as we consider who we are and who God might be.
God, protect us from ourselves.
Forgive us when we make mindless statements.
Forgive us when we claim to know more than we do.
Guide us away from wounding others with our less than thoughtful beliefs.
Help us as we attempt to be present with who we are and what we really know.
Help us to trust that we are loved and we are enough just as we are.