The Rev. Melanie McCarley
The Holy Trinity is one of those seemingly dry theological doctrines that most of us know by route—but have difficulty relating to on a personal basis. It seems remote, unintelligible and unrelatable. Let’s face it, few folks really get excited about the Trinity. How many of you woke up with a flutter in your heart because today is Trinity Sunday”. Right. Me neither. The Holy Trinity doesn’t set pulses racing nor does it come with the anticipatory joy that we have with—say, Easter or Christmas. This day seems a bit technical—rather like reading about astronomy or astrophysics. We know it’s out there—somewhere, we understand it’s important; but it’s so far removed from most of our daily experience as to be other-worldly—and, dare I say, irrelevant.
This morning, I hope to change your mind—at least in a small way. Picture, again, the trinity as an equilateral triangle. There’s the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When most of us picture this—we see the Father at the top—the apex of the triangle and the Son and Holy Spirit at the bottom. But, remember—this is a triangle in which all sides are equal. Turn the trinity over, and suddenly the Son is at the top and the Father and the Holy Spirit are at the bottom. In other words—it doesn’t matter how you turn it—everyone is equal. The Holy Trinity is not a hierarchy—in fact, it’s the opposite. Think of it as an equilateral community of love.
That’s an important concept for us—particularly as we consider the events of the past few weeks when the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers who were sworn to protect the communities they serve cast the racial tensions of our country in high relief. The Trinity is the antithesis of domination, control and subjugation. It is, in fact, an example of how we are to live together—in love, in unity and in fellowship. It is, in short, a model for how our life as a community of faith.
The reality is that the world we live in—and, in particular, the society in which we dwell, is imperfect. The sin of racism is deep-seated, to deny this is to live with one’s head in the sand. It’s hard to eradicate. Surely, we can strive to do better—as individuals and as a society. Those of us who are white—and therefore privileged in our country—can listen to the experiences, hopes and dreams of people of color. And please know, that when I say “privileged”, it doesn’t mea that your life isn’t hard, just that your life isn’t made harder by something you can’t control; such as the color of your skin. We can make an attempt to place ourselves in another’s shoes; asking what it must feel like to have the color of our skin constantly at the forefront of every move, decision, achievement or failure we experience—and do our best to empathize and change the structures of our society which have too long been in place. Surely, we can attempt to feel the pain and discouragement of those whose experience in our country has hardly been reflective of liberation or freedom. It’s not easy, but I would suggest that it is possible. It takes humility, and a desire to empathize. Ending racism isn’t going to be solved by slogans on social media or debate—but by relationships which lead to systemic change.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once declared 11:00 a.m. on Sunday Morning to be the most segregated hour in America—meaning that black people went to their churches to worship God and white to theirs—and never the twain to meet. To a large extent this is still true today.
But here is a story of hope. First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee was established in 1843 as a predominately white congregation. Ten years later, another First Baptist Church was established in Murfreesboro as well, this one as a mission to blacks who had been accompanying slaveholders to church prior to emancipation. Two churches, one black, the other white. Fast Forward several decades and each church suffered their own problems and devastations. Finally, they lit on an unusual—radical and remarkably life-giving idea. They would merge. The conclusion being, in the words of one member of the church: “We need each other. We depend on each other. We cooperate with each other. We compliment each other. We complete each other.” That’s not to say that the union has been free from conflict, but the decision to worship together as one instead of two congregations has been life giving to these two churches that have chosen to become one. That is an example of living together in unity.
Unity is belonging. Think again of the Holy Trinity. Each of the persons of the Trinity is different yet absolutely necessary to the whole. And, while they are not defined solely by their functions, we do associate them with Creation (for the Father), Redemption (for the Son) and (guidance, comfort and sustenance) for the Holy Spirit. Imagine one of these persons missing? Take a moment and picture a created order that has neither redemption nor solace and sustenance—and what you get is a world impervious to suffering and absent salvation. But put these all together and what we get is love. That’s right—think of the Trinity as a dynamic symbol of love, and an example for us to follow in our common life as a community of faith.
If the church were to take a page from the Holy Trinity then what we’d get is an organization less concerned about who is in charge and more concerned about working toward the good of every member—a multi-faceted and vigorous community of faith where listening precedes action and where fellowship is seen as essential.
So, what do you think we are called to do here at St. Paul’s, to make our country and community more reflective of the hopes of the triune God? What can we do? The possibilities range from taking time to listen to people of color, as well as working cooperatively toward dismantling some of the structures of our society that have been deliberately designed to hold people back from full inclusion. We can call, write or text our representatives and senators. We can walk with those who are demanding change, we can make a personal effort to treat all people with dignity, we can learn about white privilege—what it is, and how to be aware of its effects; we can read about racism, and we can pray.
Over the course of the next few weeks we are engaging in a project here at St. Paul’s to bring a witness of hope, color and love to our church. You are invited to make a poster expressing God’s love for all people and witnessing against the sin of racism. Mind you, for those of us who are white, we are not attempting to speak on behalf of people of other races; only to present what is in our hearts. We’ve sent out a constant contact about how you can participate and the details are in your Friday e-mail. Age doesn’t matter—and you don’t have to sign your name to your work. We even have coloring pages for folks who (like myself) are challenged in the creativity department. On the portico (the covered porch of St. Paul’s there is paper for you to pick up. Or you can use your own. Write/draw/color your sentiment and return it to the covered porch of the church by June 12th and we will laminate them and decorate the front fence. Make a sign—my goodness, make several signs, the more the better! Get involved. Let the people of Dedham know that all colors are beautiful in the eyes of God and all people are welcome in our house of worship. Let’s be clear about who we are and who we hope to become: A people reflective of the loving unity of the triune God. In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.