Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, John 16:12-15
It’s a double whammy today. As well as the church celebrating Trinity Sunday.. that apparently fearsome preaching Sunday for wary (or over-zealous) curates. It’s also Father’s Day… (happy father’s day!)
So to first wish you a happy Father’s Day I’ll begin with a suitable ‘Dad Joke’….
- I think I want to quit my priestly job. I’d rather clean mirrors for a living.
It’s just something I can see myself doing.
- I did have another joke about a stone. But don’t worry, I’ll just skip that one.
Terrible aren’t they?
How about this then ‘I still have many things to say, but you cannot bear them now..’
(ok I grant you, not so funny or groan-worthy – but it does put a smile on my face. Jesus saying to the disciples, “you cannot bear this”… I mean what’s he getting at, how much have they borne already? They’ve followed this guy around for three years, they been perplexed, confused, mocked, struggled to make sense of almost anything that has come from his Galilean mouth..
I mean, “now your telling us we cant bear it?”, “we couldn’t bear it three years ago!!!”
But maybe ‘bear’ isn’t really about what the disciples can take in terms of thoughts and ideas – they’ve clearly had their fill of that. It appears that ‘bearing’ is more to do with time and context, ‘you cannot bear this now.’ (it’s not the right time)
In these two readings we catch a glimpse of the Trinity in two different ways, but in both we are invited to think about experience and not an abstract concept.
The lectionary places us back with the disciples and Jesus at the last supper, and , for the fifth time, (14:16-17, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7-11, 16:12-15), Jesus is explaining that he is to leave them…
Hold that thought for a moment, imagine yourself there, (you don’t have the full script), how do you think the disciples would have been feeling? What was the body language and mood? Would there have been tears, hurt, fear, betrayal even?
And Jesus foretells of the ‘paraclete’, the advocate, the along-side one, the Spirit.
If you want Trinity Sunday without the egg, or the clover leaf, or the ice illustration (all heresies anyway!) then this passage offers a little window on the Trinity.
Here Jesus speaks of himself, and of the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Although ‘trinity’ is not mentioned anywhere explicitly in scripture – the growing church comes to understand this in both text and in experience. (Although it would take the another 300 years to fully identify what this relationship actually meant… the same words we’ll say later in our creed)
Jesus in this instant, sitting with his anxious friends, (women and men), is trying to offer a reassurance. The advocate will come, and guide them to truth… the same truth that is ‘the way’ and ‘the life’ that Jesus has already described himself as…
Maybe through tears of his own, Jesus is pointing to the coming advocate and explaining that which cannot be understood, cannot be borne… ‘it is better that I should go’ (v.7). Then, he suggests, the Spirit will point to all truth…the truth that he is…It seems that when Jesus speaks of the paraclete; he means the things which cannot be borne until the time is right, until the need is there…
And that time will come – there will be moments when the apostles in the following years will doubt, struggle, wrestle and look for reassurance; and others times when they will discover the truth which the Holy Spirit will guide them into. In some of these moments we could imagine them remembering back to this night of tears and confusion. and begin to understand just what it was that Jesus was on about – they couldn’t bear those things then… because they didn’t need to then.. But now, as they continue in the absence of Christ in flesh and blood they do see that the love of God, the love of Christ, the love of the Spirit comes to them… so they can bear these things now; in prison, in shipwreck, in martyrdom, and in the act of co-creating a new reality.
You may find yourself this morning looking for reassurance… asking yourself can I bear my load any longer? You may find yourself—like many of us—looking fearfully into the future, with economic uncertainty, political instability and fear, and asking, ‘can I bear this?’.
We may well imagine Jesus tears too as he speaks of leaving his friends. And within those tears comes something hopeful – but also realistic.. it isn’t pie in the sky, it isn’t a denial of our present struggles, it isn’t ‘Jesus making it alright’..
Instead a simple, insistent, message is uttered about the coming helper; from the dawn of creation, (Proverbs tells us) and echoed in the words of Jesus; a rumour of hope emerges from the heart of the Godhead of love; ‘you will not be alone. You are not alone!’
Because the very foundation of all being and all time and all things – is a holy and divine relationship; a dance of loving and giving. And that love is not exclusive – but forever inclusive; it reaches out, meets us at the point where we cannot bear any more, it dances at the edges of the sea like the gloriously female wisdom in Proverbs and delights in God’s creation (Common English Bible), “I was having fun, smiling before him all the time, frolicking with his inhabited earth and delighting in the human race” (v. 30b-31).
We need to stop thinking of the Trinity as a concept to understand – we cannot! Instead we encounter that life-giving relationship within our experiences; in hope and in suffering in the tears of Christ mingling with our own tears in the passion of the Spirit in the wonder of creation and in the quest for justice. (different translations speak of architect, craftsman and even little child). The Trinity reaches out, invites us, dares us, to dance before a new creation, to be part of a new creation. How many times have you considered, fun, creativity and play to be part of God’s mission?
Well this is nice Gary, very poetic, very enticing – but how does this land? what about the millions of people suffering- what about climate change? maybe that’s what you or I feel is more than we can bear… Are we ‘dancing’, as Bruce Cockburn sang, ‘in the Dragon’s Jaws’.
Which is exactly why we dare to say that the Trinity is a deeply political revelation too. What is going on in Jesus words here, and in the experience of the early church, and in the church throughout the world and in the enticing vision of Wisdom at the beginning of a creative act .. takes Trinity from an abstract concept to a lived experience; an encounter with relationship… and relationships with real people cause us to think differently about the world.
The Trinity reminds us that the event of God—the communion of God—comes towards us. So politically, if we can say that divine love holds all together in communion, then God is in the stranger and the outsider as much as in that which we know. Divine creativity is found in art, in thought, in community, education, and in politics. Divine creativity is world-making.
God’s creative communion is insistent, but not oppressive. Wisdom calls from the streets, proverbs tells us, she ‘cries out’ to be heard… She calls for discernment.
Reflect for a moment our world of social media, fake news, infotainment, propaganda and spin… (a world our young people encounter daily). Competing narratives of how the world works.. the dominating demands of capitalism, and so on.
Yet Wisdom still calls… evokes, provokes, nudges and cajoles us into a different way of being in the world. The way of God, the way of communion.
The Trinity who comes towards us, always now, opening new ways of seeing, inviting us all to a different dance.. The invitation is for all time, not just this Sunday!
The Trinity reminds us of a God found in the one, the three and the many; God’s very being is communion, and communion with us. As wisdom dances on the shores of our uncreated futures, she reminds us, calls to us; dares us to ‘dance in the dragons jaws.’ In a world of fractures, divisions, fear and suspicion, wisdom prompts us to heal our own communities and to do so with a deep abiding joy, “delighting in the world and the people that God created”
GS Collins, June 2019