So I’m at my colleague group this morning and we’re doing what we do: talk about the scripture readings for this Sunday, talk about what we may or may not preach about, bounce ideas off of one another, but also we’re doing what we do: talking each other down from the ledge of killing particularly annoying, destructive, and toxic parishioners as an act of charity for the rest of the community. (It’s the killing that is the act of charity, or so we sometimes assume.) One of my colleagues in particular referred to a parishioner as ‘Grendel, Eater of the Dead.’ But this is besides the point, because we’ve already acknowledged that this Sunday we’re all asked to do the impossible: Explain the Trinity.
You see, last Sunday was Pentecost, which means that this Sunday is Trinity Sunday.
Ah, the Trinity. Every metaphor you can think to use to explain what it is falls short – some fall short sooner than others. Sometimes we just take refuge in our actual experience of God: It’s mystery. It’s ineffable, meaning there literally are no words that explain it sufficiently. We can describe the effects and affects of that momentary encounter, but that’s all shaded and colored by our own understanding of the world – our culture, our history, our baggage, our issues.
I was sitting pretty, thinking and talking and taking a few notes on my customary index card, but all the while I thought I didn’t have a gig this Sunday. I don’t mind preaching on the Trinity, but ::cue snicker and giggle:: I didn’t have to! After the meeting I actually checked my calendar and realized that I did have a gig (for which I’m grateful, as I do enjoy paying my bills, ykno?) and so now I’ve got to do some hardcore thinking about this whole Trinitarian-Unitarian thing.
There was a lot of conversation, some of it blissfully heretical (because really, what is a theological conversation without a little fun-loving heresy? Honestly, people. Everyone needs to have a favorite heretic. Mine is Pelagius…) but the place I came to (with a little help from my friends) that feels the best today goes like this…
God is Love. (And already I can hear the objections. I know. We could also define God as the Ground of All Being, and that’s nice too, but let me run with this, first.) But what if… love is relational, right? I mean, love in a vacuum is nothing. Love needs a subject and an object and is itself a verb.
Subject – Object – Verb
It makes a simple declarative sentence. It is the basis of our relational being. And if God is love, and love is relational, then perhaps God is relational… and this is a thought that others have also considered, and considered from angles different than the one I’ve just taken. God is relational – meaning, God is in relationship with God, even as God is in relationship with us. Subject, Object, Verb… or if you will, Father, Son, Spirit. The Father is the lover. The Son is the loved. The Spirit is the love. (Are you feeling the love?) And God models for us the way we need to be in the world. We need to be the lover, we need to be the loved, and we need to be the love itself.
It all kinda sounds like The Summary of the Law, doesn’t it? (‘Love God with everything you’ve got, and Love your Neighbor as Yourself.’) But then, that’s kinda the point of the Summary of the Law, when you think of it; it’s the summary of all that is important.
What does this mean for our lives? Well, it may mean that we can’t leave off loving Grendel, Eater of the Dead, though please understand that love doesn’t mean ‘being nice’. ‘Being Nice’ often means ‘being socially acceptable and avoiding conflict like the Black Plague,’ which honestly has nothing to do with love. Love means being compassionate. Love does not mean being a welcome mat. Love means being non-judgmental. Love does not mean avoiding the natural consequences of our actions. Love means standing in the midst of conflict and conflagration and all the while being calm and non-reactionary. Love balances. Love imbalances. Love reels in. Love lets go. Love is not black and white. Love hangs out in the grey areas, and the gray areas. Love comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. Love stands a calm counterpoint to the toxic, but refuses to let them spew their toxicity on others, unchecked. What does this mean for you? I have no idea. You tell me. What is your life like?
Subject, object, verb; it’s an imperfect metaphor, like all the different understandings for the Trinity, which itself is perhaps an imperfect way of understanding the Ineffable Experience that we for convenience sake call ‘God.’ But you know, subject-object-verb is working for me, now. Or to quote the Reverend Jack Sparrow…
“I feel we’ve come to a good place; Spiritually, Ecumenically, Grammatically.”