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Trinity Sunday, May 22, 2005

Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26-27

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

2 Corinthians 13:11-14

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Matthew 28:16-20

Today is Trinity Sunday. It's a doctrinal Sunday intended to explain what God is like in God's own self. It's the post-Pentecost wrap-up Sunday.

We begin the church year in Advent. A time of waiting in which we read threatening prophetic lessons warning us not to mess around with the order God created. God is the Creator, the Father God, who is passionately in love with justice. This is the God who gave us this good earth and made us its caretakers.

Then we move into Christmas, Epiphany and Easter, when we discover Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus shows us what God looks like when God is a human being. Jesus shows us that God and humans can have communion with each other. And Jesus teaches us absolute loyalty to the Creator by dying on a cross rather than accepting the glamour of success offered by the world. The resurrection of Jesus shows us that it was worth it. God's ability to recreate life is greater than the devil's fearmongering that death is the end.

Then comes Pentecost in which we see the fulfillment of Jesus' promise that God's Spirit will come and keep up our faith even when Jesus is not physically present.

By Pentecost we have had three experiences of God: the Creator (who Jesus called Father), the Son (what Jesus called himself) and the Spirit. No one at that time ever thought of the three as anything other than the same God. But the centuries passed and the church became an institution of the empire. The church of the Middle East and the church based in Rome began to compete for world dominance.
Each argued that their description of God was the superior one. The emperor got worried and forced all the bishops into a locked room and didn't let them out until they came to agreement. The agreement they came to is the Nicene Creed that we use on festival Sundays.

The creed says that there is one God in three persons. To most of us a person is a separate being. Even the language of the marriage rite about two people becoming one is pushing it. So that's where this doctrine becomes Good News for us. The Three-in-One God we celebrate is a God who is, within his or her own self, a set of eternal relationships. God is not only a creator to whom we are always only products. Nor is God only a spirit that blows like the wind, sometimes refreshing you, sometimes ripping the roof off your house, but never the basis for a solid plan. God is also friend and lover. God is companion and fellow-grief sufferer. God can have pain and be weak.
God laughs. God gives birth to ideas. God takes risks and tries things.
God is best described in poetry. God is a God of dance!

Some of the earliest theologians used the language of Greek philosophy to try to describe the relationship of the three persons of God. A classic example is the Athanasian Creed on page 54 in the Lutheran Book of Worship. But another set of theologians from Cappadocia used a metaphor. They said the three persons dance.
Its like when the members of a dance ensemble are so attuned to each other that they function as a single body expressing an entire story. One God, but a God revealed as a single piece of choreography.
None is the prima ballerina, None the soloist, just three equals dancing.

Remember how Jesus often used celebration events as the metaphors for his parables? Wedding banquets? Dinner parties? Well, I want to use a metaphor. Mine is the school prom.

The school principal is in charge, but the principal doesn't want any trouble. The principal would be just as happy if no one danced, but sat quietly sipping punch and then went home on time. But the students are there to party. They come full of hopes and dreams.

There's the nerdy, geeky guy who is afraid to ask the pretty girl to dance because she might humiliate him. The big man on campus is good looking, but is always first in love with himself. The plain girl is actually tender and passionate, but the guys don't bother to find that out. The prom queen is really an ice princess. Coming without a date says you're a loser.

But one of the teachers is Mr. Kotter. Mr. Kotter loves these kids.
He was once a sweat hog and knows what the bottom can look like.
He knows that the only way the dance can have any hope is if the principal allows for some freedom. So the way Mr. Kotter does that is by starting the dance himself, with the principal as his partner.

The kids don't know what to make of this. The older teachers are shocked. Then Kotter and the principal start bringing the kids, one by one, onto the dance floor. And so, in God's prom, the kids discover that there is room right inside the person of God, for human beings to be themselves.

Christianity is not intended to be a solitary relationship. When we are baptized, we are given a dance card and a ticket to the prom. That's because it was never the intention of God to be solitary.

Then God said,

"Let us make humankind in our image,
according to our likeness…."

Genesis 1:26a

Solitude and separation is a human invention. Replacing everything else with self-interest is the ultimate idolatry. One theologian called it being curved in on oneself.

Their land is filled with idols;
they bow down to the work of their hands,
to what their own fingers have made.

Isaiah 2:8

Some of the idols can be pretty convincing. When Moses confronted the pharaoh of Egypt with his demand that Pharaoh allow the Hebrew people to leave, this occurred:

"So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did as the LORD had commanded; Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers; and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same by their
secret arts. Each one threw down his staff, and they became snakes; but Aaron's staff swallowed up theirs.

Exodus 7:9-12

But Aaron's staff swallowed theirs. That was no ordinary staff; that was a Talking Stick. The stick had a story to tell of a God who does not own people or enslave them, but always makes them free to move around in God's presence.

So let me conclude with this song:

Come join the dance of Trinity, before all worlds begun–
the interweaving of the Three, the Father, Spirit, Son.
The universe of space and time did not arise by chance,
but as the Three, in love and hope, made room within their dance. Come, see the face of Trinity, new-born in Bethlehem;
then bloodied by a crown of thorns outside Jerusalem.
The dance of Trinity is meant for human flesh and bone;
when fear confines the dance in death, God rolls away the stone. Come, speak aloud of Trinity, as wind of tongues and flame
set people free at Pentecost to tell the Savior's name.
We know the yoke of sin and death, our necks have worn it smooth;
go tell the world of weight and woe that we are free to move!
Text: Richard Leach, RW 298

+ Raymond L. Schultz, National Bishop

This sermon was written for Luther Village on Dogtooth Lake, Ontario.

All Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

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