Genesis 1:1-2:4a; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
Trinity Sunday, Year A
I find comfort in knowing that those first disciples, in the presence of the risen Lord, experienced doubt even as they worshipped Jesus.
That small caveat in this great commission humanizes an otherwise transcendent encounter. Some wavered even on that mountaintop, face to face with the once dead, now very much alive Jesus. I need this word of uncertainty even as the risen Christ appoints and sends the disciples. I am grateful to know those first followers are complex and questioning. I need to know that I do not have to be utterly unhesitating in following Jesus in order for God to use me to make disciples and preach and teach and baptize. What a great relief because right now, in this pandemic and with the video of George Floyd’s murder and the headline of 100,000 COVID-19 deaths and footage of a white woman calling the police on a black man politely asking her to follow the rules and leash her dog, and news of Ahmaud Arbery’s inability to go for a run without being hunted and killed, and stories of those in masks spitting on those without, and waves of economic hardships that seem to be turning into tsunamis of suffering, my discipleship includes some doubts and no small amount of despair.
The epistle lesson for today from 2 Corinthians says, “Agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” How can we be so far from this admonishment to the early Christians? The Genesis text for this Sunday is the first creation account, so expansive, and lovely and God-declared good. Could we just rest there for a while? I know we are post-fall, but we are also post-resurrection, so why does the world seem so far from redeemed right now?
I do not want to discount the many beautiful stories present in our pandemic world, the tender care of nurses for patients unable to be with their families, the spontaneous sharing of resources, the innovative, heart-felt marking of milestones, the unbelievable magnanimity of Christian Cooper, the African American birder on whom Amy Cooper called the police. Christian Cooper told the New York Times, “I’m not excusing the racism. But I don’t know if her life needed to be torn apart.” Surely his words are an astounding example of grace. And yet, these merciful headlines do not offset all the horrendous ones.
I feel like I need to cry out to God: I believe, Lord, help my unbelief. I am worshipping you, but I confess I wrestle with some doubts. Is it OK to preach and teach and baptize and tell the story of salvation while still harboring some dismay, some profound “what ifs and why nots”?
It seems to me this Matthew text says yes to those questions. That one little sentence fragment, “but some doubted,” gives us the grace to do our best to fulfill the risen Christ’s commission even when we feel weary or disheartened, overwhelmed and unsure. Some doubted. Jesus promised to never leave them anyway. That is one of the gifts of the Trinity. We are not in this alone. We are in relationship, not just with each other, but with our covenant-making, unwavering God. Cynthia Rigby writes in her book “Holding Faith: A Practical Introduction to Christian Doctrine” that “to confess God is triune is to recognize God actually shares life with us, inviting us to share life with God. … To confess God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is to insist God is present and involved in our day-to-day lives.” Our discipleship, our mission, our relationships, the state of our world or the state of our hearts are not solely, or even mostly, dependent upon our state of mind at any given moment. Jesus is present, the Spirit at work and God ever creating, no matter our doubts, despair or distractions. We can yet worship and still preach, teach and baptize, even when we wonder what God is up to or where God is or how all of this will unfold.
Jesus sends us into the world, not to be unmoved or unquestioning, but to be in relationship, deep relationship, mutual relationship with one another, as interconnected and indivisible as the Trinity. Rigby puts it this way: “As Father, Son and Spirit indwell one another’s lives and actions, sharing fellowship and joining in ongoing partnership, so we who are claimed by the triune God of love are free to indwell the lives of others, entering into fellowship and partnership relationships with them.” As we wrestle with all this pandemic has wrought and all it has changed and all it has revealed, we do not need to be stoic or utterly certain, so much as moved and ready to learn. As we lament the murder of yet one more black man and the racism that persists and persists and persists, we must be unwavering only about our commitment to indwell the lives of others and fight for their lives no less than our own.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) paper on the Trinity, “God’s Love Overflowing,” reminds us that “in Christian worship, the sending is the beginning — the way we live out what we practice in worship (Rom 12:1). We have been forgiven, we have taken the Word to heart, we have been renewed and refreshed, we have offered what we have and are to the one God who is Giver, Gift, and Giving. The overflowing love of the triune God fills us with spiritual power, compassionate mercy, and creative imagination, preparing us to live in this overflowing love.”
None of this dependent upon us; All of it is possible regardless of our doubts, deficits and questions. Our relational, giving God equips us, refuses to leave us alone. Therefore, we are empowered and sent to remain with and to love others. We can bring our whole selves to worship and trust that, as Eugene Peterson writes in “Practice Resurrection,”“God uses us just as we are to give witness to him: to serve, to praise, to help, to heal, to care, to love.”
Right now, remaining in relationship with God, knowing that God refuses to leave us alone, and committing to be in loving relationship with others, will demonstrate not our doubtless faith, but the power of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, at work in our day-to-day lives.
- How are you feeling? What doubts are arising in you during this ongoing season of the pandemic and in a broken, tumultuous world?
- If you were asked to explain the significance of the Trinity for Christian life, what would you say?
- How do we address the gap between the admonishment in 2 Corinthians to agree with one another and live in peace and our deeply divided culture and even church?
- How will you practice indwelling the lives of others? Whose lives are you called to indwell as a representative of Christ?
- When you think of God as Creator, where do you see God doing a new thing, creating, now in your life? Church? Community? World?
- How do you experience the triune God in your day-to-day living?
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