TEXT OF SERMON
Honestly…can I be honest?
Well, I am going to be honest regardless.
I am going to start out
with a very brief word about the Trinity –
since it is Trinity Sunday –
and then, somehow, relate the Trinity-talk
to what we have to lean on
in this moment of crisis,
and the opportunities the crisis may offer.
The notion of the Trinity makes me bristle.
I have no problem whatsoever
with people embracing the idea of the Trinity
as a metaphor for God
or the experience of God’s presence
among us and within the creation.
No problem with that at all.
We are like the story of the blind men
feeling and describing what an elephant is –
the one who has the trunk
imagines a fire hose.
The one who holds the tail imagines a rope.
The one who has a leg
imagines a tree…and so on.
The idea of the Trinity
is a metaphor
for the little piece of the whole
we think we have our arms around.
But the idea of the Trinity
is forever tarred with the ugliness of orthodoxy –
that virus on Christianity
that violently sought to make all Christians
conform in unanimous support and praise
of “right belief
delivered from on high
by an empire,
then by an imperial church,
then by Euro-centric colonialist churches,
and now by a vast crowd of Christians
around the world insisting
that their part of the elephant
is the real and whole thing.
Look it: the Trinity is not
a gospel-based idea.
In fact, it violates the Shema –
“Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one” –
which Jesus and all the disciples
would have held as a core principle of their faith.
But in spite of that, the Trinity
became the prime theological idea
of orthodox Christianity.
But here is the thing:
Christianity is not a religion – it is
a lot of religions.
And Christianity is not a single theology –
it is a whole bouquet of theologies.
Christianity is not a single moral system –
in fact, it is a plethora of moral systems.
It is better and more intellectually honest
to describe Christianity as a way of life –
which is in fact, what that first generation
of Jesus-followers called it: the way.
If someone made me boss of the world,
I would call it the Tao of Jesus –
the way of Jesus,
a spiritual practice that shapes how we live,
which in turn,
shapes who we are.
Even in The Episcopal Church
we have many different ways of practicing
the Tao of Jesus.
Some are quite formal and heavy on tradition
while others are more fluid
and ride the waves of innovation.
Then there is everything in between.
Some folks insist on the Trinity
and love the Nicene Creed
as the only true statement of faith,
while others find both of them stumbling blocks
in the 21st century.
I would say, lets spread out
and make more room.
But none of that
is what I want to talk about today.
I just had to say something
because we have this day every year
we call Trinity Sunday
and the name of our congregation is Trinity,
and there it all is, starring us in the face.
I will end this little riff
by saying something you already know:
you are free to describe God
in your own terms,
from you own experience,
and with your own sense of mystery.
If the idea of the Trinity helps you with that,
then lets celebrate.
If not, let’s keep working on it.
We have lots of room.
Okay, enough about that.
Let me turn away from ideas
and controversies of the past
we need not fight any more, and
turn toward the fierce present.
We are seeing things we have never seen before.
In the midst of a pandemic,
with a deadly virus that doesn’t pick sides,
crowds of all colors
have taken to the streets
to draw a line in the concrete
on racial killings and injustice.
We have seen police officers
take a knee
and walk with protesters.
Has that ever happened before?
At a rally here in Geneva,
I heard the chief of police condemn
the four Minneapolis police officers.
Then, four Geneva police officers,
including the chief,
stood behind speakers throughout the rally
and shouted out, “Black Lives Matter”
along with the crowd.
I have never seen that before.
We watched hundreds of doctors and nurses
and stand in open hospitals windows
cheering the demonstrators –
reversing the shower of appreciation
they had received.
Doctors and nurses
cheering street demonstrations.
We never saw that before.
We heard the Speaker of the House
talk about “faith, hope, and charity”
and where she finds hope
in times like these.
It wasn’t in an evangelical way,
as if to say we should all believe as she does.
It was a heartfelt, earnest response to a question
that made room for people of no faith as well.
I have never heard that before,
spoken from the heart and with assurance
from someone in her position.
The other day I looked at the polls
and 55% of Americans disagree
with those protesting against
Even more dramatic was a poll
that said 64% of Americans
have expressed support for the current
Those numbers could change overnight,
but how long has it been, if ever,
that there was such strong majorities
covering two such onerous controversies?
We haven’t seen that before,
or at least, not for a very long time.
And just to say the obvious
that has been under-emphasized by commentators,
the streets are filled
with people of all colors.
We haven’t seen that before.
Go back and look at those films of the 1960’s
civil rights demonstrations.
Sure, there were some white people
in the crowds but nowhere near the plurality
we are seeing now.
We just haven’t seen that before.
Now, we have no idea how or where this ends.
I have no business pretending
to see beyond the shadow
of the present moment,
and anyone who does
is full of hooey.
But something is happening.
We haven’t seen a pandemic like this before,
and we haven’t been where we are now
with public demonstrations before,
and we have not seen such naked usurpation
of power by a president in the United States
while his party stood idle before.
Not in our lifetimes anyway.
When things happen
that haven’t happened before,
we know something is changing.
The avalanche of history has begun to rumble
and the escarpment is giving way.
Whatever takes place now
we know it is changing the face of life
as we have been living it.
This we know
even as we don’t know much else.
Some fear it is Armageddon or the rapture.
Some fear the forces of change
while others fear the forces against change.
Some just fear because the boundaries
on control and normalcy
are now chipping, cracking, and crumbling.
So in the midst of what we cannot predict,
when we cannot see beyond the smoke and fires
or the militarization of control,
and we do not know yet what to hope for…
we can lean on what we do know.
I believe that our Tao of Jesus
includes the affirmation we just heard
from Julian of Norwich:
Because of the great, infinite love
which God has for all humankind,
God makes no distinction
between (the souls that follow Jesus
and the souls that do not)…
that our souls are made
to be God’s dwelling place
and God dwells in our souls.
Therefore, the Tao of Jesus,
as we have come to understand it,
insists on our living lives
and loving one another
in exactly the same way
that God dwells in our souls – with no distinction.
That is something firm to lean on
in a time when we cannot see ahead of us
and when we know that what is behind us
is now behind us forever.
And right there
spells out the situation we are in:
We cannot see ahead,
and we know that what is behind
will never return.
We do NOT know how or when
the pandemic will end,
nor how it will have changed life
as we had come to understand it.
But that is also true of the struggle in the streets
ignited by George Floyd’s murder
at the hands of state power.
Is this the tipping point that changes everything
so that there is no going back
to the days and laws and customs
of white resistance to no distinction
about who God loves
and who we love
and how we treat one another as a society?
Both those who want to go backward
and those who want to go forward,
are struggling for power in the present
in order to control the future.
We have the Tao of Jesus to lean on –
no distinctions to govern our love,
no distinctions to merit a hierarchy of justice
unless of course,
it is the one that places the last first.
We do not know how this ends
but we do know the Tao of Jesus
and what it tells us about how to act,
about how to shape our lives,
about how reckon our choices,
and about how to use our own power.
We do not know squat about God –
let’s just say that right now.
God is too much for us,
more than we can describe
or reduce to any ridiculous human formula
or idea summing up
this thing that created the cosmos.
We have inklings and moments,
and we have visions and slight brushing up
against the sacred,
but more than those we just do not know.
Yet we do have the Tao of Jesus to hold onto.
We have Jesus who was very human
agent of God
who showed us how to be human –
who showed us
the way to create God’s kingdom
as we imagine it is
in anyplace we would call heaven.
Thy kingdom come
as it is in heaven.
This Tao of Jesus, my friends,
does not point us toward violence
or the support of repression
or in any way does it guide us to resist
racial and economic justice for all.
It does not prescribe an exact or precise way
to create the kingdom on earth,
but it sure offers guidance.
That guidance has to do with love,
and it has to do with peace-making,
and it has to do with equity
and justice and inclusion.
So that is a strong and steady platform
to lean on right now
until we know where we are going
and how this crisis ends.
The Tao of Jesus
is the way we need to be following right now.
At least that is what we have said
as we have worshiped together
up until this moment.
The Tao of Jesus is our way
in this moment and the next.