Monday, June 4, 2012

Sermon -- Trinity Sunday 2012

We probably have all seen Rublev's icon of the Trinity. It depicts our Patron, the Trinity, as three angels, the angels that visited our father Abraham near the oaks of Mamre. (The minister circulates a large copy of the icon and mentions it is on the church blog)

In his picture, Rublev shows us what we know about this Holy One who Isaiah has seen in his vision that was read to us. We know about this Holy One primarily through Jesus. As scripture has told us “Jesus is the image of the unseen God.”

So the Christian tradition boldly claims to have some knowledge about this mysterious figure – that Rudolf Otto calls the “mysterium tremendum et fascians"  - this scary but fascinating mystery. All of our knowledge of God comes from Jesus.

Rublev depicts our three Patrons in his picture as sitting in a circle. On the right, the Holy Spirit has a garment of the clear blue of the sky, wrapped over with a robe of a fragile green. The Spirit of creation moves in sky and water, breathes in heaven and earth. All living things owe their freshness to his touch.

The Son has the deepest colors; a thick heavy garment of the reddish-brown of earth and a cloak of the blue of heaven. In his person he unites heaven and earth, the two natures are present in him, and over his right shoulder (the Government shall be upon his shoulder) there is a band of gold shot through the earthly garment, as his divinity suffuses and transfigures his earthly being.

The Father seems to wear all the colors in a kind of fabric that changes with the light, that seems transparent, that cannot be described or confined in words. And this is how it should be. No one has seen the Father, but the vision of him fills the universe.

The Father looks forward, raising his hand in blessing to the Son. He seems to be looking both at the Son and down to the chalice on the table. The chalice contains a portion of roasted lamb, pointing to the Jesus' sacrifice and the meal he provides for us to participate in this sacrifice.

The most important part of the structure of the icon to me is the realization that, as you gaze at the Trinity, sitting in a circle full of movement, you realize that you complete that circle. You and I are drawn into the circle, into the house of love, into the very life of the Trinity. The viewer becomes part of what is viewed. We are drawn into the action. We, somehow, complete the picture. And the picture completes us.

How can we take this vision of the picture out into the world? How do we integrate it into our lives? Most simply we live as much as possible at all times in this house of love.

Not such an easy thing to do. We are challenged by the picture to live a different kind of life. On another practical level, this means becoming a follower of Jesus, who is the one who shows us this house of love, who prepares a place for us in the house of love and who carries us there through the gift of the Holy Spirit. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit,” John the Baptist says.

And this is the point of Jesus meeting with Nicodemus which was read to us in our Gospel today.

Jesus' encounter with Nicodemis is like our own encounter with Jesus. Nicodemus was a religious leader of the Jews. He was a prominent citizen of Jerusalem. He was a rich and powerful man. Maybe he had earned his wealth; maybe he inherited it. But he was in the power loop of the city.

Even though he is a leader in his community, a religious leader, when he speaks to Jesus about spiritual things he seems clueless. He needs direction and guidance, a lot of it, just like we do.
Jesus attempts to give him this spiritual guidance. “Look, Nicodemus,” he says, “its like being born again. Like starting all over, like we had just began a new day.” Jesus comforts us but he also challenges us. His very mission was come into the world to show us who God is. He reveals the Triune nature of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He reveals God as essential love.

God is not an old man with a boney finger pointing at us and saying, “You better watch out. When you get home you're gona get a lickin.”

He is the God of love and he lives in the house of love.

Does that mean that everything we do is OK? That when the time comes, we will just fall into the everlasting arms and peaceably and smilingly swoon away eternity?

Jesus has not said this to us. He says these strange things like you must be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven. We have to struggle with the meaning of these things just like Nicodemus.

But he does say he has not come to condemn us but to save us. So in our struggles to understand and to grow we take comfort in these words. But the paradox of seeking and enjoying this comfort is that we reach out and try to touch this Holy One and each other in love.

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