In class, after we listened to Handel, we ended up talking about the Trinity. That was a surprise. The Trinity is in Revelation 5, as one of my seminary professors used to say, “in kit form” – because it refers to the “one seated on the throne,” who we know is the Lord God, the Almighty, and also to the Lamb that was slain, whose seven eyes are “the seven spirits of God,” or the seven-fold spirit of God. This is how we ended up on the Trinity, in fact, because someone said “does it seem like the Spirit always kind of takes a back seat?” and I said, “well, not technically, because technically, whenever we’re talking about God we’re talking about the Holy Spirit, assuming we’re talking about the Triune God …”
Well, then we were off and then our pastor heard the word “heresy” from the other room and came in to see what we were talking about and we were off even more. So the upshot of that whole discussion is that none of us will ever use modalist analogies like water-ice-steam, or “a man who is a father and a son and something else, like a philosopher,” or polytheistic and possibly proto-Arian analogies like egg shell-egg white-egg yolk or three-leaf clovers or mind-body-spirit as children’s messages. Not that any of us ever get asked to give the children’s message in the first place. We will embrace perichoresis, and we will think about how God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all distinctly-but-inseparably triunely Creator, and Redeemer, and Sustainer. And realize that we don’t have vocabulary or neat analogies for the Trinity because this divine reality is really outside our experience. Which doesn’t make it not worth contemplating or talking about.
In worship, one of the very young members was liturgist, which made it a big and memorable day.
And because it was “Good Shepherd Sunday,” which would have been last week, but wasn’t because of celebrating Earth Day, our pastor told a story about how a fraternity on his college campus became the intramural “Fighting Sheep” after they were expelled from their national organization for complying with the college’s open admissions policy. Their motto was “baaa – grrr.” (This got a big laugh.)
It was a lead-in to thinking about how the “Good Shepherd” is good because he is willing to lay down his life for the sheep. Not because death is a value, but because life is the value, and because protecting and affirming life – even at the cost of his own – was something Jesus could do because he wasn’t afraid of death. Because he knew the truth about life, the truth that there’s more where that came from.
Sometimes, we forget that. When we do, we have a hard time laying down our lives; we’re more like the “hired hand,” who runs when it looks like caring for the sheep might be bad for him personally. We figure it’s not our job to care for our neighbors if it really involves a lot of inconvenience or cost – let alone the laying down of our lives. There is a chance that this attitude has consequences, of course. Maybe “the Church” in our day and age does not flourish because people don’t see it as anything different from what goes around and comes around in every other part of the culture. Why waste a precious Sunday morning off work on that? John 3:16 is familiar to people from televised football games, but maybe our motto really needs to be 1 John 3:16 (and 17 and 18):
We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
Follow Jesus, by loving our neighbors – fiercely enough to take a hit or two on their behalf. Baa. Grr.