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Sermon for Trinity Sunday (Father's Day)
A sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Gale Davis on June 15, 2014

Icon by Andrei Rublev - Click to see
 
 
Today is Father’ s Day -- and it is also Trinity Sunday.  To all of you who are lucky enough to have your father, I hope you will tell them how much they mean to you, and say “thank you.” Fathers do not get the attention that mothers do, but if you are or were lucky enough to have a father like mine, then you know that even if the culture around us doesn't make as big a “to do” about Father’s Day as they do about Mother’s Day, a father -- our fathers -- are often the center of our world.  And for those of you who are fathers, thank you. I hope you are as good a person as my own father was.  He was such a magnificent human being, wise and kind, serious and funny -- not without flaws of course, like all human beings -- but one thing for sure, he taught me about unconditional love. 
 
I can't resist telling you a story about my Dad. It is a true story -- factual and true!
 
When I went on my first date my freshman year in high school to a school dance, Mark Dillon came to pick me up.  His dad was driving the car, of course, as we were too young to drive, and in the olden days that was what we did, one set of parents or the other drove us on “dates”.  When Mark came to the door my parents made me wait in my room and they would come and get me. When Mark came through the door, my father gave him the usual third degree, asking questions like, “When will you have my daughter home?” But then he looked at Mark’s shoes and said, “Son, if you want to take my daughter out, you will have to shine those shoes!”  And he made him go into the laundry room and polish his shoes.  We left for the dance 15 minutes later, and Mark’s shoes were very shiny for an outdoor dance with hay bales as seating. 
 
I was embarrassed, of course -- mortified even -- but Mark and I dated for three years, and we are still friends. Maturity has taught me that my father did what he did because he loved me and wanted to set the precedence that any man who came into my life should treat me with the deepest respect, even in details as small as polishing shoes. As I went on with my life, Daddy was always the one who stood up for me or cheered me on. My father believed in me, and I was very blessed to be his daughter. He loved me, and I still love him.
 
Now this may not seem to have anything to do with the fact that it is Trinity Sunday, but if you hang in with me, I will show you how it does.
 
Many years ago I heard Elizabeth Johnson, a theologian, speak about the Trinity at a conference in NYC. Before she began she put a much larger version of this icon at the top of the page called the “Old Testament Trinity” on the podium in front of her.  It was “written” by Andrei Rublev in the 1400s. The minute she did that, I knew I was going to learn from Dr. Johnson. For even though I had not seen this particular icon before,  I fell in love with it. To me it is gentle and kind -- but still strong and powerful -- and it was different from any other icon that I had seen to that point.
 
I had had a difficult time, until that point, understanding the Trinity. In Sunday school I had learned that the Trinity, “three persons in one” was sort of like being a father, husband and son. A person could be all three and still be one person, but then I also knew no one was that simply defined. The “father” was usually a working person of some sort, a friend, a brother, a volunteer worker, a Little League coach, etc. etc. etc.  It was a very unsatisfactory explanation for me. “Three persons-one God” still didn’t make much sense.  Likewise to say that God was one body with three heads, or some other physical construction?  Well, that seemed more “monster-ly” than “godly.” It wasn’t satisfactory either.
 
So Dr. Johnson put up this icon and explained the Trinity in a way that I finally understood and I hope you do too. She said, ”See how they all are related to each other as they sit? They are connected, not so much by their bodily touching as by their demeanor and glances. You can tell they are of one mind, one being, by their connectedness.”  She noted they are sitting around a table, but they do not sit in a closed circle!  Rather they deliberately leave a large open space at the table.  “That space is for us,” she said. “It is for you and me and everyone else.”
 
It was then that I understood that the Trinity is about relationship. The Trinity IS Relationship.  Each to the other -- Father to Son -- Son to Spirit -- Holy Trinity to us!  One God who is pure love, unconditional love, with always and eternally room for more love. That place at the table is for us and for those who will be and those who were. That place in the Center of God is there for us, unconditionally. That love for us is without restriction.  No matter what we do, there is a place for us in the very heart of God the Trinity at the table. No matter what we accomplish or fail to accomplish, no matter even how shiny our shoes, there is a place for us at the table. 
 
Our God is love. Pure love. The undivided Trinity means that God is so in tune with God’s self -- Creator to Christ -- Christ to Spirit -- that the energy that radiates from that connection is pure relationship and love.
 
Many years after hearing Dr. Johnson and of thinking of God as the pinnacle of relationship, that glue that holds everything together, I studied for my D.Min. Part of that study included reading about the new physics (not that I ever understood the old physics!). I learned that the atom was not, as I had been taught previously, the smallest particle or building block of matter. Rather it is the energy or relationship “between” particles that holds everything physical together -- animate and inanimate alike. 
 
Hearing that, I realized one could make a powerful argument that creation has imitated the Trinity. One could make the physical, scientific  case, as well as the theological case for a God of pure LOVE.  God is pure connection, being the energy of relationship between all things, animate and inanimate. God is the connecting energy we know as Love. Each discipline and generation and language may have its own name or way of expressing that holy relationship, but it 's all about relationships, all of it, from the smallest particles scientists observe to the Holy Trinity -- a relationship that includes each of us. LOVE.
 
Sometimes we learn to sit at the table with God because we are blessed with relationships that mirror that unconditional love God has for us. Sometimes love is given to us in profound ways; sometimes ordinary ways; perhaps unique ways. But all are ways that mirror the invitation from the Trinity to sit at the table. Sometimes we recognize the invitation through the service we do for others. Sometimes we recognize the Trinity because we are touched by the wonder and majesty and mystery of creation.  Sometimes the Spirit drives or cajoles or surprises us and then we recognize the Love that awaits us. Sometimes we look back and just know that God was there. Sometimes we can feel the Presence. One of those ways we come to see the invitation might even be science.
 
Which, of course, brings me back to my Dad.  He loved me fiercely, corrected me when I needed it, overprotected me, worried needlessly, and provided generously for my education and experiences. And he and my mother created the foundation for me to take my life where it has gone. The rest of my family was not so crazy about the idea of me studying for the priesthood, but my Dad was thrilled because I was doing what I thought God wanted me to do. He surrounded me with love and potential, and then let go so that I could find my own way forward.  But, like the Trinity in this fabulous icon, his arms were always open to me, ready to remind me of how loved I was.
 
Make no mistake, my father was not a saint and certainly not part of the Trinity, but he loved as humans can love, the best that humans can love.  I was very lucky to have him.
 
As ones who follow and proclaim God as pure Love, may our relationships mirror those of our Trinity. May each day find us surrounded by those who love us without condition.  May we love them back the same way.  Love abundantly my friends, love abundantly. And...... may you always remember to polish your shoes lest you run into some other loving father looking out after his beloved child!  Amen. 
Last Published: July 3, 2014 10:45 AM