Trinity Sunday/African Mass by the Rev. Dick Toll

June 16, 2019

Lessons:

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

Psalm 8

Today is Trinity Sunday.  It is the only Sunday of the year that is set aside for a theological concept.  It is a Sunday to speak to the mystery of God and attempt to explain the unexplainable…to try to speak to the profound mystery that cannot be explained but because we are human beings we enjoy the mystery and want to define God.  Thus, the Trinity.  God is known in three ways.

First of all God is Creator-Father.  The one who has set in motion everything we know within the created order, the world as we know it, Creator of all things, creatures who have lived and died, humanity, space, and time.  We speak of God as a Creator and as human beings we delve into the mystery of God as we learn about creation through science and our God given brains to discover what is already there.  Profound, mysterious, here we are.

Second, is the person of Jesus who came to us as one of us in our humanity as the reflection of the living God to share with us that that is the fullness of our humanity?  He lived and died as one of us.  His reflection of God and the mystery of God is a moment in time that is a transition of our story with God.  We cannot escape His presence in the world.  Millions and millions of people have been a part of his life, death and resurrection over the centuries and today we find the uniqueness of his person in the Eucharist.

And then finally, we experience the mystery of God in the life of the Spirit.  Last week we moved through Pentecost and have once again discovered the way that God moves within us and creation.  We are surrounded in our individual and community lives by the Spirit of God offering light to the world that often lives in darkness.  We know darkness.  We know light.  We know that the darkness if overcome by light and it is in this knowledge that we are led into relating to God as Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Or maybe expressed as Creator, Redeemer and Friend.

Thousands upon thousands of books have explored the subject of the Trinity so I trust that you will read as many of these as possible to further your knowledge.

But, the truth is that each of us as individuals carries the Trinity within us.  And, we are walking, talking, expressions of the Trinity of God as we live and move and have our being.

One way to look at the Trinity is a three legged stool with the seat representing everything within creation, including us, as individuals.  When I was in seminary the theologian by the name of Paul Tillach described the meaning of God “as the ground of all being”….everything below us, around us and above us is the ground of our being.  In Christianity, we discover ourselves through knowledge of our relationship with our neighbor, ourselves and our God.

I am going to switch to a story now and ask you to reflect on what I have just said.  Elaine and I had another opportunity to go to London, England, and feed two cats last month and house sit.  This could become an interesting habit.  The people we cat set for are friends of our daughter.  So, we hope she has many friends in other far away places.  We went to a play in London that had just arrived in Piccadilly Square.  The name of the play is “Come From Away”.  I had never heard of it before, but it is wonderful.  It is a story about 9/11.

Where were you on 9/11?  I was sitting in a restaurant in Milwaukie having just finished my 7:00 o’clock Tuesday morning service and was ordering my breakfast.  The darkness that can invade our lives was happening that day and as the day unfolded we experienced that darkness.  And as a helicopter crashed this week in New York, it was a reminder of the tragedy and fear that sweep through New York and our country on 9/11.

But the story of 9/11 was not just in New York City.  Planes that were in the air throughout the world were diverted to other landing places because no one knew what was happening.

Do you know about the Island of Newfoundland off the East Coast of Canada?  In 2001 on 9/11 the town of Gander in Newfoundland, a town of 10,000 people was suddenly asked to house, feed and comfort 7,000 passengers of 38 planes that were diverted during 9/11.  Thirty-eight planes with 7,000 people became a part of the Gander community for 5 days until their planes were allowed to fly to their destinations. 

The play is filled with individual stories of how the town responded generously to the tragedy that was unfolding in New York City and the way the people of Gander pulled together to welcome total strangers into their homes.  The local radio station would update the needs three times a day and the play itself shows how humanity can do and does respond to the need of others.  There is one person that takes care of the responsibility of caring for 19 dogs and cats aboard the planes and even 2 monkeys.

Relationships come into being.  People fall in love.  Stories of the past are shared.  A Rabbi hears the story of a Jewish man who had survived the Holocaust.  The call for toilet paper fills up a classroom at the school and the radio announcer has to say, “enough is enough”.  The room at the school has no more room for toilet paper.

As the worst was happening in New York City, the 7,000 people saw the best of humanity.  Many of the passengers could not speak English, many religions were represented including Muslim…how to accommodate the many and various needs, dietary, medical, relatives in other countries?  One passenger could not reach her son who was a firefighter in New York.  She later found out that he died during the collapse of the Towers.

A number of children from the Make a Wish Foundation were on their way to Disney World for their birthday.  A 16-year-old girl put together a birthday party for them, which included 350 people with balloons, clowns and cakes.

In general, the people of Gander reacted to the strangers as they would their neighbors: opening up their homes, their hearts, offering food, phone time, showers or just a hug.  So the play is about the 5 days with 7,000 strangers suddenly arriving in a town of 10,000 people.  And, what we find is that in the midst of the darkness there is a light that is lit that shines brightly as people share and care.

And, I would submit to you that the understanding of God as we know God was being acted out in the midst of a community that accepted their place within Creation, shared their space with diverse people.  To remind ourselves of the reading from Romans that we heard earlier, I will read it again.  “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

The God of History was acting through the lives of many and this story in Gander, Newfoundland is just one example of how God moves within creation bringing light out of darkness, healing out of suffering as we offer ourselves to each other and to God.