Sunday, June 07, 2020

Trinity Sermon: Joining the Dance of Justice

Sermon for Trinity Sunday 2020
St. Margaret’s Budapest, Hungary 
Focus Lectionary Text: Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Good morning Saint Margaret’s community and thank you again to Father Frank for this opportunity to speak with you again. 

This morning we read one of my favorite creation stories from our Bible: the one where God methodically speaks the world into existence, declares it good, and then sets aside the seventh day for sacred rest. I’m honestly not sure, though, which story is my favorite because I also love the one in Genesis 2, where instead of speaking commands, God sculpts the first human out of humus, and this human becomes a living being when God breathes the breath of life right into the nostrils. It’s such an intimate image.

And then there is Proverbs 8; we’ll have to wait until Trinity Sunday 2022 for it to next appear in the lectionary readings. I love its use of the image of Wisdom as a woman standing in the busy crossroads at the main gate of town boldly calling out to all who pass by words of warning, guidance, and joy. In verse 22 we are told that the LORD’s first act was to create Wisdom: before the beginning of the earth—before mountains and oceans and skies—before the heavens—She was at the LORD’s side. Like a master worker; She was the LORD’s daily delight, rejoicing before God always, rejoicing in the inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

Delighting in the human race…  I don’t know about you, but as an American citizen who closely follows the news from back home, I’ve been finding the idea of Wisdom delighting in the human race rather challenging. There is so much selfishness and cruelty in our world. So much violence and injustice. So much racism and treating human life as if it had no value. When looking out upon the evils of our world, goodness, rejoicing, and delight, aren’t the first words that come to my mind. And yet, when we look at how devout people of faith—people who at the core of their being believe in the sacred worth of humanity and all of God’s creation—respond in the face of hated and oppression, there is reason to rejoice.          

I’d like to share with you an example from our sibling diocese in Washington, DC. This past Monday, security forces in riot gear fired rubber bullets and tear gas on members of St. John’s Episcopal Church and others who were standing on and in front of the church property peacefully and legally calling for the end of police brutality. The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington condemned this violence as well as the fact that the nation’s president had ordered it in order to pose for photos in front of the church’s sign. Bishop Budde responded by writing, The President did not come to pray; he did not lament the death of George Floyd or acknowledge the collective agony of people of color in our nation. He did not attempt to heal or bring calm to our troubled land… “We are followers of Jesus…We stand with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd through the sacred act of peaceful protest.” Our bishop didn’t stop there. She extended an invitation to faith leaders across the city to join her in a prayer vigil at Saint John’s, and they showed up. Saint John’s rector, Rev. Robert Fisher, was there to welcome the crowds, although not at the church as planned because a police line had now been made that blocked access to the building. Using a megaphone to be heard over the wail of a police siren, the rector said, “We are gathered to share one voice in prayer and solidarity, so that we can speak against racism with compassion, and to affirm what needs to be affirmed today, that Black lives matter.” Bishop LaTrelle Easterling of The United Methodist Church also spoke to those gathered saying, “It’s good for us to bow our heads and pray; we should always be in prayer. And it’s even ‘gooder’ when we take those prayers and put feet to them and stand in spaces like this. But also stand in spaces where injustice is actually taking place... Let the prayers, the energy, let everything that is being amassed here – let us carry this out into the margins where the Gospel of Jesus Christ was always meant to be preached, always meant to be lived, always meant to be embodied, and always meant to make a difference.” My sisters and brothers in Christ, let us rejoice in this prophetic witness of what it means to follow Christ, not Caesar.   

Today is Trinity Sunday, and I’ll let you in on a little secret, Trinity Sunday is not among the favorite days on the church calendar for most preachers. Fearing that they will either fall into a theological heresy in their attempts to explain the doctrine of the Trinity or simply fail to help their congregants see why such a doctrine matters, we can be tempted to avoid the topic altogether. This is a great loss, for instead of dancing around the topic, we could choose to celebrate that we have been invited to participate in what has been described by theologians as the Divine Dance.

The academic term for this is perichoresis. This Greek word roughly translates as “rotation,” “going around,” or “making room.” Theologians embracing this notion of perichoresis understand the Trinity not as a paradoxical logic puzzle but as a wonderous interweaving and swirling dance of delight between the totality of God our creator, Christ our redeemer, and the Spirit our sustainer. And through Christ we too have been invited to join in this dance. Yes, suffering is real. Injustice and evil are real forces that we are called to call out. But there is also love and laughter and hope born from the pure joy of dancing with one another.

Dancing with others is a different experience from dancing alone. It is no longer simply about us and what we want to do. We have to pay attention to the bigger picture—how our actions support, amplify, or block out other dancers. We must think about making room, noticing who we’ve excluded, who we’ve blindly stomped on, and when we’re hogging the stage. When we dance with God, the master choreographer, we must be open to step out of our comfort zones, to learn dances of solidarity that involve risks and sacrifices and recognizing our interdependence on others. We must also be willing to join the dances of lament, protest, and prophecy.

And, so, this morning I invite us all to ask ourselves: How have I been dancing with the LORD lately? Have I been merely observing others as they dance? Am I truly open to allowing God to teach me new moves—moves that would expand my understanding of myself, my neighbor, and our call to work together? I don’t know the answers to these questions as they apply to you. But my prayer for you, for me, for all of us, is that this week and until the day we take our last breath on Earth is that we will dance with the one who brought us into life everlasting.  Amen. 

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