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Breath of the Spirit
Pastoral, Liturgical, Teaching, and Social Justice Moments brought to you by DignityUSA.
Breath of the Spirit is our electronic spiritual and liturgical resource for our members and potential members. Nothing can replace your chapter or other faith community but we hope you will find further support here for integrating your spirituality with your sexuality and all the strands of your life.
If today’s feast revolves around constantly discovering God, then it also has something to say about constantly discovering ourselves.
MAY 31, 2015: TRINITY SUNDAY
Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
Followers of God are constantly discovering who God is.
Those who profess a biblical faith are convinced that knowing God isn’t a matter of just memorizing catechism questions and answers, but of experiencing God on different levels and at different times in our lives. That’s not only what our sacred authors did, they presumed their readers were committed to the same quest. We should especially keep this quest in mind today when we celebrate the feast of the Trinity.
Contrary to common expectations, today’s three Scripture passages don’t zero in precisely on a belief that there are three persons in one God. That specific insight into God’s personality didn’t take its well-known form until Constantine’s Council of Nicea in 325 CE, almost three hundred years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and about two hundred years after the last book of Scripture was composed.
But these particular readings help us with some significant insights along the road to Nicea’s declaration.
Deuteronomy’s author, for instance, presumes his Jewish ancestors have heard the “voice of Yahweh,” speaking to them not only “from the midst of fire,” but also through the “statutes and commandments” which Yahweh lovingly gave them during their early centuries together. They were convinced that when they followed those specific regulations they were imitating the personality of the God they worshipped. Their behavior toward others mirrored Yahweh’s behavior toward them.
More than any other divine encounter, their Exodus from Egypt convinced them Yahweh was a God who freed people, not enslaved them. And it was as a free people that they continually surfaced God in their midst.
The earliest followers of Jesus of Nazareth experience a parallel freedom. Paul reminds the Christian community in Rome that the Spirit of God which that first century CE itinerant preacher shared with his disciples - and now was giving to them - wasn’t someone who brought fear to their lives. “You did not receive a spirit of slavery,” he writes, “to fall back into fear but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” In other words, by imitating Jesus’ dying and rising, we more clearly understand and experience God as a loving parent, not as a punishing judge. Some of our “old” definitions of God simply don’t fit God’s actual personality.
It’s also clear from the ending of Matthew’s gospel – which comprises today’s third reading – that Jesus’ followers were anxious to share their new experiences of God with others, especially when it came to the formula they employed in baptisms. Though Paul, writing mostly in the 50s, speaks only about baptizing “in the name of Jesus,” Matthew’s Jesus expands that ritual. By the mid-70s, Christians are obviously baptizing others “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” As time – and faith – goes on, God’s Christian followers are experiencing him/her not just in the risen Jesus, but also in the Spirit which that “new creation” shares with them. God simply can’t be tied down to just one definition, one thought, or one encounter.
Of course, if that’s true about God, what about us? Paul reminded the Roman church that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” I presume children share in their parents’ personalities. If today’s feast revolves around constantly discovering God, then it also has something to say about constantly discovering ourselves. The ancient Greek philosophers - and many medieval theologians - once thought they had us figured out. Yet today’s people of faith believe there’s still a lot left to learn. We’ve probably only scratched the surface of race, gender and sexual orientation. There are a lot of experiences out there that followers of God have yet to reflect on.
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