“We did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but we have received a spirit of adoption.” What does that mean on this Holy Trinity Sunday? What does that mean on this day that we baptize little Gibson? What does that mean on this day that we thank and praise our Sunday School teachers for their educating of our children in the stories of the faith and the faith itself? What does that mean on this day that we continue to move into the summer months, as we continue to go about our daily routines, as we continue to live and breathe and do our best to be God’s faithful people? “We did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but we have received a spirit of adoption.”
[I’d like to read to you hymn 412, and if you’d like to follow along.]
Hildegard of Bingen, early Christian mystic, described the Trinity as “sound and life”. [pause] That sound and life, this Holy Trinity, made space within it’s movement/dance for the emergence of the cosmos!
What I’m trying to illustrate here, and what this hymn illustrates much more poetically than I, is the beauty, the mystery, and the motion of the Trinity. Often in seminary and in liturgical writing (which I love, but), often the Trinity is described as a formula...which makes me think of math...which makes me think of proofs and diagrams and concrete, numeric explanations. But the truth is that the Trinity is beyond formula (even today in our technologically-advanced age). The trinity chuckles lovingly, at our attempts to prove or disprove the Divine, like when a child says something cute at the dinner table. No, the Trinity is a wonder and a mystery, “sound and life”, and here’s what it has to do with us:
We are reminded, and we celebrate today that the Trinity was there before us, and will be there long after us. Remember that, whenever we invoke the Trinity at the beginning and the end of worship. Father-Son+-Holy Spirit. Creator-Christ+- Redeemer. Holy Parent-Holy Child+-Holy Spirit. Mother-Brother+-Lover. And that’s just English! Whatever specific language you use, it comes up short, and we gather in the name of -- truth be told -- what-cannot-be-named; we go out into the world under the cover of that mysterious holy, holy, holy Three-in-one, One-in-three.
Isn’t that wonderful? We are under the cover of an omnipresent God who is beyond time and space, and mysteriously in and through it too. Bask in that on this Holy Trinity Sunday, bask in that on this day that we celebrate a baptism, where we celebrate that God has marked little Gibson forever. God puts that mark on all us! We’re all covered.
We spend, I spend, a lot of time talking about how close God is to you. How the Holy Spirit is “as close to you as your next breath”. Or my favorite quote comes from Micah, my 9-year-old a few years back at a children’s talk, when I asked the kids where God lives and he said, “God lives in our bones.” Yes, we spend a lot of time talking about an immanent God. A deeply enfleshed, deeply incarnated, deeply present Supreme Being. Yes, how wonderful!
But isn’t it wonderful, too, to celebrate and remembers God’s transcendence as well? That is God’s reigning over all and through all. Covering not just us, but the whole universe, all time, all space, from the very beginning, to the very, very end and beyond?
Isn’t it wonderful that we can’t capture the Trinity fully, we can’t name the Trinity perfectly, like we can prove or diagram a math problem. We can only stand in awe and praise (Actually, we’re Lutherans, so we stand up and sit down and sing, too, in awe and praise.)
We did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear: Living in God’s amazing grace means that we no longer are chained to our past. We don’t deny our past and pretend nothing happened, but we don’t have to be bound to it. We have received a spirit of adoption.
I’ve had several friends go through an adoption process, after a long period of discernment -- perhaps not able to have biological children, or perhaps able to but feeling God’s very presence and call to journey together down the path adoption. What a process! I know some of you have had very close experiences with adoptions, too. That is a long road these parents take together, and stay together: it takes years often to discern that adoption is the way to go, and then they stick with the process for years. On more than one occasion, I’ve been so amazed with the tenacity, the patience, and the love that these parents exhibit, as they wait and work sometimes for years for that adoption to be finalized. And sometimes I wonder if my friends’ adopted children will every know how much their parents went through to bring them home. If they’ll ever know that patience, that tenacity, that togetherness, and that love. (Probably not. But that’s ok.)
“You have not received a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.” The Holy Trinity -- our God, three-in-one, one-in-three--bestows on us not a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but a spirit of adoption. God in this trinitarian dance, is that waiting and working and togetherness of adoptive parents. God in this holy, holy, holy movement bestows on us love and peace, waiting and working with tenacity, patience and love over the whole cosmos and over us. Will we every know what God went through to bring us home? (We won’t. But that’s ok.)
Today, and everyday, we can simply stand in awe and thanks:
“Thank you God for covering us. Thank you God for adopting us. Thank you God for all you went through to bring us home. Thank you God for staying together, and bringing us together.”
We don’t need to be afraid, chained like slaves to our desires and our anxieties and our pasts and our fears. We didn’t receive that spirit. God didn’t give us that spirit. We received a different spirit: the spirit of adoption. This God of grace, who is also named LOVE, who moves in our midst, as close to us as our cells, and yet reaching through the galaxies...this God of grace, this “sound and life”, is here. And for all, and above all, and through all. This God wraps around you, and brings you home. You are home. And you are unchained because of God’s grace and peace, this spirit of adoption. So come: join the dance of Trinity! AMEN.