June 4th, 2023
Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche
Good morning and welcome again on what is in our tradition Trinity Sunday! As we come to this part of our gathering, I invite you, as you are moved to take some deeper breaths, to tune into your heartbeat, as we each let ourselves arrive a bit more fully, and we all hope to hear whatever word God has for each of us today…
And as you are moved I invite you to join me in prayer as I share the words from Psalm 19.
God may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Shape comes where it was all formless. Light is added where there was only darkness. Containers are created for water and air. Space and a place is given for vegetation- for seeds and trees and then the sun is set on its throne and the moon too and then birds and whales and cows and snakes and all that is beneath and above… and then comes us, we human beings.
The void starts to shift, to become, the darkness lifts, and life begins to unfold…
There are so many layers missed when this text is misused and taken out of context and forced to be some sort of science lesson. There is so much in this if we honor it and let it be what it is, which to me is an wonderful attempt of our ancestors in faith, to explain what they couldn’t understand, it was their attempt to put some poetry to their experience- trying to share the truth of what can happen, how entire worlds can be born, with form and a shape and a place.
Because as this genesis story goes, as this story shows us, in order to tame the disorder, form is required, a structure is crafted to counter the chaos and this allows for the construction of the concept of time, seconds and minutes and hours and days and then the first week…
In the beginning when the Divine created, when the energy began to swirl and whirl, it was formless…
But do you know what?
When I read this story now, I wonder if part of the message for us, is this: to move all life forward in love, onward and inward to more complexity and beauty, to bring out the most incredible possibilities, I wonder if part of the point of this version of the creation story is that in order for it all to evolve and truly come to life, it can’t stay formless.
In order for it and each part of life to find its fullest manifestation and in order for it all to be able to live creatively together, the chaos had to be countered, there needed to be clarity of space and place that would offer a shared understanding. The formlessness could not be and would not be the foundation for the new world.
And I wonder if part of the wisdom for us right here and now- in order for us human beings to thrive, in order for us to evolve deeper and higher and closer to the pulse of our Greater Love, our lives can’t be formless voids either -individually or collectively.
What I mean is that what if another point of this story that has a message for us is that we need structure! What if new worlds and new ways of being simply cannot come into form without a container for them- a shape, a place.
As I shared already, today is Trinity Sunday. You might already know that this concept actually isn’t in the Bible. And you might already know that it also isn’t three men in one theological tenet, but it was three men who came up with it. The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity was handed to us from the tradition of the Church by way of the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon1 when in Fourth Century Cappadocia, a great contemplative wisdom school arose and Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus generated the idea. The Trinity sought to capture the connection between all of the parts theologically. Some scholars call the Trinity the “flow of energy between” the parts.
For a while I kind of let go of the Trinity because I found it to be too limiting as it was presented to me, too male, too small, too anthropomorphized but now I wonder if it is a most perfect symbol for all of it. A symbol for the fact that this whole creation and for all of us to evolve and truly come to life, we need a form, a way to flow between the parts. It needed and we need some structure, so that all of this can live creatively, in tension together, separately but still connected. The Trinity symbolizes the flow between, staying in relationship while honoring the parts and valuing each piece as equal. How fun that we get to reclaim theology that has been weighed down with the unnecessary baggage of patriarchy!
It felt perfect for today to be the day we present our Congregational Behavioral Covenant more broadly, as to me it is an important example of creating shape and a shared understanding, offering a way to capture the flow between with intention. The Covenant is one way that we counter the chaos, creating intention about how we show up together.
It turns out that over the pandemic, many congregations found themselves needing to create a covenant like this. Because many parts of our world got meaner, less patient and more eager to show power and privilege and because in many areas it seems that anything goes, we felt called to clarify how we show up together. In the words of Gil Rendle, a Congregational Behavioral Covenant shows a path for “how to live creatively together despite differences of age, race, culture, opinion, gender, theological or political position.”
I really cherish that it is part of the culture and commitment of the United Church of Christ to welcome all people and that is our commitment here too, but one thing we have learned and it felt important to clarify. I will occasionally hear that critique of so-called liberal religion but it isn’t true. Welcoming all people doesn’t mean we welcome all behaviors. Welcoming all people doesn’t mean we welcome in abuse or bullying or hate speech, it doesn’t mean we welcome violence or a refusal to speak kindly.
I feel even more convicted than I ever have about this… to be a church of extravagant welcome and holy hospitality, we must preserve what is good, which means we need shape and form and a container and a shared understanding to hold our intentions, we need this covenant. In order to live up to who we say we are, in order to honor our separateness and togetherness at the same time and I see this as a gift, a way to preserve what is precious and good about who we are.
The void starts to shift, to become, the darkness lifts, and life begins to unfold…we humans need the form, it helps us to be faithful, to preserve all that is good around us and between us. Thanks be to God for structure! This too is good. Thanks be to God for the gift of us, for the covenant and for the chance to counter the chaos out there for the gift of being good together in here. May it be so. Amen.
©Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche