God the Unbearable, A Sermon on the Holy Trinity

I do not intend to try and explain the Holy Trinity, one God in three persons. Some might hear that as a strange or even unfaithful beginning for a sermon on this day, the Feast of the Holy Trinity. Others, perhaps, will be relieved that they are to be spared nonsensical math and silly analogies that are often less than helpful and usually wrong anyway.

My motivation, however, is neither to offer relief nor to avoid difficult theology and it is certainly not because I think the Trinity has no meaning or relevance to our lives and world. Rather, it is an attempt to be faithful and allow space for the divine life and presence. I am increasingly aware that whenever we speak of God we usually say more than we can possibly ever know and what we do say can never be big enough, beautiful enough, or wild enough to describe who and how God is.

Photograph ofYosemite Night Sky

Yosemite Night Sky (source)

Try to define love. List the reasons why you love that one person above all others. Count the ways and you’ll find that words fail. No list is long enough and after a while the reasons begin to sound hollow and empty. Describe for me the beauty of a sunset, a starlit night, or the miracle of your child’s birth. Colors and feelings, though real, begin to sound trite, even artificial, compared to the reality. Tell me about the deepest joys and tragedies of your life. Tell me the stories. The facts may be accurate but they can never contain or reveal the fullness and depth of that joy or tragedy. At most they point to them.

The most profound, meaningful, and life-changing things and events of our lives are beyond words, description, and even understanding. We do not explain them, we participate in them. So it is with God.

If we can neither fully explain nor understand love, beauty, miracles, or the stories of our life, how can we ever hope or expect to explain or understand the source of that love, the creator of beauty, the revealer of miracles, or the author of our life? Why would we want to? Why would we distance and objectify that which is most us?

We do not meet God in our explanations, doctrines, or understanding. They are real but they are not the ultimate reality for which we search and long. At their best they are pointers, signposts, and guides along the way; helping to make visible that which is invisible. At their worst they become dead ends, distractions, and misdirections. Where then are we to meet God?

In the unbearable. In that which is too big, too beautiful, too wild, to be understood, explained, or contained. In that which is more than we can bear. That’s where we meet and participate in the life of God.

It’s that moment when you look into the night sky, you see the moon and the stars in their courses, the work of God, and you wonder, “Who am I that you, Lord, in the immensity of all creation, are even aware of me, that you would seek me out?” It is the amazement, awe, and fear that envelops us when we realize we are next to God, adorned with glory and honor. It is the overwhelming privilege and trust of being given mastery of all that God’s hands have created.

That’s what we heard today in Psalm 8. That’s how the psalmist describes it. He is naming the unbearable; that which is too much, more than we dare ask or imagine. The unbearable is our entry into God. It’s the place where our life intersects God’s life. That’s what Jesus tells the disciples in today’s gospel. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”

Jesus is neither denying nor withholding anything. Instead, he is inviting us to look within, to dig deep, and discover that which is unbearable. That’s where the Spirit is at work, speaking in our native language, and revealing the deeds of God’s power. That’s where the Spirit is guiding us into a truth about ourselves we never dreamed possible or expected to hear. That’s where the Spirit is giving, revealing, and making known all that Jesus has, all that the Father has.

If you want to enter into the life of God look for what you cannot bear. I am not talking about the circumstances or fears of your life, that which you might want to avoid. It’s more than that. It’s not factual or circumstantial, it is personal. It’s that deep unimaginable reality for which we hope and long. Something within us knows it, though we often can neither name nor picture it. It’s about us, our life, our existence, our very being.

What is too much for you? What is beyond your comprehension? What pushes you to the limits of your belief and trust? What reality lies at the furthest edge of your wildest imagination? What is unbearable? I don’t know what exactly that might be for you but I have some ideas that might point to that reality.

It is about deep personal presence. It is an intimacy that spills over and reveals itself as creativity, beauty, and joy. Love that cannot be contained, conditioned, or tamed. It is a unity and oneness that comes from looking into the face of another as that one looks into your face. It is experiencing your own wholeness, your “enoughness,” not by what you do but because you are. It is being fully alive. It is being swept up into a larger life that can only be described as, “I am.” It is participating in and becoming abundance. Nothing is held in reserve and nothing is lacking. It is relationships founded on the mutual recognition and calling forth of your own and the other’s own beauty and holiness.

You will know what is unbearable when you consider it for yourself, you try it on for size, and your first response is, “No. That couldn’t be. That’s not possible. That’s not me. I cannot bear that. It’s just too much, too big, too beautiful, too wild.” You have found what you cannot bear. Open yourself to the divine life and presence. You see, God is never more real, more present, than in that which we cannot bear.

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