*Originally given at Midtown Christian Community, June 10, 2006
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2 Corinthians 5:1-10
Tomorrow is Trinity Sunday. The Trinity, of course, is one of the main features of our Christian identity, shaping everything about us as followers of Jesus. We mention it every Saturday evening when we come together. When we pray the collective prayer together we make reference to our Tri-une God. The final line of the prayer makes reference to “our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
But what does that have to do with anything? Is this not merely a nice final line to the collect? A bit of theo-poetry, perhaps? Is the Trinity not just part of Christian theology that we confess, affirm, and then set aside as fairly uninteresting and largely impractical?
No, not hardly. The Trinity, you see, is an interdependent community. The Father is not the Father without the Son and the Spirit. The Son is not the Son without the Father and the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Spirit apart from the Father and the Son. Each is fully God. Each fully participates in the life and joy of the other Persons of the one true God who rules everything in magnanimous and overpowering love.
Well, so what? What is it important?
It’s absolutely central, actually, and here’s why.
When we imagine what we do here at Midtown, how are we to think about it? How do we see ourselves, our relationships, and our task? How do we imagine… that word is vital… imagine… Actually, let’s think about that word for a moment. What word do we get if we take out the “in” from imagine? Image.
When we imagine our lives here at Midtown, what do we imagine? What do we “image?” In whose image are we?
We are not the image of a club or organization. We are not a business so that we have “functions” for which we are paid, nor a hierarchy so that we report to bosses and fill out time sheets.
Our lives here at Midtown—and the whole of our lives, for that matter—are to image the Trinity. We are to reflect, in this community, as this body, the very life of the God who is Father, Son, and Spirit.
So, because God is interdependent, we are to be interdependent. Like the Trinity, we are to fully participate in each others’ lives.
We are not alone. We must not imagine our lives to be isolated entities, standing apart from the community so that we have our own hopes and dreams and goals and desires. We are part of this community, bound to bless one another, and bound to receive blessing from one another.
In one sense this ought to be natural. Each of us has an identity in relation. We are sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, friends, husbands and wives. We are not islands. We are who we are in relation.
Our texts from this week, along with this being Trinity Saturday evening, provide a meditation on dependence and interdependence.
We are, first, dependent. Our lives, as individuals and as a community, are not our own. We do not come from ourselves. We do not provide for our own existence. In Ezekiel, God pronounces judgment against Egyptbecause Egyptsaid, “I come from myself. Look at me, I’m Egypt, already! I am self-sufficient! The nations of the earth rest in my shade, look to me for guidance, and for permission to do this or that.”
But God said, “not so. You are a tall tree because of my rivers, but you have failed to acknowledge me and have become proud, and now you will be cast down because of my judgment.”
So we must acknowledge our dependence on God. We must not see this as a heavy duty, a grave burden. It involves consciously enjoying the goodnesses of the Lord and being careful to give thanks, to label our joys and blessings as gifts from the hand of the Lord, and not merely products of our own labor.
And we are dependent upon God for our salvation. As we bear the brokenness of creation in our bodies and in this corporate body, we look to the Lord and, by his Spirit, long for that day when God comes to renew and remove from his good world all signs of brokenness, grief, and pain.
And, as we participate in his work of reclaiming his world, we are aware that our work here looks more or less like the most insignificant thing in the world—just about as significant as a mustard seed. And it will remain that if we think we run by our own efforts, that any of the good things we enjoy or produce are from us.
But if we give ourselves into the hands of the Lord, looking to God and calling on him to bless our efforts, giving him thanks for any and every good thing, we as a community will provide shade to the desert place of this neighborhood, “so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
So, we are not ourselves without each other. We are most certainly nothing without God. We need each other, we are an interdependent community. And we need God, for we as a community are dependent.
So, let’s take some time for discussion, and these are questions we need to ask ourselves:
How do we make this manifest? As we are continually being shaped and as we are shaping this community, how can we remind ourselves of our dependence and interdependence? What practical steps and patterns of community life do we need to enact so that we might actually embody this?
As we contemplate this community and our uniting ourselves to the surrounding community, how do build further interdependence? How do we give ourselves to them and let them give themselves to us?