A Sunday reflection for Trinity Sunday.
The lectionary readings are here.
In my parish, we are reading through the Bible in a year using the reading plan from BibleProject (please, check out their videos, blog, and podcast!). We’ve talked about how our human desire for power and control is the same now as it was then. We’ve asked ourselves ‘how have we not learned that violence only brings about more violence?’ And we’ve had great conversations about why we’d rather look and be like the world than to walk with God, trusting that God’s Way is the better way. Our conclusions have been that we just have to keep trying to follow Jesus, recognizing that any act of ill-will or violence on any level (thought, word, or deed) is contrary to God’s Way.
The news shows us the great violent acts of our time; shows and networks masquerading as news reveals how violent we are when we attempt to manipulate people’s fear. Violent movies are blockbusters. We call bullying leaders strong and compassionate leaders weak. We use violent language to describe success (I killed it). We value individualism and have made ‘us vs. them’ our lifestyle, as if the only way to be ‘us’ is to define who our ‘them’ is. We struggle to express what we believe but we can sure enough tell you all that we don’t like about what they believe. And all of this is contrary to the teachings of Jesus.
The Trinity, One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the image in which we are all created, is our ultimate model of community and unity. We are all created in the image of the Trinitarian God and are part of something so much bigger than ourselves. The early followers of Jesus spent much time and effort working out how One God can be three. The acceptance of this holy mystery is foundational to our faith. The acceptance of violence in our culture is the result of years and decades and centuries of humans losing this theology. The “rugged individualism” that we preach in this country is the antithesis of the Trinity. Individualism creates a world of constant competition: “I have to fight for what’s mine. I have to be better than everyone else. I have to push others down to lift myself up. My life/possessions/ideas/beliefs are threatened by your very existence.”
Living into our trinitarian theology says we are all in this together, seeking the greater good for every human being. Trinitarian theology says life is a companionable journey, not a competitive fight to the death. We each make the Body of Christ whole. We are most fully human when we live in community and unity as God created us to live. We are most like Jesus when we see the pain and hurt in other people and are moved to help alleviate it. This is the very meaning of compassion.
Compassion requires us to see and be present to other people. Compassion requires us to seek to understand the other person’s circumstance. Compassion requires us to acknowledge the Image of God in every person. Compassion isn’t about deciding whose “side” we are on. Compassion is seeing all through the eyes of Jesus so that there aren’t any more “sides” but instead we see human beings created in the Image of God.
Deepening our compassion requires us to look at our own responses to the situations we find ourselves in and ask ourselves some tough questions: is my response self-serving or for the greater good, why do I respond that way, why do I think that way? When we catch ourselves defending the way things are, we need to ask ourselves why am I engaging in this debate, what am I afraid I’ll lose if things change? When we want to stay in the comfort of silence or the selfishness of neutrality, we must remind ourselves that Jesus calls us to take a stand and speak the truth of God’s love. When this work of ‘self’ is done within a loving and compassionate community of Jesus Followers so that we shine God’s Love into this hurting world, we are living as we are created to live.