The Flow of Trinitarian Life
Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, January 15, 2017
Reading is one of the great joys of my life as most of you know. I do not usually read for pleasure, but for learning and for personal growth. I read and study to improve as a person and sharpen my skills as a priest. Learning and growing is a sign of life. If we are not growing and learning and changing, then we are not truly alive. As an example, the Orthodox conception of the afterlife is not static and unchanging. "God will always be teaching and we will always be learning," is how some have put it.
I want to recommend a book to you this morning. I have been quoting from it in sermons recently and in my daily texts. It is called THE DIVINE DANCE by Richard Rohr, a wise and wonderful Franciscan priest who captures in this book the heart and essence of Christian spirituality. How? By talking about the very heart of our faith, the mystery of all mysteries, the doctrine that has been largely ignored, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
The Trinity appears to be an impenetrable mystery. Nevertheless, we are called to enter it consciously, with boldness and humility. I like what Rohr says about that. He says that mystery is not something we cannot understand, but rather something that we can endlessly understand and we can never, ever, ever get to the place where we can say, "At last I've got this!" Mystery cannot be "gotten." It is we who are "gotten" by mystery.
The Ten Lepers in today's Gospel reading are "gotten" by the mystery of the Trinity. They are immersed in it. They are healed in it and by it. The lepers who do not give thanks are healed just as the one who does. The Samaritan among them is healed as well as the others and is made the hero of the story for, as St. James tells us, "God is no respected of persons." The Trinity is an equal opportunity Lover.
The Trinitarian God embraces all. Everyone and everything. God excludes no one. It is we who exclude, we who create borders, we who are small-minded, not God. God is connected with all of life and everyone and everything is connected to him. The love that continually flows between the Father, Son and Spirit is life itself and when we flow with and in it, then we become more and more like God and more and more true to our God-given nature.
When we allow ourselves to flow in his life and allow his life to flow in us, we become holy. When we choose to celebrate the beauty of life and all its interconnections we are choosing to embrace the call of God to enter his life and to love without limits.
I must tell you an experience Carol and I had yesterday.
We took Uber to and from a concert at Symphony Hall. Our first driver was a Syrian man, a Muslim named Omar and in no time at all we connected with him and he with us. Love just started to flow when we reached out and he responded. We discovered that he worked for Uber only on weekends in order to make money to send to suffering people in Syria. What a beautiful ride we had! What an amazing connection we made with this man who had been a total stranger! Before. We opened our hearts to him and he opened his to us.
Our second driver was a kind, quiet and gentle man, from Morocco, also a Muslim by the name of Marwan. Another invitation to participate in God. Again, we connected, laughing and talking together like old friends. Celtic music played softly on his radio and he spoke to me of his love of bagpipes. Unexpected, right? When he dropped us off he insisted on getting out and opening Carol's door against our protests. He replied with a huge smile, "Please allow me to do a kindness for you." Another connection! Thanks Uber!
Making connections is easy, it is holy, it is what God is doing and has always done. It is what we are invited to do. The Trinity invites us to "beat our swords into plowshares" and enter into his life, the divine perichoresis, the Divine dance. It is our choice, of course.
The Trinity leaves no one out. God in Trinity is not a singular, remote deity sitting on some throne just outside the created order giving grace only to a chosen few, only to those who are like us. It is a God-in-communion who permeates, enlivens and sustains all things, all the time. The Holy Trinity is perpetual community, three Persons in love, sharing and giving and receiving not only among themselves, but with all things. Creation would not, could not exist if God were not flowing through it always and everywhere. Neither could your friends. Neither could your enemies.
In todays Gospel, Jesus is the immediate agent of the healing of the Ten, but, remember, he always acts in concert with the Father and the Spirit. He does what he sees the Father doing and says what he hears the Father saying. The Holy Spirit descended on him in the Jordan and rested on him for all time and for all to see as he came up out of the water. All Three, all One, all distinct and yet not divided working together, loving together, dancing together. Epiphany gives us a striking picture of the inner-trinitarian life.
I greeted both our Muslim drivers out of deep respect with, "A salaam aleicum." Connection is easy if you want to do it. Connection. Flow. Respect. Love. And every time we choose to make a connection it is the energy of the Holy Trinity that is being manifest. You see, sin is anything that stops the flow and holiness is allowing the flow to happen and we get to choose whether or not to let it happen. We can always choose, if we only will, to do God's will and let his love flow through us. Where there is flow, there is God.
The love of God was flowing when the Ten were healed and even though only one returned to give thanks the whole bunch of them remained healed. God makes the sun to shine on the good and bad alike, or, in this case, on the grateful and ungrateful. The energy of God is always flowing even in the dark. Maybe even especially in the dark and we are invited by God to join in and partake of the never-ending joy that characterizes the inner life of the Holy Trinity.
This is Orthodox spirituality. All inclusive, all compassion, all communion, a celebration of inter-connectivity. In the goood and the bad, in the dark and in the light, in pleasure and in pain. Trinitarian spirituality opens doors and breaks down walls. After the Resurrection Jesus was able to pass through closed doors and through walls, was he not? A person living a truly Christian life never let's a door or a wall get in the way. We have been given the same power to break down doors and walk through walls and that power the Holy Scriptures calls "love." It is the power of God.