Texts: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15
If you like your days to be well planned out, to know how things will unfold with reliability, then this…is not your day. If you always follow a recipe without deviating or experimenting, this…is not your day. If you like maps more than puzzles, this…is not your day.
Today is a day for letting loose of everything known, everything certain, everything settled. It is a day for puzzling, imagining, and wondering. Welcome to this day of celebrating God in three persons: aka, the Holy Trinity.
There’s a greeting card that features a background of a fenced yard with an unlatched gate. In the foreground is a dog leaping joyfully into the air. The caption reads: “party like someone left the gate open”. Trinity is a day of celebration! Because we should all be very glad that God is not contained within any fences of theology or creeds.
But wait! Aren’t the church’s creeds the most reliable and accurate explanations of God’s threefold nature that we possess? Isn’t it a requirement to say the Nicene Creed (or even the Athanasian Creed) on every High Holy Day in the church year, and especially on Trinity Sunday? Actually, no, and no.
The creeds are a point of reference for Christians. But they are not required in our worship. They’re not scripture. Nor do they absolutely define God. They are more like prayers of declaration. After all, we often say “amen” at the end. And in these prayers we are saying, God, we have known you in these ways, and yes, we do believe in you.
Our creeds are the product of centuries of struggle in the church. From the beginning there were thoughtful and passionate discussions about God, the Spirit, and Jesus. But when the conversations began to become divisive, people looked for a way forward to preserve their unity in faith. And so early Christians came together and hammered out some core agreements.
Creeds exist in the realm of “this is our best thinking on God”. And the discussion is not over! The Rome-centered Church of the West and the Orthodox Church of the East disagreed over the wording of the Nicene Creed from the beginning and still say it differently. And there are plenty of churches that do not endorse any historic creeds at all.
Somehow along the way, we’ve lost our appreciation of the purpose of the creeds. They should not be the end of all our conversations about God. They are only the beginning. We too can do what those very first Christians did – bring our own experience and understanding of God into every exploration and declaration about our faith, our lives, and this wide world. The Trinity celebration is better for us doing so.
Every book in the bible is a kind of creed written from personal experience and understanding of God. We find it in the book of Proverbs - a gorgeous, lyrical tribute to God in a song of Creation. It’s a creed, but not at all like the ones we know.
The writer of this book introduces us to Wisdom, inviting us to expand our image of God beyond the ordinary boxes into which God is often placed. Wisdom is God’s joyful companion and co-worker. Wisdom calls out, urging people to listen to her as she tells us about God.
Wisdom moves in creation, endlessly dancing with God. God delights in Wisdom, and Wisdom delights in us, God’s creatures. Wisdom is a constantly moving muse with an irresistible beat.
If Proverbs is a song, then in the letter to the Romans Paul brings a passionate cry of faith to the party. His faith had always been strong, though far more confidently intellectual than warmly personal. He was full of conviction in his belief. Then Jesus appeared to him in a vision.
Paul’s eyes were temporarily blinded while his mind was torn open. Faced with the full force of God’s grace, Paul felt simultaneously convicted and set free. All of Paul’s letters carry his sense of wonder, relief, and joy at encountering the risen Jesus. As a person who saw the bright light, he wanted nothing more than to return to that light and remain there forever.
Romans 5:1-5 is Paul’s cry of faith - it is his creed. Paul confesses that God is so, SO, everything we need. Even when we don’t know what we need. God comes in grace by way of Jesus, offering forgiveness and restoration to life. We can be confident that God is with us always. And though we may face ugly, even horrific things in our lives, the Holy Spirit can form our response to everything through the love of God that fills our hearts.
The ways that we encounter, experience, and describe God are endless. In John’s gospel Jesus made a promise to the disciples saying: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, it will guide you into all the truth…” This is where all the creeds of our Christian faith begin - in active listening to God.
Jesus continues to be revealed. God is still teaching us. The Spirit moves freely within us, among us, and through us. There are still creeds to be brought to the Trinity celebration, like this song:
Come O God of all the earth: Come to us O Righteous One;
Come and bring our love to birth: In the glory of your Son.
Refrain: Sing out, earth and skies! Sing of the God who loves you!
Raise your joyful cries! Dance to the life around you!
Come O God of wind and flame: fill the earth with righteousness;
Teach us all to sing your name: May our lives your love confess. Refrain
Come O God of flashing light: Twinkling star and burning sun;
God of day and God of night: In your light we all are one. Refrain
Come O God of snow and rain: shower down upon the earth;
Come O God of joy and pain: God of sorrow, God of mirth. Refrain
Come O Justice, Come O Peace: Come and shape our hearts anew;
Come and make oppression cease: bring us all to life in you. Refrain
The Rev. Beth Purdum Eden is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. She has served in more than 6 parishes in the Western United States for 30 years.