On this Trinity Sunday, when we are invited to wrestle with the nature of God who is both three in one and one in three, we find God to be, well, everywhere.
In the psalm (29), we are reminded that God is the creator both of beauty and the beauty of holiness. Isaiah the prophet (6:1-8) says, “Holy is God, Lord of heaven and earth.” Paul’s letter to the Romans (8:12-17) calls followers of the Jesus way “heirs of Christ,” who is God in human form. Clearly, we’re on to something. But where is the Holy Spirit?
If we look again, we find that the Spirit is – everywhere. All over the place. Which is, in truth, entirely fitting for the Holy Spirit.
In 2008, in a seminar class, we were assigned a recent work of fiction by William Paul Young, a novel called The Shack.
In this novel, the protagonist, Mack, finds himself spending some time with all three persons of God. The Holy Spirit is to Mack a woman of Asian origin who sort of flits in and out and makes a beautiful garden of wildflowers that is also a fractal – it looks like a mess when you’re in the middle of it, but if you see it “from above,” it is beautiful and deliberate. God, from above, sees the beauty in the garden and the beauty in the people in the garden even when we ourselves do not.
God the Father, it turns out, is to Mack a maternal older woman of color who delights in all her creation, people, animals, plants and flowers, and sees all of the beauty in all of it. And so God the Mother is the Spirit – the Spirit of God that moved over the face of the waters. The Spirit that stirs life in everything.
And we meet Jesus the Son of God, a young man who is also God the Mother who loves everyone – and who at the same time is a craftsman who delights in the beauty and utility of all that he creates and who honors the wood that allows him to bring objects into being.
And Jesus, too, is the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of compassion, the Spirit of forgiveness, the Spirit of God’s love. And we are heirs with Jesus the Christ.
We are heirs with Christ of God’s craftsmanship, we are all beautiful and useful as we allow God to call forth all that is useful and beautiful within us to love and serve others. We are heirs with Christ of God the Son’s compassion, forgiveness, and love.
And we are also heirs with Christ of Nicodemus, the seeking spirit in today’s Gospel reading. Nicodemus will say, “I have a question; I don’t understand.” In a sense we are all Nicodemus, which also means that we are all Mack, our guy who spends some time with God.
Nicodemus, you will recall, is a leader of the Pharisees. These were typically the Jewish middle class, prominent in the lay leadership of the Temple. These were, you could say, the ones in charge of the yard sale. Nicodemus has heard about this itinerant rabbi, this Teacher. He wants to know more. So that he is like us, or we are like him: We wish to see Jesus, we want to know more. And yet. Nicodemus, as a Pharisee, has a reputation to protect. People will talk. He can’t just walk right up to Jesus in the marketplace in broad daylight.
So he comes to Jesus by night. As we all have hesitated on occasion. How openly do we display our faith in Christ? Do we go full fish magnet? Do we place a “Thank you, Jesus” sign in the yard? Do we… do we… do we dare to invite a friend to church?
You see, we are all Nicodemus. You and I might come to Jesus by night, skipping the yard sign, but we, like Nicodemus, do come to Jesus. I come, and you come, because we have to know the truth. We come because, like our character in The Shack, we have unresolved pain and we are hungry for some answers and even some relief.
And when Jesus gives an answer that only raises more questions – you must be born anothen, which can translate as “from above” or “another time,” or “again,” Nicodemus once more raises his hand. “I have a question; I don’t understand.”
As any good teacher, rather than just providing the answer, Jesus tries to help Nicodemus to encounter the truth that is already within him. ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’
And there’s that Spirit again, the Spirit of Pentecost, the Spirit of the Trinity, the Spirit that is God and is with God and is in God and the Spirit moving over the face of the waters in creation.
And with Nicodemus, and with our guy in The Shack, when we go looking for God in Three Persons, we find God – everywhere.
We find God the Creator everywhere we see beauty, which also means whenever we look at ourselves and one another – and we find there the Spirit of Creation.
We find God the Son every time we make use of the gifts that God the Creator calls out of us, and when we do – we find there the Spirit of Forgiveness and Compassion.
We find God the Spirit when we look about ourselves and all we can see is a hot mess – and we keep on going, we keep on wandering in the mess, trusting that God anothen, God from above, is seeing the beauty and the pattern and the plan even when we do not.
So when we go looking on this Trinity Sunday for the Three Persons of God, it turns out that they are – everywhere. Which means, of course, that there is God in you and in me. What we do with that – well, that’s up to us. And, of course, to the Spirit. Amen.