Today, my friends, we are asked to ponder a great mystery—who is God for us? The easy formula that we have always used in the past and into the present says well what we believe—that of the sign of the cross—where we say that we believe in Abba God, the Creator, in the name of the First-Born, or Son—Jesus, our Brother, and in the name of the Spirit, Sophia, in the Old or First Testament—the feminine face of God—three persons—All, one God. It is a mystery that we can only take on faith as it is beyond our scope to truly understand. I think what is easier for most of us to grasp, and where our energies should lie, is in the relational understanding of who God is for us, and of how God wants to be part of our lives.
The first reading from Deuteronomy finds Moses marveling to the people, now freed from Egypt, of how their God had worked so wonderfully in their lives and of the signs God had shown to bring them out of bondage. “Know this today, therefore, and take it into your hearts: Your God is God indeed, in heaven above and on earth below and there is no other.” And more than even the feats of strength, the power shown in the wonders of nature, was the fact that God had chosen them from all the nations, in their belief, a small, rather insignificant people to raise up and make them God’s own. We think of Psalm 8, used to preface the Gospel today: “When I behold your heavens, the work of your hands …who are we that you should be mindful of us?” How had they been so fortunate? Had they in fact done anything to deserve this kind of care? The answer of course for them and us was and is, often times, “No.” We too can share stories of how God was with us mightily in times of trouble and we certainly can echo St. Paul’s words—“I know the right thing to do, but I often choose otherwise.
But getting back to the fact of this insignificant people being chosen—we see as we follow the readings for today through to understand who our God is, that the choosing of us–of all people, does go on to the present—to each one of us–to our children and our children’s children. A literal read of this passage from Deuteronomy would tell us that our God is exclusive, choosing one group of people over another to the detriment of those not chosen, but we know in Jesus, that is not so—Jesus was about calling and choosing all of us.
So friends, we see in reading much of the First Testament texts that we need to look for the fulfillment of them in the Second—in the message of Jesus. In Jesus, we see that all, in effect, are chosen, are cherished, are loved and are wanted. One of Jesus’ last commands to his flock was that they would make disciples of all the nations—baptizing them in the name of the Three Persons, the Creator, the Savior and the Spirit—all comprising one God. And when we struggle to follow Jesus, we remember his most comforting line before physically departing the earth—“Know my friends that I am with you always, even until the end of the world.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I can do much in this world with that knowledge—that I am doing it with Jesus at my side. I can put up with the struggles, the misunderstandings at times to keep moving forward, to keep answering the call to love wherever and with whomever–as long as I know that God is with me! That gives me great hope!
Looking at the second reading from Paul to the Romans, we get a sense of how intimately we are connected to this Triune God. We are not subjects, nor slaves, we are children of God, heirs with Jesus, the Christ—the First-Born of God. And because we are heirs—Jesus is our Brother and Friend, not a Lord over us. You will remember that Jesus called the disciples his friends in his priestly prayer before he died. And again, that is why I always call you friends when I address you—I see myself as your equal—not as one above you, as seems to be have been the trend in recent years in the patriarchal church, bent on returning to pre-Vatican II times. But now, with Francis; we are seeing a turn once again, forward a bit, to a Church on more equal footing. I say, “a bit” because Francis hasn’t yet been enlightened on women.
God, the Creator, is our loving parent, the term—“Abba,” means that. The Spirit is the spirit of Jesus. I once learned as a child that the love of God the Creator for the First-Born, Jesus, was so great that it caused a third entity—and that is the Spirit. That always made sense to me. Most of us can wrap our minds and hearts around that—which is the model for procreation—the love between two is so great that a third entity is born. This is in the very best sense of course, because we know that procreation happens that does not include true love and self-giving but only passion and power-over. Both love and passion are necessary to give birth to more love in our world—a love that will nurture created life, in the model of our loving God for each of us.
This aspect, that love and passion are necessary “to give birth to more love in our world” has been very much part of the defense, if you will, for sanctioning the love relationships of gay and lesbian couples. “Love is love is love,” as my friend and songwriter, Paul Alexander has so aptly said. Wherever there is love, there is God, our brother Jesus has said, so why would we not want to uplift that? The Church hierarchy’s defense against love that seems to not follow the rules has been that such actions will be “confusing” to the people. I believe the only confusing actions are in fact when we do anything that is against love—using love as a measure always trumps the law.
On this Trinity Sunday, a word about terminology for God—this is something I have shared with you before, but it bears repeating. We know from Scriptures that the Spirit is continually renewing the face of the earth and so our understanding of God must grow too. If you listen carefully to me, you will realize that I seldom address God as Father, Son and a Spirit that is male, exclusively. I do this primarily because God is bigger and more than, as theologian, Sandra Schneiders, says, “Two men and a bird.” I do it as well to help women, myself included, and men, realize that female flesh does image our God too. If God is bigger than two men and a bird—if God is mother, father, sister, brother, friend—women and men will begin to see God in the feminine face and not primarily in the masculine face alone. If women are given the privilege along with their brothers to serve at the altars of our churches—women will begin to recognize God in their experiences as men do in theirs. And friends, this is our goal—to see God through our lives, on this earth, because after all, our eternity will be with God; best to get acquainted now with who God really is!
Speaking of ordination for women, I recall the words of a priest friend back some 15 years ago who when we were discussing this possibility and he very matter-a-factly said to me, “Well Kathy, no one has a right to ordination.” I looked at my friend and said as lovingly as I could, “Well you have much more of a right than me simply by the nature of how you happened to have been born!” Something doesn’t ring true about a mindset of exclusivity when we are considering a God in Jesus who came to let us know of his Abba’s over-the-top love for each of us.
This reminds me of the present-day prophet, Joan Chittister who is fond of saying and I paraphrase: Our God who is all powerful, all wonderful, has all strength and wisdom, can move mountains, is simply undone when it comes to women! Friends, the inability to see the image of Jesus in women is a mindset, pure and simple and is not of love, and certainly is not of God.
In respect for our history and where we have come from, it is good to remember, if we could ever forget, that we grew out of a patriarchal society where some gods were seen as “fathers” because these ancient people considered human fathers to be the source of life, loving protectors and attentive guides. In these patriarchal societies only a male child could be an heir.
This would explain the importance given through time to sons. Now, let us underscore—“ancient” times in this consideration. We now live in modern times and to hold onto a theology where God’s face is only revealed in male form and experience is to denigrate half of God’s human creation. It is holding onto these ancient ideas that justifies to this day, women being paid less than men in many professions for comparable work. The fact that men are considered better than women and of more importance justifies then, using and abusing them in society and in our homes.
Even the example of my priest friend who over the years was always very supportive of me as a woman in chaplaincy, stopped short of being able to see me as a priest. He and others, trained so well, could not imagine women totally imaging Jesus our brother at the altar.
A Church that does not look equally on all of its congregants and see what our loving God sees in each one, what Jesus saw, is at least, not worthy of the term “human” and at most, should not be touting the label of “Christian.” Our Churches that operate out of a patriarchal mindset where men are seen as better than women do in effect encourage abuse of women in our society. This too my friends is why I lay such importance on the language that we use for people and for God—those with the language are those with the power. Our Churches should be modeling for society the good, the best we can be as persons, not the status quo or what is most convenient.
Within our Christian churches we should be able to see the face of Jesus, who continually saves—recognize the work of on-going creation and the renewal of the Spirit that is ever calling us to be more—to move ever closer to God as we move ever closer in relationship, understanding and appreciation of each and every person. The Triune God, my friends is a mystery—a wonder and a reality. Let us pray today to be ever more cognizant of how our God has loved us from creation onward until now and wants and expects us to love our world and its people in the same way.