As we open our devotional time together on this Trinity Sunday 2022, we look to the diversity of all things and sing these words in praise of the Triune God:
“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty! All thy works shall praise thy name, in land and sky and sea. Holy, holy, holy, Merciful and Mighty! God in three persons, Blessed Trinity.”
The very essence of God the Trinity embodies diversity.
God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each distinct, yet also unified. “God in three persons” is one way of speaking about the several ways we experience God – God creates. God loves. God redeems. God sustains.
Our Triune God’s great love for us was present at the very moment of creation.
As the creation story unfolds before us through the Bible, on the sixth day God created humankind in the “image of God” with the absolute fullness of love.
The imago Dei is the Latin term for “image of God.”
The value of all humanity, without exception is permanently rooted here, as it affirms that all human beings have been made in the image and likeness of God.
Everyone – every culture, every diversity of race, ethnicity, language, ability.
The variety of human characteristics is intentional, as God indeed is diverse in His divine nature and character.
All people, without one exception, hold inherent dignity, value and self-worth.
In these days in which we find our “Christian” selves living, we are challenged in understanding, envisioning, what “inherent dignity, value and self-worth” look like beyond what our eyes see, our ears hear, our hearts and souls beat for.
The enormous diversity of world cultures means there is an enormously diverse understanding of what we are taught is, “inherent dignity, value, self-worth.”
Contemporary thought seems to greatly emphasize stress – cultural sensitivity.
Cultural sensitivity, also sometimes referred to as cross-cultural sensitivity or simply cultural awareness, is the knowledge, and awareness, and acceptance of other cultures and others’ cultural identities.
On the individual level, cultural sensitivity enables travelers and workers to successfully navigate a different culture with which they are interacting.
There is much we are trying to bear up to, to be as sensitive as possible with those we encounter. Except it is an enormous responsibility we fall short at.
There is too much to know and we cannot know everything there is to know about people, their backgrounds, their values, morals their life experiences.
There is much we can be taught here.
As followers of Christ, we are image bearers of God’s love in the world, called to uphold the inherent value, dignity and self-worth of all human beings through our words, actions, and prayer. Together, we who are the Body of Christ, affirm and constantly reaffirm the value, dignity, and self-worth of all human beings.
There is much Jesus tried to teach His Disciples as he walked this earth.
There are much which Jesus tries to teach us – but we cannot remember it all.
Neither can we see, taste, smell or listen to or hear it all.
We simply do not have the capacity to retain all the information available.
But we are each still, into this very day, at this exact and exacting moment, covenanted by God to bear with them and minister unto them all – Matthew 28:16-20
John 16:12-15 Amplified Bible
12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear [to hear] them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future]. 14 He will glorify and honor Me, because He (the Holy Spirit) will take from what is Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Because of this I said that He [the Spirit] will take from what is Mine and will reveal it to you.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
Jesus said to His disciples in the Upper Room, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear to hear them now.” (Verse 12)
When I hear Jesus talking about the unbearable things of life I want to run away.
But I can’t run away. It’s too late. There’s nowhere to go.
As painful as it is to remember and as difficult as it is to talk about, I understand what Jesus means when he says, “You cannot bear [to hear] them now.”
Every single one of us has thoughts and fears of the unbearable.
Every one of us has lived or maybe is living a reality that is more than we can handle, a reality that has left us wondering how or if you will get through it.
And somehow, we do.
Think about what you have already borne the brunt of that you never asked for, never wanted, if you had been told of it you would have said, “I can’t bear that.”
The unbearable is that which we do not wish for ourselves or our worst enemy.
It comes to us in the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage, the loss of a job, a diagnosis, or in a thousand other actual and perceived ways. It is the most painful experience we can ever imagine. It is that moment when all we can do is either call yell out God’s name or curse God’s name, and sometimes we do both.
So let me ask you this. What comes to mind when you think of the unbearable?
What are your experiences of the unbearable?
Most of us, I suspect, focus on circumstances of pain, loss, and suffering, circumstances that break our hearts, shatter our lives, and bring us to tears.
That is real. It is our experience of our bearing up to the unbearable but it’s not our only experience of trying to bear up to the unbearable with our own might.
There is an opposite aspect of the unbearable.
Think about a time when love, joy, or beauty was so real, so deep, so full that you could not hold it all.
It was more than your senses could bear, and tears poured forth, your heart was enlarged, and all you could say was, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
You stood in awe and utter amazement of what was happening and silently wondered, “Who am I that God would be mindful of me, that God would seek me out?” (Paraphrase of Psalm 8:5)
When has that been your experience of the unbearable?
In what ways have beauty, joy, or love been more than you could bear?
I remember a Wednesday afternoon when a newborn boy was placed in my hands.
He was no more than seven pounds I believe, but he might as well have weighed seven hundred pounds.
It was more than I could bear.
He wasn’t crying but I was.
As someone who has no children of my own, no experience as a father, let alone a soon to be grandfather, I would crumble under the “weight” of my grandson.
Holding myself to a promise I made a long time ago to remain a lifelong bachelor – to love myself better than anyone else I knew, there’s something about my wife’s love that is unbearable, and I mean that in the very best way!
She and her love are more than I can fathom and everything within me cries out “yes; yes” to her, yes to us, yes to God, all that we are and all that we might be.
This kind of unbearable reality is beyond our wildest dreams and imaginings.
It’s more than the greatest, biggest, and best wish for ourselves.
It leaves us in speechless gratitude.
It comes to us in the miracle of birth, a life filled with meaning, a love that is eternal, and in a thousand other ways.
Bearing the unbearable opens us to receiving a life we could never create for or give ourselves.
It shatters our fears, breaks through our defenses, and brings us to tears.
Bearing the unbearable in either aspect can open our heart.
It can make us vulnerable, real, and authentic.
It creates space for and invites intimacy.
That is the beginning of a new life.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the church thought more and more of God the Father and Jesus as sharing an identity, so much so they called them both by the name previously reserved for the Father, “Lord,” which just also happened to be the title given to the Roman Emperor Caesar.
Calling Jesus “Lord” in those times was a political act and could get you in considerable trouble and potentially become lion’s food in the Coliseum.
The church began to think of Jesus as God’s human representative. Or to put it another way, Jesus was the human face of God. God in person, we might say. In time the church developed the doctrine of the incarnation.
1 Corinthians 5:19 says, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.”
So, that helps understand the relationship between the Father and Jesus.
But what about the Holy Spirit, where does he come in?
Jesus had promised the disciples that after he left them, the Spirit would come to tell them all that they needed to know.
Our Gospel lesson from John today has Jesus telling them:
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
If we think of Jesus as God “in person,” the human face of God, then we might think of the Spirit as “God present.”
It is the Holy Spirit that makes Jesus our contemporary and not just an inspiring dead man from long ago.
It is God’s Spirit that allows us to know his presence and power now.
That means the Triune God we worship is still quite alive and still acting and speaking and not just a deity we “have heard reports about” from the past.
So, there’s a real sense in which we need to experience bearing the unbearable.
Here’s why I say that.
We tend to live unconscious lives.
We “sleepwalk” through our days missing life, love, beauty, and each other.
If there is a mortal sin it has to be unconscious living.
Bearing the unbearable can awaken us, offer insights into our life, teach us about ourselves, grow us up, and bring us more fully into ourselves.
Ultimately, though, it reveals the presence of God, the Father, Son, Spirit.
Those who stand in the paradox of bearing the unbearable are given ears to hear, eyes to see, hearts to love and souls to serve with.
I can’t help but wonder, what if God is never more present to us than when we bear the unbearable?
The death of a loved one. The loss of a job. The breakup of a marriage.
The loneliness that cripples. The diagnosis that turns life upside down.
The unfathomable catastrophe. The unfathomable love.
The beauty that leaves us speechless. The tears of joy. What if those things that ask more of us than we can handle and offer us more than we could ever have imagined are the very places in which God is most present and most real?
Bearing the unbearable places, humbles us on the threshold of our lives.
It takes us to the limits of who we are, what we have with God versus the world.
It’s the place where life in Father, Son, Holy Spirit is too real, too much, too big.
It’s also the place that calls us to be accountable to ourselves and our neighbors and calls us to be maximally accountable to God, the Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
I’m not talking about blame or guilt.
I’m talking about the accountability of “girding ourselves” and showing up.
When we stand at the edge of life, bearing the unbearable, something stunning and beautiful can happen.
We are standing at the opening “into all the truth.”
That’s a pretty big and bold statement.
But that’s exactly what Jesus says will happen.
The Spirit will guide us into all the truth.
The Spirit will declare, bring, and offer all that Jesus has and all that the Father has.
Nothing is withheld.
This Triune God is a God who still comes among his people in presence and power. This Triune God still speaks to us, and that is a good thing, too, because the way the world is continues to challenge us to hear what God would say to us.
The Bible is our authoritative text, but it is only the living God who can turn the dead letter into a live word to us (Isaiah 55:8-11). That puts upon the church the difficult responsibility of being a community of discernment and imagination.
We may not know it, understand it, or believe it but in the midst of unbearable reality we are being gracefully guided into all the truth we are able to bear up to.
When we bear the unbearable the Holy Trinity becomes a Holy Quaternity.
It’s not about only the three. Yes, there are the three but there is also a fourth.
You and I are the fourth.
How can we bear with that?
The Bible is a reliable guide for faith, because it tells us enough of who God is and what God does for us to discern what God says to us today. God has given us reason to think things through and a conscience to sort the good from the bad.
We have to listen carefully to what God might say to us in these days from what we do know.
And the Bible does tell us about many things.
It tells us about being Children of God, of mercy and forgiveness, about love and justice, about wealth and poverty, about faithfulness and discipleship too, and about stewardship and mission, about wisdom and folly, about life and death.
We can all bear the unbearable because God bears us up – every single moment!
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Psalm 121 Complete Jewish Bible
121 (0) A song of ascents:
(1) If I raise my eyes to the hills,
from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from Adonai,
the maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip —
your guardian is not asleep.
4 No, the guardian of Isra’el
never slumbers or sleeps.
5 Adonai is your guardian; at your right hand
Adonai provides you with shade —
6 the sun can’t strike you during the day
or even the moon at night.
7 Adonai will guard you against all harm;
he will guard your life.
8 Adonai will guard your coming and going
from now on and forever.
Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen