Gospel: John 16:12-15
1st Reading: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
2nd Reading: Romans 5:1-5
What a glorious account of the creation story, we hear in the reading from Proverbs this morning! We can look out the window and see what is being described—the mountains, the sky, the soil, the fountains. God created all this with Wisdom present. It wasn’t just a haphazard creation, but it was ordered. Everything had its place. Everything depended on everything else. Everything had its boundary and its purpose. The lines were clear.
In the Gospel of John, we find Jesus there at creation, too. “In the beginning was the word.” Did you know that in this case “word” is from the same root as the word “logic” showing the order in creation. “Word” partly means “promise” like when someone says “I give you my word” and it refers to Jesus. “And the word was with God. And the word was God.” This is Holy Trinity Sunday. The concept of the Trinity comes from the earliest Biblical stories. God the creator was there at the beginning, along with the word that God spoke as each part of creation came into being, Jesus, and Wisdom, as well making creation that is interdependent and balanced.
The Trinity can be very confusing. It doesn’t have easily distinguishable lines. I am not going to turn to the next sheet on this drawing pad and draw you the Trinity, because I don’t know how. I can draw a shamrock or three intersecting hoops, but those images barely scratch the surface of what the Trinity is. Humans have always wanted to explain their world and their experiences. We can draw creation, for the most part. But there are things in life we cannot explain well or draw well, and so we have mysterious words like “Trinity.” We have one God, who comes to us in so many different ways—in Creation, in our questioning and imaginative minds, in our moments of glory, and in times of great suffering. We have one God, who created us, is one of us, and who is always communicating with us. We have one God who is our Father, our Brother, and our best Advocate. We have one God who made us, walks with us, and sustains us. How do we explain the complex, relational, God and how God can appear to us in all these forms and perform all these functions for us and with us? We call it “Trinity.” It is a human word. It is imperfect to describe all that God is, yet that’s the word we use—the best we’ve got.
And really, we are starting to see that the universe is not so easily divided by lines of mountains and dirt and water. Something so simple as air—we can’t see it. But we are starting to understand that something that pollutes the air here can travel elsewhere and damage creation on the other side of the globe. I think of wildfires a few years ago in Idaho and even further away in Texas, and how our air quality suffered here, so that the sky was sooty and orange at certain times of the day. I think of our water quality and the question of whether coal trains from the middle of the country will dump enough coal dust along the way to affect people in our state, to pollute our water, not to mention what happens when that coal goes to China and is burned and we all suffer the consequences. Even this stream here on this picture I’ve drawn, brings parts of the mountain down with it. What is the mountain and what is the stream bed? It is all interconnected. Even strangers who sit next to each other on a park bench or a church pew will start to share similar brain waves. We have these lines and categories, and they are comforting, yet we all influence and have an affect on each other. Like the Trinity, we are more than can be drawn. There are layers and layers of complexity and interrelatedness that are just being discovered and remain mysterious.
When I was about 4 years old, I remember coloring with my mom. The lines in the book did not extend to the edge of the page, I remember, but my mom still colored to the edge of the page. Remember that 4-year-olds are very literal thinkers. To me, she had colored outside the lines. I was coloring a picture of two flowers. I remember that I, then, colored between the two flowers, to imitate my mom. She expressed her disappointment that I hadn’t stayed in the lines. I pointed out that neither had she. She probably had no idea what I was talking about.
Did you notice on our bulletin cover how someone has colored outside the lines, and yet it is really a beautiful picture? I think it shows that there is order in our world, boundaries, definitions that help us. And there are surprises, spontaneity, and beauty beyond staying in the lines.
Think of the Ten Commandments. Those are lines drawn for good order and for community. Then Jesus comes along and heals on the Sabbath. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it Holy.” He broke a commandment. He colored outside the lines. He pointed out that the lines are not what matters, but the spirit of the rules. The spirit was of love and balance. If the lines keep us from doing the loving thing, we must color outside them and create an even more beautiful picture of interrelationship and community.
But sometimes when you draw outside the lines it doesn’t end up being beautiful. That is what grace and forgiveness is for. We have hope, that even if our drawings are messy, our plans for doing the loving thing fail, our love rejected, and our lives full of suffering of our own doing or foist upon us—even those things cannot keep us from the love of God. That is so hopeful. We can keep trying to share the good news in ways that people can understand, going outside of what we know and have tried in the past, knowing a lot of the time it may not translate, but also knowing that we learn from every attempt, and that God’s grace and love will have the last word.
God drew all these lines in creation to help us navigate our way and to help us know God and be faithful. Over and over again God broke through those lines to help us. Again and again, God intervened to help God’s people find their way. The line between God and humans was a thick line. Yet, God spoke to Abraham and the prophets to help us remember to care for each other—that the lines between us might not be as strong as we imagined. Care for the stranger, because you were once strangers. Care for the orphan—that could have been you. Care for the hungry—it is in all our best interest. Free your servants—you were once servants in Egypt. Share what you have—your stuff only draws lines between you and others.
God colored outside the lines in a big way in Jesus. God broke the through the boundary between heaven and earth and became our brother. We found that we are the same. God is not so far away. God gets it. God is here. We both have feelings. We both suffer. We both enjoy life and partying. We know what it is like to disappoint our parents. We both have gifts to share and abilities to help our neighbor. We have connections that can never be severed. We are one with God and God with us and therefore we are one with our neighbor and God’s creation—everything is interconnected and has unity and relationship. In suffering, we are one. We know that God has not forsaken suffering, but embraced it and made new life out of it. That’s why we can have hope even when we are hurting. Even in death, we are one. Life continues and love continues.
Jesus says, “I have more to say to you. I will continue to communicate with you even after I am gone.” Jesus is breaking through that line again, coloring outside the lines. God is always speaking to us, revealing God’s-self to us in new ways, guiding us by the Holy Spirit to be more loving and generous. God is always revealing God’s self in creation, which we are learning our well-being is completely tied to, and learning not to draw dividing lines with.
Let’s color outside the lines! Let’s feed people who may not deserve it. Let’s be generous with people who are greedy and nice to people who are mean. Let’s yield the right of way to the angry driver, let the person with 30 items go through the express checkout line, and smile at the person who sings off key. Let’s walk more of the places we need to go and smell the flowers on the way there. Let’s be late for meetings because we are busy spending time with a child or an elderly person. Let’s lift our hands to God in prayer even if other people think we are weird. Coloring outside the lines is part of what it means to be a child of God. Let God’s messy colors brighten your world and show you things you never noticed before.