Just and loving God, we join in prayer on this Memorial Day Trinity Sunday, paying tribute to all those who have lost their lives in war and other conflict and division, and uniting in prayer that we may see your image in all our human family and work for a just and enduring peace in our troubled world. Amen
The Voice of God
It’s unusual for Trinity Sunday and Memorial Day fall on the same day. Trinity Sunday’s date depends on where Easter Sunday falls in the calendar. Memorial Day was established specifically on May 30th by a joint resolution of Congress and a presidential proclamation as a national day of prayer remembering the sacrifice of our servicemen and women and lifting up our connection to each other as human beings. While the celebration of Trinity Sunday and Memorial Day together today may seem like a coincidence on the calendar, it’s also an opportunity to highlight some important connections. Trinity Sunday is the day we remember the mysterious relationship among the three persons of God, also referred to as the Holy Trinity — our mysterious one in three/three in one God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. The holy and undivided Trinity.
Our God is a relational God. God’s own three-personed self models relationship and interconnection for us. We can feel this truth even more personally after our pandemic experience. The antidote to the loneliness of our physical isolation was connection to our community by whatever means possible — Zoom, FaceTime, telephone, or outdoor worship, even as the weather cooled and we had to bundle up.
British journalist Johann Hari says this succinctly. After reviewing available research into the underlying causes of addiction, Hari concluded that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection. This thinking applies to most kinds of tears in our social fabric, whether political, ethnic, economic, racial, or religious. When we feel connected, and recognize our interdependence, we’re more likely to think of the good of the whole, rather than promoting — or even fighting for — our own personal best interest.
How do we connect and recognize our interdependence? We hear the voice of God in others. Each of us in our human family bears the image of God. That’s harder to see when people look different from us, have different cultural, religious, or political structures, or have different economic or political access and freedom. We can see this as we honor the sacrifice of all our servicemen and women who have given their lives fighting for freedom and enduring peace.
Sadly, we can also see this in our own country, as we remember the wars fought against Native American Peoples to claim their land for American colonial interests — as well as racial, ethnic, political, and religious violence and conflict on our soil that have persisted from the time colonists landed on North American shores. These events are tears in the social fabric of the human family. The antidote to these rifts is connection. We find connection through the voice of God. We know that each of us is made in God’s image — no matter how we look, where we live, or what we have. And God’s own Word, Jesus, tells us that we see God in the eyes of the stranger.
A Powerful Voice
As the psalmist says, the voice of God is a powerful voice. God’s voice thunders; God’s voice is a voice of splendor. God’s voice breaks the cedar trees of Lebanon, makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox. God’s voice splits the flames of fire, shakes the wilderness of Kadesh, makes the oak trees writhe, and strips the forests bare.
A voice that can make the whole city of Lebanon skip like a calf, and Mount Hermon skip like a young wild ox is no small thing. God’s voice is powerful, and we must be powerful in our commitment to God’s Word. That’s how important, and how hard we have to try, to recognize and support our relational, three-personed God by staying in relationship with each other.
Think of Nicodemus. We know from John’s gospel that Nicodemus is a rabbi and a Pharisee — the very learned Jewish sect during Jesus’ time that knew, observed, and taught the law. Nicodemus was also a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council and tribunal of judges that decided matters of law and took appeals from lower courts. Nicodemus risked his power and position — possibly even his life — to see Jesus at night, probably because he was afraid of being seen and stopped. Nicodemus responds to God’s voice as the Prophet Isaiah responded in today’s reading. When the voice of the Lord says, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Nicodemus says, “Here am I; send me!
How do we hear God’s Voice?
How do we hear God’s voice as the Prophet Isaiah and Nicodemus did — to connect with those who are different from us, to see their experience, and wellbeing, as our own? How do we listen to God’s powerful voice to see our world as wholly — and holy — relational?
One of my favorite books to read to our kids — and later to the EDS children — is Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, about the LA riots following Rodney King’s beating at the hands of police. A young African American boy, Daniel, narrates the riots that unfold in the streets below. He sees looting and other conflict among the Korean, Latino, African American, and other ethnic groups in the neighborhood, and everyone ultimately has to evacuate and go to a shelter to escape the fires. In the process, Daniel’s cat, Jasmine, is lost.
The Gospel moment in this important contemporary parable is when the fireman who evacuated Daniel and his mother the night before shows up with both Jasmine, Daniel’s cat, and the cat of the woman who operates the Korean grocery in the building. Daniel and his mother didn’t shop at Mrs. Kim’s store because they shopped with their own people, Mom said. And the two cats have also had a history of disagreement — hissing and spitting, as cats — and people — sometimes do. As Daniel and his mother sit with Mrs. Kim, watching the two cats drink milk out of the same bowl, Daniel’s mother says Look at that! I thought they didn’t like each other! They probably didn’t know each other before, Daniel explains to her. Now they do.
Our God is a relational God. When the voice of the Lord says, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Let us say, “Here am I; send me! Amen