Winton Boyd’s Homily from June 12, 2022

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Trinity Sunday 

June 12, 2022

Winton Boyd 

Holy Wisdom Monastery Sunday Assembly 

I am grateful for the chance to offer a homily today.  For all of my 23 years in Madison I have been encouraged and inspired by the ministry of Holy Wisdom.   Through retreats, events, projects and hospitality of quiet and beautiful space, this place, you sisters and the mission of this community of communities has been deeply encouraging.

It is a bit unnerving to have this theme of the Holy Trinity and this text on Lady Wisdom from Proverbs on my first Sunday.   Maybe not as daunting as preaching about Benedict to a group of Benedictines, but close:)     Having grown up in the Christian tradition, the Trinity has always been a part of my faith language.  I’m not sure I’ve ever fully understood the concept, but I welcomed it as accepted tradition.  However, I learned early in ministry that exploring the nature and function of the Trinity can be tricky.  When I baptized a child without using the traditional language of “Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” my senior pastor got push back from traditional members.  When a colleague of mine preached on Lady Wisdom as the feminine face of God, some in my liberal UCC church wondered why they’d never heard of her before.  These experiences  represent, for me, an effort, not to deny the Trinity, but to focus rather on expanding the ways in which we talk about the Holy.  To focus on how we express, as I said in that baptism, “the Creator, who loves us with a love that will not let us go.”  

In seminary I read all about the various councils and their arguments regarding the nature of God, and thus the Trinity.  Serious enough fights that people were literally killed, exiled, and banished.  Try as they might, however, the “winners” of those arguments never put aside the many different experiences of the Holy in the lives of those who follow Jesus.  

We have so many ways of expressing who the holy is in our lives because our experience is fundamentally greater than the words we use.  All theological language is limited and inadequate.  Important, but never fully accurate.  Did you see that phrase from Robert Capon in this week’s email from Sister Lynne, ‘when a bunch of human beings try to describe God we are like a bunch of oysters trying to describe a ballerina!’ 

It seems we are called to be both curious and humble, asking “how does my understanding of God help me live my faith?”  Around our dinner table with thirty something adult children, the simple question is whether the Christian faith we profess is inclusive or exclusive?  Are we generous in our understanding of God’s love for all people, or are we narrow minded, petty, doctrinaire; ultimately deciding for ourselves who is worthy of God’s love and who isn’t? 

The texts for today themselves reveal a host of images, names, and understandings of the holy.  Separated by both time and culture, they reveal an evolving and multifaceted experience of Spirit.  

In Proverbs, we read of Lady Wisdom who was there at the beginning of creation; claims she was there when God established the heavens and was both beside God and was daily God’s delight.  

In Romans we hear of the peace with God that comes through Jesus Christ; the access to God that comes through Jesus and God’s love poured through the Holy Spirit.  

In John we read of Jesus and the Spirit of Truth that is coming; a Spirit that will glorify Jesus and of God the Father/Mother/Parent who lives on as Spirit in us. 

We read these or similar texts each year in order to pause to ponder this mystery of God’s presence in our lives.  

Richard Rohr in his book on the Trinity, The Divine Dance, writes that God is the “space between things.” God is everything and everyone, and we should look at the Trinity as participants in a circle dance where there is no leader, no head, but all participants are fully engaged and fully equal. And the good news is that God has made us to join them in this divine dance – a dance of love.”

(The Divine Dance:  The Trinity and Your Transformation, by Richard Rohr with Micheal Morrell, Whitaker House, 10/16)

The ‘space between things’ is not static but is ever changing and evolving.  Even a cursory look at Jesus’ life would suggest the holy space between Jesus and ‘his father’ varied from moment to moment.  Rooted in love, but sometimes tinged with confusion, joy, anger, or mystery.  Maybe Jesus’  most valuable gift was the way he invited others into that holy space with him.  Listen to me, sit with me, pray with me, fast with me, love with me, forgive with me.  It is in these in-between spaces that you will know the love of God.

When I was growing up, my parents were in a monthly square dance group and once a year they hosted the dancing on our driveway.  All 8 of us kids became quite adept at do-si-do-ing and promenading.  It was fun, and we laughed a lot and met a lot of fascinating people in the process.  And square dancing  had a set structure.   Once you learned the steps, you could relax.  But if you started going off script, you’d throw off the entire group of 4 couples.  

Contrast that with a wedding our daughter attended earlier this year.  She celebrated her birthday while attending the wedding of a high school friend.  The bride and groom met and fell in love salsa dancing.  At some point during the reception our daughter, the birthday girl, was placed in the middle of a “salsa circle.”  As the music shifted, dancers on the outside of the circle all took turns coming to the center to greet her and spin with her in and around the circle.  It didn’t matter that our daughter doesn’t know the salsa.  Each of the others did.  But, like many other dance styles, there was a lot of room for improvisation.  The coming and going, the spinning and dipping, the laughing and clapping were all centered around a basic structure but had a delightful expression of freedom and interpretation.  Salsa is not the only dance form with this  interplay of defined form and improvisation.  

If our relationship with the fullness of God is a divine dance – I suspect it is a dance that revolves around both structure and improvisation.   

I suspect our collective experience of the holy is wide and varied.   In this generous version of Christinity we practice, we value the structure.  Maybe the doctrines we learned, maybe the psalms we’ve sung, or maybe the prayers we’ve recited in rituals.  We value how they have helped shape the Christian faith we profess over centuries in cultures the world over.  But we also value “the space between things” – the improv and interpretative experience we’ve had of Divine Love.   

It has been my experience as a pastor that if you ask people their lived experience of the Holy, ALMOST EVERYONE has their own, powerful and improvisational experience.  A sense of Divine presence while walking a mountain trail, the power of love in a moment of deep crisis, an appearance of a being that maybe only came once, but whose impact has never left.  More telling, however, is that many in the church don’t talk about these experiences because they feel a little too ‘out of the norm.’  A little too free form for the square dance of faith they’ve learned.  A little too much council decree and not enough loving embrace. .  

What our texts remind us is that the God of many Names  has been present with people of faith forever, and in an amazing number of forms.  In the midst of creation, and also right now.  In our times of suffering and our times of hope.  Strengthening people of faith for the work of compassion in every age.  

I’m reminded of a lovely song by Carrie Newcomer in which she tries to capture the mystery of this divine dance with the Spirit without ever mentioning the name God.  

I do not know it’s name

Though it’s ever intertwining,

And I do not know it’s name

No matter how I try

I do not know it’s name

Elusive and subtle,

If holy is a sphere that cannot be rendered,

There is no middle place because all of it is center.

(I Do Not Know It’s Name, Carrie Newcomer; Kindred Spirits: A Collection ℗ 2010 Rounder Records Manufactured and distributed by Concord Music Group)

While she does not know its name, she does speak of experiencing this divine mystery in the space between her and writing instructor; the space between her and the singing shuttle bus driver; or the space between her and a friend as they eat peaches from a roadside stand  in mid summer.  As she sings, she invites us to remember the many and varied ways we have experienced holy love.  

In the words of hymn writer Brian Wren, may we bring many names as we follow the one never fully known,

joyful darkness far beyond our seeing, closer yet than breathing, everlasting home. (Words © 1989 Hope Publishing Company, 380 S Main Pl, Carol Stream, IL 60188)

Amen 

By whatever name you know and name the Holy, let us be together in prayer.  

Holy and Graceful One, we give thanks for this community and all the faith communities, formal and informal, that have taught us both the structure of our faith, and the possibility found in new ways of living and thinking.  During this Pride Month, we give thanks for all who have helped be our most loving and welcoming selves, in service of compassion for all.  

Loving God, hear our prayer 

Strong Mother God, In those days when the personal confusion and the social pain of the world overwhelm us, when our response feels inadequate, when we edge toward the cliffs of despair, send your Spirit to guide us.  

Loving God, hear our prayer  

Wisdom among us, we are mindful  that thousands  of your people are refugees today – people on a journey not of their choice, often filled with violence, hunger, hatred, and waiting.  We pray for those at war in lands too many to name.  We pray for the peacemakers, decision makers, healers and rebuilders in all nations and communities.  

Loving God, hear our prayer 

Warm Father God, In this season of growth, lengthening light and outdoor grace, we claim the hope of Easter and Pentecost, the power of love to guide us and the joy that rises above despair.  

Loving God, hear our prayer 

Great Living God, as a people who come together because we believe in community and in prayer, we now mention aloud the people and concerns we wish to pray for today.  

For these prayers, for the prayers listed in our book of intentions, and those we hold silently in the sanctuary of our hearts, we pray

Loving God, hear our prayer 

God of Many Names, never fully known, we bring these prayers in hope and trust.  Continue to show us loving and empowering grace in our lives and in the world, through Jesus the Christ we pray. 

Amen.  

Respecting one another’s personal preferences, let us offer one another a sign of peace.  

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