True Colors

A series of interconnected hearts held together by a cross in the colors of the progress Pride flag

Trinity A-23

Immanuel Lutheran, Chicago

June 4, 2023

True Colors

Last year, Brian Koch, Patrick Ormand, and Genevieve Hallas and I took turns holding up the Immanuel Lutheran sign while walking in the Chicago Gay Pride Parade.  We walked the full four miles with representatives of dozens of other faith communities who are part of the Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches.  One tangible result of that day is the colorful stole I’m wearing hand-knit by Patrick specifically for the Pride Parade. Sadly, we’ve seen a rising wave of hatred and discrimination targeting the LGBTQIA+ community across America in recent months. The message of Welcoming Chicago Churches, always important, seems especially urgent now.  Tragically, I will be out of town on Sunday June 25th and can’t walk with them this year. Perhaps you’ll think about walking with them this year.

So why is today the day for my new stole to come out from the closet? Well, today IS the beginning of Pride month. And what could be more appropriate for Trinity Sunday when we celebrate relationship with God who sees us, and knows us, and loves us, all the way down just as we are in all our splendid diversity?

I love this prayer from a United Methodist hymnal for Trinity Sunday: “God of Multiplicity, you move fluidly among us without concern for boxes, binaries, or the bounds of doctrine. Wild and free, you reveal yourself in an abundance of forms. May your Spirit come and help us to perceive. Amen.”

Almost immediately, people who encountered Jesus began to give him nicknames to signal to other people why he was special. Jesus of Nazareth became Jesus the Messiah—the anointed one, the savior, the Christ, the logos. Jesus was living water, the bread of life, the light of the world, the rock, a mother hen, the vine, and the good shepherd.  It took much longer, almost three hundred years, for Christians to realize that Jesus the Messiah did not make sense outside of his ongoing relationship with God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit. That’s when a new nickname emerged among people of faith for all three. The name stuck.

Trinity became the Church’s official nickname for God.  It’s the name in which we baptize.  The name in which we confess our faith.  The name which encapsulates a whole lot of scripture in a single word. Trinity suggests the deepest nature of Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit reflects the loving character of the One true God. Trinity tells me who God is.  Relationship with the three-in-one tells me who I am.

‘If God is triune, God’s character may be eternal and unchanging, but God’s lived self is fluid. God moves. God flows. God dances, and God is dance.  Why does this matter?  It matters because we are so prone to rigidity and stasis.  We don’t like change, and we are often reluctant to embrace what is new, what is unfamiliar, what is uncomfortable.  But if God’s nature is flow and movement and dance, then we must have courage to enter into that same flow, movement, and dance.  We must be willing to evolve.

Because God exists in three persons, then each person has his (or her) own way of embodying and expressing goodness, beauty, love, and righteousness. Goodness isn’t sameness.  If God can incarnate goodness through contrast and tension, then it’s worth asking why can’t we? Why do we fear differences in each other so much when difference lies at the very heart of God’s nature?

Trinity means God is communal. It’s one thing to say that God values community.  Or that God thinks community is good for us.  It’s altogether another to say that God is communal.  That God is relationship, intimacy, connection, and communion.  If God is interactive at God’s very heart — if Three is the deepest nature of the One — then what are we doing when we isolate ourselves from each other?

Trinity means that God is sacrificial love.  The Trinity at its heart is an expression of deep, unfaltering, and life-giving love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit into which you and I are invited. The relationship between the persons of the Godhead is not a relationship of domination, power-mongering, manipulation, or jealousy.  It is a relationship of unselfish, sacrificial love.  We are the children of a mysterious, fluid, diverse, communal, hospitable, and loving God who wants to guide us into the whole truth of who God is and who we are.’ (Debi Thomas, “The Undivided Trinity,” Journey with Jesus, 5/31/2020)

God sees you. God loves you. God calls you to honest, intimate relationship.  God calls you and equips you to be fully yourself. No boxes. No binaries. No stereotypes.  Just you.  Just us. Just all of us dwelling together in the shelter of the Lord to be the hands and feet and voice of Jesus for a suffering world.

“You with the sad eyes, don’t be discouraged. The darkness inside you can make you feel so small. Just call me up. I’ll always be there. I see your true colors shining through.  I see your true colors and that’s why I love you.” The gospel according to Cyndi Lauper echoes from Jesus’ last words to the disciples in today’s gospel—words they carried in their hearts and memories, passed down through the generations as the precious inheritance of all believers.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Our ancient siblings in faith grab us by the elbow and make us look at the world with new eyes. ‘See,’ they say—’God made light, the dome of the sky, the waters and the dry land, the sun, the stars, and the moon. The universe is not a collection of objects, but a communion of subjects (Thomas Berry). Nothing stands alone. Each living thing is different yet part of the whole.’ Be beautiful. Be you. Discover your true self in all your many colors. Become part of the dance of the Trinity.  Love somebody. Be compassionate. Be forgiving. Be kind. Be human. Be the body of Christ. Together, we do God’s work with our hands. Then we become a living sanctuary of hope and grace.