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Invited to Wonder

O Lord our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Like many of you, I studied poetry in school. I memorized lines of poetry verses, studied the different forms– the imagery, the rhymes and patterns, and tried to glean some meaning. But for much of my childhood and youth, poetry remained just that, a requirement that was set off from my daily life.

As a young parent, I found my way into poetry when I began praying the Psalms. Letting their patterns and rhythms fall across my heart I discovered that poetry touched a place in me that was out of reach of observations, rational discourse, and debate. Poetry opened and deepened me and made embraceable images and ideas that touched a new place every time I engaged with it. Each time a new word or phrase caused me to reflect and that reflection moved me beyond my current moment into a rich and welcoming space, I felt myself becoming more closely drawn into the love and wonder of God.

Today is Trinity Sunday. It is a day set aside for us to explore the mystery that the God we worship is, in fact, the Triune God, three persons in communion making one, a God of reciprocity and relationship, expansiveness and welcome, very much at work in our world creating, redeeming, sustaining, and still speaking. The God we worship is beyond our words and finite thoughts yet the language used in our scriptures is powerful and points to God whose breadth and depth creates a world where all can find home and food for the journey of life.

In our first reading today from the opening chapters of Genesis we hear of God bringing peace and beauty out of a void, creating the community of creation. This story has too often been claimed by those who want to lock it down in measureable and certifiable terms. But I believe that this story was never meant to be read as the “how” of creation—it is not science in the way we understand science—it is poetry—it is about the “why.” And even though time plays an important role in the telling of the story, the length of days described certainly do not correspond to our 24-hour clocks. What this story does is describe the wonders of God’s creativity, the beauty of the universe, and God’s imaginative artistry. God created this world for love.

1:1-5 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind, (or breath or spirit) from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

This poetry affirms the power and providence of the Living God who is constantly creating and bringing forth a universe of creative companions, including humans who made in the image of God have been graciously included as God’s partners to care for creation as God cares.

To listen to this reading from Genesis is to be struck by radical amazement time and again.  In these passages you hear a beautiful affirmation that this world is good and through God’s daily redeeming activity is continuously blessed and renewed. The poetry invites us to trust God. God’s power is ultimately defined as creative. It is power that gives life, that creates order out of chaos, bringing new life from death. It is power that is novel, a source of entirely new possibilities.  Through this poetry, God is seen as alive and as wondrously complex as is God’s creation.

One of the poets who invites us to dwell in these created spaces with thought and respect is Mary Oliver. Her mystical consideration of the world asks you to pause and notice God’s expansive and intimate presence everywhere:

Hummingbirds by Mary Oliver[1]

The female, and two chicks,

each no bigger than my thumb,

scattered,

shimmering

in their pale-green dresses;

then they rose, tiny fireworks,

into the leaves

and hovered;

then they sat down,

each one with dainty, charcoal feet –

each one on a slender branch –

and looked at me.

I had meant no harm,

I had simply

climbed the tree

for something to do

on a summer day,

not knowing they were there,

ready to burst the ledges

of their mossy nest

and to fly, for the first time,

in their sea-green helmets,

with brisk, metallic tails –

each tulled wing,

with every dollop of flight,

drawing a perfect wheel

across the air.

Then, with a series of jerks,

they paused in front of me

and, dark-eyed, stared –

as though I were a flower –

and then,

like three tosses of silvery water,

they were gone.

From the beginning of time, people have looked to the skies and found there both majesty and deep reverence. The composer of Psalm 8 sings of the wonders of God where even little children accept without question the truth that God made them for love. In awe the poet intones “consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, *the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,” and yet God notices and cares for the creatures.

5 What is man that you should be mindful of him? *

the son of man that you should seek him out?

6 You have made him but little lower than the angels; *
you adorn him with glory and honor;

7 You give him mastery over the works of your hands; *
you put all things under his feet:

Of course, women are included in this wonder, but language had and has its limitations. God seeks each of us and has adorns us with glory, honor, and essential work to do. In this poetry, we hear that God who created the ever-expanding universe and populated it with an innumerable range of diverse creatures, still comes close, still cares deeply about all that has been created, still entrusts worth and honor. We barely matter; our lives as persons are the flash of a butterfly wing in the context of a 14 billion year journey of the universe, yet we matter to God. Infinitesimal, we are yet of infinite worth to God whose task is gardening and beautifying, building up and restoring all to their intended dignity.

Looking to the skies, seeing the breaking light of dawn, or watching the blood orange sun sinking behind the mountains unleashing a glorious array of color, can bring into our focus the breathtaking presence of God. It can help to center our minds and hearts to remember the Source of love who sets the moon and the stars on their courses, yet knows and cares for each of us.

Wendell Berry, through his poem The Peace of Wild Things, shares where he finds peace in creation.

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.[2]

The readings from the Gospel according to Matthew and Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth are last words of love. They are instructions and blessings. Living together as God’s created ones, these followers of the way of Christ are to live in peace. These passages are early attempts to express the full presence of God. The blessing “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” does not represent three individual persons as separate beings. Instead they are united in spirit. Despite the grandeur and infinity of God, God is one in the spirit and one in Christ. One who was with God from the beginning of creation, is the One who took on our flesh and lived among us. This is the gift that also revealed the character of God as Parent to us. But even that was not enough. When the hour came for the Christ to leave human flesh and return to the Father, he gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Breath of God.

The Trinity is best understood when we recognize that the words we use to talk about God while serious, must be handled with litheness. We speak of what we can never fully understand. It is an attempt to express our experience of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, –Creator , Redeemer and Sustainer—Lover, Beloved, Loving. Poetry may be our way in. Poetry gives us the openness to find the way to speak words of radical amazement, awe and wonder, exquisite beauty and the vocation for which we were created– to love and create in the spirit of our God. Trinity Sunday is a day to celebrate God who is still creating, who speaks grace and mercy in diverse ways, whose creation and redemption embraces all creation, and who calls us to go beyond our limitations and restrictions to affirm the wonders of God’s creative love. May each of us find our way of encountering the grace of Christ, the love of God and communion with the Holy Spirit.

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,

then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,

go to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.

Flare up like a flame and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.

You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.[3]

[1] White Pine, 1994. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=38385

[2] Wendell Berry. “The Peace of Wild Things.” New Collected Poems. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press, 2012, 79.

[3] Rainer Maria Rilke. Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God.   Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. New York: Riverhead Books, 2005, 119.

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