Every year when Trinity Sunday comes around, I find myself thinking about the first children’s sermon I ever gave. It was nearly 30 years ago when I was a field ed student during my first year of seminary. Long before I knew the impossibilities of theological math, I thought I had the perfect object lesson. You don’t need to read further to know that it didn’t go quite as well as I thought it would. Here’s what happened:
I found myself surrounded by a sea of small faces. All of them ready to hear my wisdom. I had a banana in my hands as we greeted each other. One of the children asked why I had a banana and it was all downhill after that. I peeled the banana and asked them how many bananas I had. They all agreed that I had one. I asked if they were sure, and they were. I carefully pressed my index finger into the top of the banana and it neatly separated into three equal parts. I asked if I still had one banana. Some thought yes and some thought no. I launched into explaining that all three parts were equal and had the same amount of “banananess” as the one banana had before I separated it. Little heads nodded.
I gave them all a piece of the banana to eat, explaining that they had to eat it because I am allergic to bananas. As they ate their banana pieces, I asked the fatal question: Tomorrow morning when you have bananas on your cornflakes, what are you going to think about? One, angelic little blond-haired, blue-eyed, dimpled innocent three-year-old said, “God is bananas!”
True story. You might imagine the laughter that erupted in the congregation after that. No matter how I have tried explaining the Trinity since then, it always seems to end with “God is bananas.” Yet, the power and mystery remain. The texts this week invite us to explore that mystery.
We can marvel at Isaiah’s readiness as he responded to the voice of God calling out. He was ready to go wherever God sent. Do we still answer God with the same certainty, “Here I am; send me”? Or have we stepped back from the prodding of the Spirit, waiting to see if we are really forgiven, waiting for someone braver to step into the breach?
The Psalmist pokes at any ambivalence with the compelling invitation to give God glory. How do we ascribe to God glory and power? Do we recognize the Spirit moving in the world today in a way the compels us to utter words glorifying God and giving humble thanks? Do we still believe that God will give strength and peace to the people of God?
In Romans Paul reminds us that we have been adopted. In Christ we are all heirs to the promises of God. What happens to one happens to all. Do we see ourselves as one in Christ? How do we live as the Body of Christ today so that we bear witness to the promises we’ve inherited? Would anyone looking at the church from a distance see an embodiment of God’s Holy Love?
If these texts aren’t enough to have us trembling in awe of the Mystery that is our God, the story of Nicodemus and his encounter with Jesus will push us further in that direction. Nicodemus wanted understanding, but it was just beyond his reach. Jesus offered him something, but it was more than he could hold. How true this is with us! Are we still reaching for that which is more than we can hold? Are we still acknowledging our yearning for more – more Love, more Relationship, more Hope? Will we partner with Nicodemus and grasp at words beyond our understanding just so we can inch a little closer to the Word?
So many questions this Trinity Sunday. Where is the Spirit leading you? Are you shaking your head and thinking the little cherub who proclaimed that “God is bananas!” understood more than you do in this moment? How will you present the theological math problem of the Trinity? Please join in the conversation so that we may share our wisdom (and our foolishness) with one another.
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at Beachtheology.com.
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