I feel like a seven-year-old child. I feel I’m like with my family in the family car, and we’ve made a road trip to California and we’re on the way home. It’s late in the afternoon and I’m tired and bored and cranky. I share the back seat with my siblings who are asleep. This is a good thing, I suppose, because if they weren’t one of us would pick a fight I’d get blamed for starting it and my parents would yell. So I keep asking my parents, “Are we there yet? How long is it going to take? I don’t want to be in this old car anymore.” And then we have to slow down for traffic construction, which is so loud and noisy I can’t even think, and we have to drive really slow because the driving is so very treacherous.
I like Trinity Sunday because I think of it as an opportunity, not to explicate a complicated and cerebral concept of God, but because I think of the Trinity as a way to play with ideas of God as a God of relationships always in motion and making things new. The notion of the Trinity itself has taken two thousand years to develop as we recognized that the God of creation who spoke through the prophets, announcing a word of justice for all people, and then came to us in the person of Jesus who died doing God’s will and whom God raised from the dead and is with us still. Good and well, eh?
God is the God who makes all things new. But with this Covoid-19 pandemic, I find myself wondering, what is God doing? And then, to add to that we are hit with the messiness of the protests following the horrific murders of George Floyd and how many others at the hands of the police? This makes child’s play out of the bumpiness of the car going through road construction on the way home. And the truth is, we don’t even know what home will look like when we finally get “there”.
I’ve been spending a lot of time during these weeks of “Shelter in Place” listening to Podcasts. One of them is the “Ezra Klein Show”. A few days ago I heard him interview Ta-Nehisi Coates, an African American who writes compellingly about race relations in the United States. In this podcast he said that, noisy as they are, the protests of 2020 give him more hope than those of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, or the Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles of the 1992, because more people of greater diversity are expressing common outrage by protesting: the current protests have a far more inclusive make-up. Yesterday I listened to his interview with Rutger Bregman, a Dutch popular historian, who finds the human race an increasingly more positive force. Neither of these men confess Christian faith: but Bregman’s parents were Christian pastors, and he says, “I listened to a lot of thinkers who have complained that religion is a bad influence in the world: but I looked at my parents and I had to say, their Christianity was not a negative influence on them!” And he goes on to point out that “Jesus saying, ‘Love your enemies!’ is really quite a radical, counter-cultural statement.” He does have a concern, however: the environmental crisis means that we don’t have much time to figure out all the radical implications of “love your enemies.” As for the corona-virus: we don’t know what the world after the pandemic will look like, but every once in a while I hear someone speak of how we are becoming kinder, more gentle, more compassionate, with each other. I hear some people talking about the universe having used this time as a means to press “a reset button.”
Well, in my seven-year-old’s mind I’m impatient and frustrated by noisy construction that makes the way even slower and more treacherous. But someone else is in the driver’s seat. And we haven’t come to the end of the highway yet.
For years I’ve been a fan of Joan Baez. Her “75th Birthday Celebration” album begins with a song entitled, “God Is God.” Not me, she sings: “God is God.” And the side concludes with “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ’round … keep on marchin’, keep on singin’, gonna build a brand new world” – not injustice, not intoleration, not the scrambled nation … gonna build a brand new world.” Then she sings, “Don’t you let nobody turn you ’round.” Maybe this week she’s singing, “Ain’t gonna let Corona Virus turn me ’round: gonna build a brand new world.” But the truth is that God is God: and it’s God who’s gonna build a brand new world. We can fight it; or with the Hebrew prophets we can share in the shaping of it.
But sometimes like an impetulant seven-year-old, I get tired and cranky and impatient. Then it’s important to remember that the God who is trinity and reshaped our understanding of his presence and agency in the world through the prophets’ calls to justice and by raising Jesus from the dead is still at work in the world; and I can maybe even relax and join with those sleeping in the back seat, trusting that, after fussing and after even essential protesting, God is still in the driver’s seat and will carry us safely home. Meanwhile, the “Dance of Trinity” plays on.