Trinity Sunday 2017: The Tao of Jesus

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Genesis 1:1-2:3, as told by Marc Gellman in “Does God have a Big Toe?”


 Before there was anything, there was God, a few angels, and a huge swirling glob of rocks and water with no place to go. The angels asked God,

“Why don’t you clean up this mess?” 

So God collected rocks from the huge swirling glob and put them together in clumps and said, “Some of these clumps of rocks will be planets, and some will be stars, and some of these rocks will be…just rocks.”

Then God collected water from the huge swirling glob and put it together in pools of water and said, “Some of these pools of water will be oceans, and some will become clouds, and some of this water will be…just water.”

Then the angels said, “Well God, it’s neater now, but is it finished?” And God answered…“NOPE!” 

On some of the rocks God placed growing things, and creeping things, and things that only God knows what they are, and when God had done all this, the angels asked God, “Is the world finished now?” And God answered: “NOPE!” 

God made a man and a woman from some of the water and dust and said to them, “I am tired now. Please finish up the world for me…really it’s almost done.” But the man and woman said, “We can’t finish the world alone! You have the plans and we are too little.” 

“You are big enough,” God answered them. “But I agree to this. If you keep trying to finish the world, I will be your partner.”

The man and the woman asked, “What’s a partner?” and God answered, “A partner is someone you work with on a big thing that neither of you can do alone. If you have a partner, it means that you can never give up, because your partner is depending on you. On the days you think I am not doing enough and on the days I think you are not doing enough, even on those days we are still partners and we must not stop trying to finish the world. That’s the deal.” And they all agreed to that deal. 

Then the angels asked God,

“Is the world finished yet?” and God answered, “I don’t know. Go ask my partners.” 

Matthew 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.”


“What’s a partner?”
“A partner,” God answered, “is someone you work with
on a big thing that neither of you can do alone.
If you have a partner,
it means you can never give up,
because your partner is depending on you.”

Or, to put it in Gospel-language
instead of Marc Gellman’s Midrash:
“Go, therefore,
and bring all people to the water,
baptizing them
and teaching them
to live life as I would have.
And remember:
I am with you always,
your partner,
to the end of the age.”

Let’s try to hear these two voices,
God’s and Jesus’,
with the tonal quality and hushed ambiance
with which they are pregnant.

So retrieve, if you can, the echo
of an old sensation you have known,
when you felt so much love
that you could not even speak it.
Or a moment you felt so much joy
words not only failed you,
you knew that to speak any words
would diminish the feeling.

I hope there is a moment or two
within reach of your memory,
when you felt so full of God or life or love or joy
you just wanted to gush,
but could only stutter or flap your lips like a fish.
Now that kind of intensely infused ebullience
is not an every day occurrence,
but once in a while
we may get a full-to-the-brim amazement
for the graciousness of God
or the magnificence of life.

That is how I imagine Jesus felt
saying good-bye to his friends in Matthew.

Standing on the edge of knowing,
seeing but not quite touching
the God-of-all-creation,
he scrambled for last words.
They were not dying words,
but last words.
He had to say good-bye
when he knew it was not forever
even though it was final.
And it is no coincidence
that Jesus’ last words in Matthew,
the most Jewish of Gospels,
also mirror God’s first words –
at least the first words we put into his mouth in Genesis:
“And God looked around
at the stars
and the planets in their courses,
at the earth and oceans,
at microbes, insects, and even a bald ostrich trying to fly,
and God whispered in reverently hushed amazement:
“This is good.
This is really good.”

For God, who is apparently a god of few words,
such a short, terse proclamation
is downright ebullient.

As we might imagine it,
“This is really good,”
was so full of joy and love and laughter
that God, wanting to share the moment,
turned to the nearest animal
and impetuously shouted,
“Hey, be my partner in all of this, will you?”

And that was us.
And here we are, still working at it,
because when you’re a partner
you can never give up.

Now the only way we could ever imagine
that kind of moment with God,
in that particular way,
is because we have felt that way ourselves.

Maybe we have not felt that way
since Christmas Eve when we were five years old
and couldn’t sleep.

And maybe we have not felt that way
since we stood with our arms around our greatest love,
gazing into his or her eyes
with the taste of their lips on ours.

And maybe we have not felt that way
since the painful veil of childbirth had burst
and there upon our skin laid the freshest flesh on earth
to whom we could only coo.

And maybe we have not felt that way
since we stood silent at the edge of Letchworth canyon
or Seneca Lake at sunset,
or the mighty Niagara pouring itself through
the ancient narrowing funnel.
But sometime,
whenever it was,
we have known that sensation –
the wordless,
unutterable ebullience
upon which creation was formed.

Truly, upon which creation was made.

Like a spoon balancing on the tip of a finger,
the creation balances upon God’s ebullience
and it courses through us,
filtered as it is
by the hard edge of pain we have known.
But nonetheless it there within us,
there to be called upon
like some ancient, deep oasis in the sand.

We need moments
and rituals and people
in our lives,
that remind us of our partnership
so that we don’t forget how to draw
upon that river of ebullience
deep down within our memory.

We can and do live long stretches of life
without that sensation of wordless joy,
and so we need special events,
and special people,
and special rituals,
to remind us it is there
and where to find it.

It being “Trinity Sunday”
there might be some expectation
that I would talk about the doctrine of the Trinity,
and proclaim or celebrate it.
But then again,
talking about the creator,
and the partner,
and their ebullience
may be all I have to say on the subject.

I think when we come to that imagination
about the beginning,
when God uttered in hushed amazement,
“This is really good”;
and when we try to hear
the reverential tone in Jesus’ voice
when he says good-bye;
that we need to remember something very basic.

Christianity is not a theology;
in fact, there a lots of theologies around.
Christianity is not a religion;
in fact, there are goo-gobs of religion around.
Christianity is not a moral system;
in fact, we have lots of moral systems.

Instead, Christianity is a way of life.
It is what that first generation of Jesus-followers
called “the way,”
and what we might call,
in our time of greater cultural fluidity,
The Tao of Jesus.

Our baptism,
if we will remember and contemplate
that baptismal covenant we often recite,
amounts to a partnership document.

“Will you travel the Tao of Jesus,”
we could just as well ask,
and our response is,
“We will with God’s help.”

And just as there are many ways of interpreting
and following the Tao of Buddha,
and the Tao of Mohammad,
and the Tao of Krishna,
there are many known ways to interpret
and to follow the Tao of Jesus.

And yet, every authentic Tao of Jesus
is fundamentally a partnership with God.
And every Tao of Jesus will take us,
if we are faithful and courageous with it,
to a moment or moments
of wordless ebullience.

No matter what it is
that brings us here to this place today –
whether we are seeking
or weary
or poor
or lonely
or simply following a routine –
what awaits us is the reminder of our partnership,
and an invitation to rejoin the path we lost
in the tangle that is our life,
and the hope that the partnership
and the path
will lead us to at least one more
incredible moment of ebullience.

That’s all I got, but really, it is a lot.