As we enter Pride Month and leave behind Trinity Sunday, I wanted to explore both as we go into the season of ordinary time — a time that a parishioner once told me, is the time that God often uses to redeem us.
LGBTQ Pride Month occurs in the United States to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969. As a result, many pride events are held during this month to recognize the impact LGBTQ people have had in the world.
And the doctrine of the Trinity holds that God is one God, but three coeternal persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct, yet are one “substance, essence or nature.” In this context, a “nature” is what one is, whereas a “person” is who one is.
First, I’ll explore the Trinity and then offer a short meditation on Pride Month.
When I encountered the idea of the Trinity in seminary, it grabbed hold of my imagination. How can there be one God and yet three persons? Is it a mystery? The way language gives out when trying to plumb the depths of God? A contradiction?
To me, any religious doctrine that has had sway over a significant period of time and with a broad array of communities, suggests not a puzzle that can’t be solved but instead an idea that touches on something important in human experience.
That is, religious doctrines that have some staying power, like most kinds of language, disclose something about our world — patterns that make sense of our experience.
So that when Christians speak of the Trinity, when we speak of any doctrine, about God, about salvation, about grace, we are using words that connect to our very lives and how we sort through things.
Now my guess is that if I asked any of you about grace, you could point to where you experienced grace: In church, in family life, in the community, for yourself. If you were asked about salvation, you could point at how God works to deliver people into a life of meaning, even transformation.
So where does the Trinity fit into our life as Christians? What could we point to in life and say there is the Trinity? The Bible gives us some clues in this regard.
The first time the Spirit makes an appearance in scripture is in Genesis. There, the Spirit of God hovers over the deep and begins the first act of creation by separating water and the land and the light from the darkness. That is, the Spirit separates and makes distinctions which make for individuality.
Abram is driven out from his people into the desert and is given a new name, Abraham, to express the creation of something new, a new people, a transformed individual. It is the Spirit that names who Jesus is in the waters of his baptism, and it is the Spirit that drives Jesus into the wilderness to take stock before his public ministry.
So, the Spirit is intimately involved in the creation of the new, of the individual, of uniqueness, and of identity. The Spirit names things, separates people out, and creates new individuals.
If anyone remembers the process of adolescence, the separations involved in the growing up years, especially from parents, they provide the space for an individual to emerge, with a unique set of gifts, ideas, and personality to give to the world.
The key part in the previous statement is to “give to the world.” The point is not simply to be an individual but to take that individuality and put it in the service of others. That is what makes it a gift.
Paul identifies Christ as the power that makes for salvation. To the degree that our gifts can be put into the service of others, the encounter, the exchange that occurs, can become transformational, a source of salvation.
In that we know that Jesus is the Christ, not just in the waters of baptism, but when he leaves the wilderness and begins his public ministry, when he goes out into the world ministering to people, healing them, teaching them.
When we share who we are with others, it can transform individuals. A new community emerges as individuals add their gifts and individuality into the mix. You’ve seen this as new members come and help shape the church. You’ve seen it as kids become adults and add their contribution to the community.
The act of creating an enlarged community is another way of speaking about God as creator. God doesn’t simply create the world and let it spin on its way. Rather God is continually creating us, our communities, our kids, the natural world, businesses, and so on. God created and is creating still.
In all this, there appears to be a three-fold process.
The first is the act of creating individuals and individuality, the Spirit. The second is taking the gifts of individuals and sharing them with others, the Christ. The third is the deepening of relationships, the transformations of individuals and communities, God the creator.
All three presuppose each other.
You can’t create individuals apart from other people in community. You can’t create growing communities apart from individuals adding their uniqueness to the mix. You can’t deepen relations apart from the encounter with others. All three are necessary, all three need each other, and all three become the creative workings of God.
To be a person is to do, it’s an activity. If I were to ask you who you are, you might talk about being a parent, a grandparent, a spouse. You might talk about your work, your activism, your hobbies, your volunteer efforts. They paint a story of who you are.
Likewise, to talk about three persons in one, is to talk about what God does. To create us as individuals in the Spirit, to move us to service to others in the way of Jesus the Christ, and thus building new forms of community, in the church, in the community, in your organizations, God the Creator.
They are all the work of God and yet they are different ways of experiencing the work of God, the person that God is that is expressed in the world.
So when folks ask where you find the Trinity in the world, it should be as easy as saying: Where do you experience God in your life? You experience the Triune God in your growth, in your service, and in the communities that are built through individuals in service to one another through God’s help.
As Trinity Sunday is followed by LGBTQ Pride Month, a short thought: If the Holy Spirit creates individuals to be the gift they are in the world, then coming out can be an expression of following the Spirit’s leading. To take that gift of our lives and add them into the work of the world in service of others, is following the way of Jesus the Christ. And the way our communities are enriched because of our participation, is the work of God the creator.
When churches reject individuals and deny the gifts of LGBTQ folks in community, in this account, this is a sin against the Triune God. It’s a rejection of the work of the Spirit, blocking the work of the Christ in the world that God the creator is making. The Triune God then will find other forms of community more fitting to allow this work to unfold.
Thus, the very existence of Pride Month — and of any of the organizations that have arisen that draw from the gifts of LGBTQ folks — is an expression of the Trinity. The question that confronts the church is whether we are a fitting form for the work of the Triune God. That is the question we must address in this month of June and every month.
But for those who are living into the life and the person God is calling you to be, adding your gifts to the world, may this month be a time of celebration.
An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, Rev. Dwight Welch is the campus minister at United Campus Ministry at Montana State University Billings, where he also serves as a part-time philosophy instructor. He is married to Jim Reindollar and is owned by two cats, Annie and Adler. He blogs at Approaching Justice.