- The Rev. Arianne Rice
Yesterday I was standing on line to get a bagel. In front of me was a mom, her two year old son – maybe 2 ½ - and her baby. The baby was in a car seat carrier. The young mom was at the counter order their breakfast juggling juice bottles and car keys and a purse. She put the car seat on the floor – and while she was ordering – her son was shouting up at the counter – look, I have a sister, I have a sister – over and over again.
The cashier was doing a good job of listening to the mom – who had honed the necessary skill of tuning out her son’s chanting – and smiling at the boy. Because of the tall counter, what you could only see from my side was that ever time the boy shouted with joy – look I have a sister – he simultaneously put his adorable little sandaled foot into the car seat to joyfully kick his little sister. Look I have a little sister – kick! Look I have a little sister – kick!
This was a performative contradiction that any eldest child knows all too well. He is happy to have a baby sister, of course he is. He is also angry – although he can’t put words around that – that this baby he loves is taking his mom’s attention, time and energy. His joy and his anger were all happening at once in that little body of his. His one on one relationship with mom was gone – from now on – or at least for the time being – who knows if there are other siblings in store – it would be mommy, baby and me.
Three’s a crowd. Not so when it comes to the Trinity. God in one and one in three – the undivided Trinity. Later on in this service – when I say the proper preface for today – that’s the part that comes after – it is right and good and a joyful thing always and everywhere to give thanks, yada, yada, yada – listen and try to make any sense of what those words. Explanations of the Trinity – aren’t helpful (she says while preaching.) Even Jesus got it wrong, in a way, with this one. He gets things wrong more than once by the way – that’s not heretical – it’s what makes him human.
This morning he said, When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. But then what do you do with the poetic prose from Proverbs – from about 4 centuries before the birth of Jesus:
Ages ago I was at the first, Wisdom cries, the first act before the beginning of God’s work. When there were no depths – no springs abounding in water. Before there were mountains, hills, and fields, before the first bits of soil. When the Creator marked the foundations of the earth – the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Wisdom – was beside like a master worker – rejoicing always – rejoicing in the inhabited world – and delighting in the human race.
Delighting in the human race – as in the sight of a child kick and shout about one of the many relationships that will shape him.
Trinity is simply that. The experience of mutually transformative relationship. Relationships where there is always flow – a giving and receiving that never depletes one person entirely – and never overwhelms the other. An image often used is a water wheel – the pail coming up out of the source of water full to the brim – then tipping over and pouring out everything it has into the pail beneath. That giving and receiving generates the power to move. The force – the energy – is the third creation. Trinitarian theology is our story – Love the source – emptied itself into Love came down – and then poured itself out – into the power of Love for the delight of all creation.
All we have to do, is do that. Not do it, actually – more like allow it. Because it simply is. It happens without our thinking when we are being who we are created to be. When we are giving and receiving at the same time, the percentages of which, vary.
I mentioned last week that I love listening to podcasts on all sorts of topics. It’s one of the ways I delight in the human race (if you’re passive in what you’re fed about the human race it’s not at all hopeful – you have to seek good news in media). A favorite one is called The Moth – people tell stories about their life, on every topic under the sun from all around the world.
Stories where people boast in their suffering – because suffering produces endurance – and endurance produces character – and character produces hope – and hope does not disappoint. It strengthens our heart, it connects our hearts, to listen to stories like that.
A story I have listened to more than once was told by a trauma surgeon from when she was doing her training at Johns Hopkins, before they had certain guidelines around the hours doctors could work. Apparently now, there is an 80 hr/week rule – but when she was doing it she clocked around 134 hours in a week (there are only 168 hours total in a week). Needless to say, she was really burnt out and had no life outside of work – she was exhausted and deflated – and did not think she’d make it as a trauma surgeon.
So she’s at Hopkins and into the ER comes a 16 year old girl. She had been in a terrible car crash. It was her birthday, she wanted to drive to Mc’D’s – but she didn’t wear her seatbelt – took a turn to fast and the car flipped over and she went through the windshield. She had a horrific head injury – lung contusions – a liver fracture – a pelvic fracture. She was, in her words – a truly broken human being. Any one injury could kill her. And this Jane Dow was being kept alive literally minute to minute.
She goes into the private family waiting room to speak to Jane Doe’s family. She hates this part because she cares more about saving the patient and she knows the prognosis is grim and there is nothing she’s going to be able to say. She explains everything, ending with the hard truth that their daughter might not make it through the night .This of course, opens flood gates of sobbing from the parents. She gets up to go back to work and when she reaches for the door realizes how quiet the room has become. And Jane Doe’s mother says – Oh, its going to be ok. And the doctor says, what? How do you know that? Because of that – the mom says – pointing at the doctor’s sweat pants.
In her exhaustion she’d remembered to put her scrubs on top, but not her bottom. So she was wearing the sweat pants she’d been sleeping in when they called her into surgery – which had “Savannah” down the side – because that had been the last hospital where she had worked. Her patient wasn’t Jane Doe – her patient was Savannah – and that’s all her mother needed in that moment for her endurance to turn to hope.
Savannah survived the night and remained in ICU for a little over three months. She was unconscious the entire time and had to suffer through a lot of painful procedures. Every day was a battle, filled with chest tubes and tracheotomies and a host of painful procedures. But before every one of them – the doctor would say – Savannah, I have to do this, or I have to do that – and it’s going to hurt and I’m sorry – but I have to do it so here goes. And that was their relationship for three months – until the doctor had to move on.
She lost track of Savannah of course. A year later finds herself back at Hopkins. And she is in ICU talking to a nurse when a girl comes up to her – and says – hey doctor, it’s me! It’s Savannah. And she’s like Savannah? Really? You look great! Savannah just had one more class to finish and was going to graduate high school – the doctor never imagined she would’ve healed this well. And almost as an after thought she realizes – hey, wait a minute – how did you know I was your doctor? You never saw me, you didn’t open your eyes once when you were my patient.
Oh, your voice – Savannah replied like it was obvious. Every time you did anything to me you told me, you talked to me, you treated me like a human being.
And that was the moment everything changed for the doctor. This doctor who was just in the flow of doing her job, realized that was all that mattered. That’s when she realized she was giving and receiving all at the same time – that’s what the healing was. Not just for her patient but for her.
A relationship between two people which creates the healing, the awareness, the love, the trust, the wisdom, the forgiveness. When we abide in that space, when we are in the flow of giving and receiving to generate restoration and healing, we connect with the heart, the vine, the nature of God. Amen.