A storm ripped through the area last week. Tornado sirens blared, sheets of rain and volleys of hail dumped, and wind ripped things apart. I was in my office when the sirens went off and thought I could just work through it. When the sail ripped off the outdoor worship platform and my window started rattling, I thought it was probably time to seek shelter downstairs.
We didn’t get a tornado, but I was greeted by a section of my backyard wooden privacy fence laying down in the yard.
That meant I had to spend last Saturday digging out the old fence post foundation and putting in a new fence post.
I enjoy replacing fence posts just one notch higher than getting a root canal.
I was not pleased on Saturday.
Then something interesting happened.
The fence blew down between my yard and the neighbor next to me. The houses on our little cul de sac are over thirty years old and four out of the six neighbors are original owners. They’ve raised their kids in this neighborhood and now their grandkids come back to visit.
They are friendly people, but we haven’t really connected in the two years we’ve lived there. Our house is the transitional house. You know how that goes. Don’t get too attached.
So, there I was, grumpy and dirty, kneeling on the neighbor’s grass, trying to get this old post footing out of the ground.
The neighbor’s adult children and the grandchildren were all visiting from out of town. Kids were running around having a great time, getting hot and sweaty in their yard. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. They all wanted to go swimming because they were so hot.
I’m sitting in the gap of a broken privacy fence. On this side are three generations playing is the blazing sun with no shade. On the other side, in back yard, is this nice swimming pool, surrounded by tall trees and lots of shade.
I got a little nudge, that little voice in the back of your head. “Do it.”
So, I spoke up and said, “Hey, would you guys like to swim in our pool?”
They all stopped in stunned silence.
The Dad was one of the kids who grew up in my neighbors house. He looked at me in shock. “Are you serious?”
“Yes,” I said, “why would you want to go to a public pool when you could all just come right next door and have a private swim party?”
They agreed and I was delighted.
Within an hour my back yard was filled with happy children and happy and grateful parents. The woman who grew up in the house told us that they had often looked down on this pool over the years and longed to swim in it, but had never been invited.
I tell you that story because I think it paints a picture of how God works.
Today is Trinity Sunday.
The Trinity is a word that we use to name one of the deep mysteries of the scripture. In one place, the Bible says that there is only one God. Yet, the Gospels, Acts, and the Letters speak of the Father, Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of them are treated as divine.
So, which is it? Is there one God, or three gods.
Welcome to the Trinity.
I love this conversation. In fact, it was the core of my dissertation and I could talk for hours about it. If I did, though, your eyes would be glazed over and no one would ever come back.
This story, however, offers an image of how I understand the Trinity.
It is the shape of God, the universe, and how everything works.
Here’s what I mean.
First, there was a fence.
The first owners of the house chose to install a nice big swimming pool in their back yard. The law requires homeowners to build a big privacy fence around the yard whenever there is a swimming pool. This prevents animals and people to accidentally wander into the yard at night and fall into the dark pool and drown.
The law exists to protect.
This is creation. This is order, and it is good.
Yet, the very same fence also divides.
Second, there is the progress of time, water, and wind. Eventually, the wood rotted and a strong wind blew. Snap, the fence broke down.
This is uncreation, this is disorder and destruction. It is the death of the fence.
Notice what happens next.
In the wake of the death and destruction of the water, wind, and the broken fence, a new possibility opens up.
I sat in the gap. I sat in my grumpiness and had a choice. Do I see only the destruction and stew in my own pain? Or, do I notice that, for the first time, I am sitting on the threshold of a new relationship that can turn into an open door.
This is a third way, this is a reordering of things. This is resurrection.
This three part movement is, in my understanding, the very nature of God and the universe.
God creates and it is good.
The good thing that God creates grows and pushes back, and, in so doing, tears down and destroys.
Yet, in the struggle between these two forces, something new emerges.
We see this pattern throughout the story of scripture.
God creates all things, and it is very good.
Humanity chooses to betray God and we are plunged into a violent system of shame and blame. The violence comes to a climax and the world is plunged into a flood that threatens to overcome everything with chaos. And yet, God turns the flood into a promise and resurrects humanity into a new covenant.
Then the cycle repeats itself over and over. God creates. We uncreate. God recreates.
Life, Death, Resurrection.
It is how things grow.
Think about it another way.
If all of reality was singular. If is was one. Then it would be static. There would be no diversity. There would be no movement. It would be nothing.
If all of reality were split in two, divided between this and that, then there would only be division. This is what we call a dualistic, or a binary system.
This is where most of us get stuck. We think the world is divided between God and creation. Between Heaven and Hell. Between the good people and the bad people. Between absolute right and absolute wrong. Between us and them.
But there is always a third way. The movement of God is to keep these duality from stagnant destruction, and using the tension to open up a new life of hope and possibility.
This is how we grow.
We start in simple consciousness as children and life is good and ordered.
We grow into adolescence and focus on the things that divide and define us and construct the false self. This often leads to division and violence.
There is a third way. Jesus us invites us to take up our cross and follow him. He told his disciples in John 16 that he has much to tell them, but they are not ready to bear it. The Spirit will guide them in the way of the cross and the life of resurrection and rebirth.
Let’ bring it back to the fence.
What is happening in your life right now that seems like nothing more than a stupid, rotted, broken fence that brings nothing but pain and suffering to you?
You know what. It is rotten. It is broken. And that is hard.
Yet, there is always a third way.
The Spirit of God breathes new life into dead things. The movement of the Triune God reveals passage ways when all we can see are breaches.
My prayer for you is that you would feel the rhythm of God’s movement in your life and in our world. My prayer is that you will embrace the gift of life, death, and resurrection as each new day dawns.