Across our world there is the combination of struggle and uncertainty mixed with tentative hope and angry demands for freedom from restrictions and the economic implications of Covid-19. The world wrestles with what to do and how fast to ease back the isolation and physical distancing, how to re-emerge and how quickly to do it. Tentative steps are met with hesitancy or all-out excitement and expectation. What will come of this is unknown and the various experts in health and epidemiology are working hard to try and control outbreaks and infections. In some nations these people are very well supported by national and state leaders and others they are ridiculed and ignored. In some places the populace feels that they have a better grip on reality than health workers and epidemiologists, and national leaders are happy to follow suit. It is a strange and difficult time. In the midst of the most serious pandemic for over a century, the US has added to the plethora of regional protests on Covid-19 restrictions with the extraordinary protests and chaos surrounding the unjust treatment and murder of George Floyd. The US seems to have descended into chaos and there are few significant voices able to speak into the void with wisdom and compassion.
I read an op-ed piece written by the famous basketballer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the Los Angeles Times. He writes passionately and with despair at these happenings, recognising that at the heart of the matter is an institutional racism and that people of his skin colour do not have equal lives and equal freedom to those with light skin. That doesn’t justify the evils of anyone looting and rioting violently. It explains the depth of pain, anger and powerlessness experienced and surfacing in the coloured communities of the US. Of course, such racism and mistrust is not the exclusive domain of the US. It is present across the world and many indigenous people, in particular, have experienced and continue to experience the pain and powerlessness of exclusive power and domination through institutionalised racism and abuse.
Amidst these big picture stories, there is a world that is wrestling with its sense of being. Many struggle to understand where we fit and how we fit in, what our place and purpose is in this big and often difficult world. There are a plethora of messages and expectations that bombard us from all directions, asserting their truth and pushing us to the next level of hopeful ideology and hope-filled expectation that will bring comfort, security, hope and happiness – as if happiness has some ultimate lasting and meaningful place in human life. We look to the voices around us, those who look to have ‘made it’ and seek to emulate their ways, their ideals, their lives, only to find that it is another dead end. When we look more deeply into their lives we find just as much emptiness and despair there as anywhere else. The rich, famous, powerful and beautiful are playing the game and enjoying their moment of glory, only to find the fall down the other side long and painful. The clinics are full of the rich and famous looking for meaning at the end of a glass or needle/line of coke…
There is more than one pandemic stressing people and claiming hope and peace across this world. We experience a pandemic of anxiety, despair, depression, suicide and increasing mental illness. People are stressed and life, hectic, chaotic and pressured as we seek to perform and match those around – keeping up with anyone and everyone. It is tiring just to think about it!! A positive in the Coronavirus world of 2020 is that we have had more time to stop and ponder, to look around us and recognise that all the stuff we have been told we need isn’t actually necessary.
Walking along the local little creek with an overly excited dog, amidst the gums and other trees, lizards, birds and the sun filtering through, I wonder what else I really need? All around is evidence of the world beyond the world, the one I am constantly told by a modern society, doesn’t exist – the Reign of God! All around me is the evidence of Spirit that brings life and the evolving re-creation of all things. This Spirit speaks into this world of beauty and wonder and invites me to lift my eyes above the stuff that fills the pages of newspapers of tablet feeds, facebook posts or tweets – even presidential tweets.
This week celebrates the Trinity, which is a doctrine of the church and can be dry and tedious to work through for most people. It can also be the most liberating and life-giving reality that we can know and experience. Perhaps it is this latter that is most instructive – God, as Trinity, is experienced and is the ultimate reality of our lives, whether we recognise it or not. A little scrutiny bears deep truth and brings freedom from ourselves and that which holds us captive and pressures us in this world.
In a world where there is such expectation to conform and achieve, and to find the place of belonging, it is this Presence of the Living God revealed as 3 in 1 that offers our deepest place to belong, to be and find freedom from expectation and a liberation to live! At the heart of this experience of God is a relational community of the purest, deepest love. Three Divine persons held in the most profound relationship of sacrificial love where each is for the other and held in perfect relational unity. The love that flows through this Divine community overflows into the story of creation, which in the Jewish story is one of love and goodness. We are created and formed in love, as children of the Living God. That is our sense of belonging, our sense of being and where we find the deepest truth of life. We are invited to live into this pure love and be freed from the individualism and stress (pressure) to conform or be something that is not true to our being. The deep tension and inner conflict that often overwhelms us is the internal struggle between the deep sense of who we are at our core, over and against the pressure, seduction and temptation to do and be who we really aren’t. I know that I feel it and wrestle with it – the pressure to conform and look like others pushes up against the calling and invitation to become more truly who I am created to be – in God. The story we read from Genesis 1, a beautiful poetic story of God’s loving grace, reminds us that all creation is good and beautiful, and we are part of this whole world. We are also reminded that we are created in the Divine image, the Divine community that says – let us create humans in our image! The Divine ‘DNA’ so to speak, is in us. The imprint of God is in and through humans and we are able to rise into glorious places of wonder and triumph that is selfless and beautiful.
In Matthew’s story we are sent into the world to mirror God and show the face and way of God in the world, a way that is love. We are invited to embrace the deep love of God and share it with a world yearning for a sense of worth and someone to trust, an end to fear and hatred, violence and despair. We yearn for freedom that is true and liberates all people and the creation. We yearn for God and the love at the heart of all things – the Trinity!