Shouting Stones

Year A
Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

May the words of my mouth… O God… speak your Truth…

Before we ever feel an earthquake… incomprehensible tension has already built up across ridge lines or tectonic plates… deep under ground… until the earth itself can no longer resist the tension… can no longer bear it any longer…  and that tension can sometimes be released violently… knocking homes off their foundations… splitting highways… ripping chasms into the ground… shaking up and disrupting lives…

Before a volcano erupts… incomprehensible pressure has already built up under the earth… the lava dome does all it can… to hold back the mounting pressure rising up from the magma chamber… until eventually… like a balloon blown up past its limit… the volcano explodes… causing destruction and damage… the molten lava flows… burning up everything in their path… searing and disrupting lives…

Do you remember that Palm Sunday story… when Jesus rode into Jerusalem… and the gathered community began to praise God loudly… singing Hosanna… Hosanna… Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord… and some Pharisees told them to be quiet… because if Pilate and his men… who were parading into Jerusalem then too… overheard the ruckus… they might use tear gas… and flash bangs… and rubber bullets to disperse them… but Jesus… knowing that God’s Truth cannot be suppressed… said that if silence was forced upon them… the very stones would shout out… for justice…

In our reading from Genesis… David Bland… preaching professor at Harding University in Memphis… clarifies for us… that God is a universal God… not a God of any one people… or nation… or race… the Bible begins by announcing… In the beginning when God created the world… not … In the beginning when God created Israel… God’s creational activity is inclusive… God makes the sun to rise not just on Christians or Americans or Europeans… God causes the sun to rise… and the rain to fall… on all humans… animals… and plants… and God blesses all creation…

I believe… that what we’ve been experiencing since Memorial Day… since the murder of George Floyd… what we’ve been experiencing… really began in August 1619… it was then… that the White Lion… a 160-ton English privateer ship*… landed in VA at what was then known as Point Comfort… on board were more than 20 captives seized from the Kingdom of Ndongo in Angola… and transported across the Atlantic… this dislocated… unwilling… violated group were the first enslaved Africans to set foot in English North America… ushering in the era of slavery in what would become the United States…

And so… the civil unrest that we’re experiencing now… the protests… the violation of curfews and property rights… the destruction… are the earthquakes and volcanoes of hundreds of years… of increasing tension and pressure… against the systemic evils of genocide… and racism… and disenfranchisement… and white supremacy… that what we’re experiencing now are the earthquakes and volcanoes… not of God’s doing… but of our own doing… and scripture lays it out quite plainly for us… as you sow… so shall you reap… and the sowing and the reaping applies much more to the nations… than it does to individuals… where the collective consciousness… where the consensus of a county… is more powerful than one person’s preference… and so if there’s any insurrection going on… it’s God’s insurrection against human sin…and the very stones… God’s children… are shouting out…

Last Sunday… Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said that we’re living in a pandemic of self-centeredness… which he said may be even more destructive than a virus… he described it as a reverseCopernicanrevolution… that is… when the sun is not at the center… but when people believe that they’re at the center of the universe… and every other person… revolves around them… and the trap… is that they come to believe that their perspective is the only one that matters… it reminds me of that commercial where a boy asks his father… Dad… why can’t I see my eyeballs… why can’t I see that with which I see… why can’t I see that my perspective isn’t the only one that matters… and Bp. Curry said that this self-centeredness is the root cause of every humanly created evil… that has ever hurt or harmed any child of God… and even the earth itself… and he affirmed that love is the antidote… the cure… that can help us heal that mistaken way of living… but we must first lament of how we miss God’s mark for us… before we can repent… so our eyes can be opened to other ways of seeing… we need trusted others who can lovingly describe us to ourselves… human mirrors who can reflect us back to ourselves… so that how we see ourselves… and how others see us… reveal the same self…

Greg Carey… professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary… writes… the key to proclaiming the Trinity… is to remember that it is Good News… the Nicene Creed may set boundaries protecting the licit from the illicit… such as “begotten, not made”… “of the same essence”… “proceeds from the Father…” but while it rules out wrong ways of imagining the Godhead… it does not specify precisely how these essences… identities… and relationships work… instead… the Creed tells a story… that the one God created everything… Jesus Christ lived, died, rose, and will return for us and for our salvation… and the Holy Spirit has spoken through the prophets, has formed the church, and grounds our hope… our confession… story-shaped as it is… testifies that one God is fully present in creation and in Israel’s journey… in the ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus… and in the Spirit’s empowerment of the church…

Normally… on Trinity Sunday… we’d affirm our faith in the words of the Athanasian Creed… but we won’t today… it’s long… and since I can’t see you… you might just get up and go get another cup of coffee instead… but in Athanasius’ description… what stands out for me… one of the most important take-aways I think… is that the Holy Trinity is about relationships… because the principle of one is lonely… the principle of two is oppositional and moves us towards choosing sides… but the principle of three is inherently dynamic… moving… and generative… and as the Three-in-One… and this Godhead can be described as a sphere… whose center is everywhere… and whose circumference is nowhere… that’s a great image I think… and that’s Mystery… because it means that God is centered within each and every one of us… that Jesus is centered within each and every one of us… and that the Holy Spirit is centered within each and every one of us… and all three as Trinity… move selflessly in dynamic response to the movement of each other… modeling how we have been created to move in response to the needs of each other…

Richard Rohr writes… inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize… we imagine a circle of compassion… then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle… and we move ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased… we stand there with those whose dignity has been denied… we locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless… at the edges… we join the easily despised and the readily left out… we stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop… we situate ourselves right next to the disposable… so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away…

The Holy Trinity is God’s ineffable Mystery… a Mystery so far beyond us that… like God… it cannot be expressed in words… so can we just let it be… as God intended it to be… and if we can… I think… we can let go of the fear which compels us to control that which we can’t understand… and try in vain… to silence… living stones… who shout out for justice… Amen…

*an armed ship owned and officered by private individuals holding a government commission and authorized for use in war, especially in the capture of enemy merchant shipping.

About the author: The Rev. Mike Wernick

The Rev. Mike Wernick is a second-career Episcopal priest who grew up in a Reform Jewish family. He relishes his role as the Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Officer for two dioceses and affirms all faith traditions (he has this idea that diversity was never intended to be divisive). He serves on several diocesan and synod committees, including the ELCA N/W Lower Michigan Synod’s Task Force on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and is currently finishing the final year of a practicum to become a Spiritual Director.