When my three sons were in grade school,
we travelled from Cincinnati to San Francisco to visit my brother.
Along the way, we stayed in Cambria,
directly on the ocean.
we walked to the beach
to watch the sun set over the Pacific.
The waves crashed upon the shoreline,
then retreated back into the sea,
over and over,
up and back,
up and back.
Each wave was as fresh and new as the last.
And the rhythmic pull of the tide,
the soft golden light,
the sound of the water
onto the sandy beach
was powerful and hypnotic.
After a few minutes,
my husband nudged me,
pointing off to our left.
There on the beach,
my sons were dancing in time with the waves.
A trio of barefooted urchins,
suddenly as nimble and graceful as sprites,
raced toward the ocean in synchronized leaps
as the water retreated into the sea,
then back in perfect unison,
as the incoming surge crashed and bubbled on the sand.
Up and back.
Up and back,
laughing with joyous abandon.
We sat alone on the beach,
watching the waves,
watching our boys,
listening to the pulse of our lives
merge with the rhythm of the ocean.
I caught a glimpse of something to our right,
and turned to see three long-legged shore birds,
dancing the same Tango of the Sea—
Up and back.
Up and back in perfect step with my sons,
mirroring every move and dip.
Up and back.
We caught our breaths,
transfixed by the wonder of this utterly random,
completely unexpected gift.
It was a moment as close to perfect
as I have ever experienced.
A moment of connection
and yes, of worship.
In that moment,
we were taken up into a web of relationship,
a cosmic heartbeat that stretched
beyond our lives--
a heartbeat that pulsed to a common rhythm
of sons and shorebirds
and grains of sand
and the far horizons of sea and sky,
the blood moving through our veins,
and finally, our own breath,
echoing the ruah,
the breath and spirit of God.
this web of connection
lies far beyond our ability to define or describe—
or even fully understand.
But if we open our eyes and our hearts,
we can experience this truth in moments so profound
they curl our toes
and leave us struggling to find words
to bear the weight of our discovery.
These moments bring us very close
to the unthinkable, unknowable, unanswerable
questions of life--
questions such as “Who is God?”
“What is the nature of the universe?”
“How do I speak of Father, Son, Holy Spirit?”
“Where do I fit in this cosmic tango?”
There are textbook responses to these questions,
offered by brilliant theologians in ecumenical councils;
published in weighty books with leather binding and fine print.
There are creeds
filled with history’s efforts to describe the indescribable:
efforts to pierce the nature of God
and define our relationship with eternity,
and with shorebirds and sons
who dance to celestial music on a deserted beach.
We can grasp just a little of this enormity—
of a universe that is timeless,
and of a God who is three,
yet beyond all knowledge--
creator, destroyer, friend, judge—
We grasp just a little,
and then in fear and panic we pull away,
who have touched our finger to a blazing coal.
An Episcopal priest once said
that when humans try to describe God,
we are like a bunch of oysters,
trying to describe a ballerina.
We simply do not have the ability
to name something so far beyond us.
Our vision is too limited,
our words too frail,
our experience too small,
bound as it is by earth,
Even the most learned theologian
begins to stammer
when trying to describe God.
And yet, try we must
for it is in our trying and searching
that we learn and grow in wisdom and grace.
The feast we celebrate today,
is dedicated to one of our greatest mysteries—
the mystery that One can be Three,
infinite and indivisible
and at the same time, distinct and individual—
that Three can be One.
In this mystery,
time folds in upon itself and sometimes,
so that Father, Son, and Spirit are not linear,
timeless, and at the same time
breaking into history, into today and tomorrow
and yet beyond our time completely.
At least one of the mysteries
lying in the heart of the Trinity
is the mystery of relationship.
among many other things,
God’s own self is revealed
in the relationship of the Trinity.
And that Truth allows us to experience magical moments
when we feel connected so deeply,
and the Lord of the Universe are
That Truth reminds us
that we are caught in a web of relationship
that if we were to pull a single thread,
everything in the universe would leap in response.
There are textbook answers
to the questions we have about God and faith,
and there are responses written in our experience,
in fleeting and fragile moments of life.
Both can teach us,
if we are open to learning.
Like all revelatory moments,
that moment on the beach was profound
like all revelatory moments in this world,
it was transitory,
all too brief,
even as we tried to grasp it.
A seagull shrieked overhead,
breaking the spell.
My sprites reverted to pirates,
digging treasure in the sand.
The shorebirds flew away,
and my husband and I stood,
brushing grit from our legs.
Yet, the magic and the mystery endure.
On dark nights,
when I secretly wonder if God is real and faith is true,
when I struggle with the doctrine of the Trinity
and the relationship between Father, Son, Spirit, you and me
seems beyond all understanding,
I close my eyes,
and see a shoreline bathed in golden light,
and watch once more,
the cosmic tango of boy and bird and wave,
and I hear the sound of joyous laughter.