Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15
Good morning! Every year, on or around St. Patrick’s Day, I post a video to my Facebook page. It’s a funny bit of satire in which St. Patrick attempts to explain the Holy Trinity to some Irish peasants. The peasants remind Patrick that they’re poor and uneducated, so Patrick needs to explain the Trinity in terms that those peasants can understand. I mention this, because today is Trinity Sunday.
In the video, St. Patrick proceeds to offer a series of analogies to explain the Trinity. After each analogy, the two peasants tell Patrick that his analogy is terrible, because Patrick has just recycled some old heresy in his explanation of the Trinity. I’ve posted it to this church’s Facebook page because it cracks me up every time I watch it. Please take a look when you get a chance.
That video is funny because the Trinity is difficult to explain. If you don’t believe me, try explaining the Trinity to someone who isn’t a Christian. Try explaining how we worship one God in three persons. Then try to explain how that’s different from worshiping three different gods. Even if you know the academic theology behind the doctrine of the Trinity, and even if you can explain it without committing heresy, it’s still pretty unlikely that you can explain the Trinity in a satisfactory way to someone who wasn’t raised in the Christian tradition.
Sometimes, when we’re faced with a really difficult challenge—in church or anywhere in life—we try to overexplain things. I know I’m guilty of this all the time. There’s always one more interesting thing I want to cram into a sermon. Or someone asks me a simple question and I respond with a five-minute lecture, er, um, answer. A five-minute answer. You can laugh at me for this; it’s okay. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, give it time. Ask me a question about covenant faithfulness and I’ll give you a five-minute answer. Or a ten-minute answer. Whatever you prefer.
But I know I’m not the only one who does this. Even though I’m not a parent, I know that many parents over answer their children’s questions. They try to pour in as much information as they possibly can, especially this time of year, as children graduate from high school and head off to college.
Every graduation speaker tries to give one more piece of advice.
Every teacher tries to cram in one more bit of information, so that her students will be that much more successful in their classes.
Parents want to make sure that their sons and daughters will remain safe, get enough rest, go to class, eat well, study hard, do well in the classroom, and succeed socially. And remember everything we tell them.
The mistake that we all make is that we think it’s just about information. That there’s some little secret we can unlock if we just pour one more kernel of knowledge into their heads. Whether it’s a sermon on the Trinity or a bit of advice about how to get along with a roommate, we hope, foolishly, that some little bit of knowledge will lead to a better future, after our young people go out on their own. We want to believe that there are some magic words we can offer our children to spare them all the problems that might come their way when they leave the nest.
We hear some of this urgency in our reading from the Gospel of John. But there’s a twist. Jesus is going away, not the disciples. Scholars call this section of John’s Gospel the Farewell Discourse. This takes place right after the Last Supper. Jesus is giving the