Transitions are hard. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big transition or a small one, if it’s something that we’ve anticipated or not, or even if it’s something that we’ve wanted versus something that we didn’t want, transitions are hard. This is because every transition involves some kind of loss. In other words, in order for us to move into the next thing there’s always something that we need to leave behind. For example, say that I get that new job that I had wanted. In order for me to move into that job, I have to leave my current job (which, perhaps, is something that I’m happy to do). It also means, however, that I have to leave all of those people that I’ve been working with; and perhaps some of them have become good friends. Thus, in order to make this transition, I have to leave behind some of these relationships.
One of my professors in the seminary—the one who introduced us into counseling those who have suffered a loss—would often remind us that grief counseling has a place during marriage preparation. “Regardless of whether or not the man or the woman recognizes it,” he would say, “each is getting ready to lose something when they marry.” Their independence is the biggest thing, of course, but there are also smaller things, like that couch that he loves that she won’t allow in the house or the tiffany lamp collection that she’s been working on that he knows won’t survive the kids when they come along. This professor had a great line that he would use with folks who would tell him that they just got married; he’d say: “Oh, I’m sorry for your loss,” because marriage is a transition and transitions are hard.
Our scriptures even give us an example of this today. In our first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, we hear Moses giving what appears to be a “pep talk” to the Israelite people. They had been wandering in the desert for forty years after having been freed from slavery in Egypt, waiting to enter the land promised to them by God. Now they were just across the Jordan River from that land and they would soon enter into it. They were weary from being nomads for so many years, but kept wandering in the hope of reaching this land that they were now so close to entering. And so, why did they need a pep talk?
You see, for the people that Moses was speaking to, wandering in the desert is all that they had ever known. Their parents were the generation that participated in the exodus from Egypt. Not long after the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea did they arrive near the land that God had promised to them. After a group of scouts reported that the land they were about to enter was populated by “veritable giants”, however, the people rebelled against God and refused to enter. So, they were punished by being led out into the desert to wander until that generation died off. Thus their children, whom Moses was speaking to in today’s reading, had known only wandering. And while they all desired deeply to enter into the Promised Land, once they were face to face with making that transition they began to become anxious because they would have to leave off what they knew for something unknown.
As I thought about it for a little bit, I began to realize that during this time of year many of us are experiencing transitions. Some of them are things that we’ve anticipated and looked forward to: many colleges have already celebrated graduations and our high schools are celebrating them now; June is a month of weddings and we have a list of them happening here; and today/yesterday we celebrated the ordination of a priest and two men to the transitional diaconate. Some, however, are transitions that have been forced upon us: like Fr. Mike’s reassignment to Rochester and my new role here; the closing of our parish school; and the transitions that happen surrounding deaths: the person who transitions from this life to the next and his or her loved ones who have to transition into a life without his or her physical presence. And I’m sure there are many other transitions that are happening right now that you all could think of.
This is why I find it very providential that we are celebrating the feast of the Most Holy Trinity this weekend: that is, in the midst of this “time of transitions”. If we go back to our reading from Deuteronomy—that is, to Moses’ speech—we see that his “pep talk” is a bit of history lesson. Moses is recounting for the Israelites the “signs and wonders” that God had worked for their parents in Egypt, which led to their exodus from slavery, as well as the signs and wonders that God had worked for them as he led them in their desert wanderings. Moses is reminding them of these things so as to give them courage: in a sense, he’s saying to them, “Look at how incredibly God has treated us since before the exodus and up until this time. He will not, therefore, abandon us as we enter into this land that he has promised us. And so we must go forward with courage, holding fast to our faith in God, who is with us, and honoring him by keeping all of his commandments.”
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is, arguably, the most important doctrine of our faith, because it pertains to the very nature of God. It states that there is only one God, but that this one God has revealed himself to us as eternally existing as three distinct, co-equal, co-eternal persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This means so much for us. Most important for us today, however, is that God eternally exists as this perfect communion of persons.
Now, this doctrine is something that God has revealed to us: we didn’t make it up. Therefore, it is unchanging: unchangeable, in fact. Thus the same God who led the Israelites out of Egypt by great signs and wonders and led them into the Promised Land, the same God who took on human flesh so that he might die to redeem us from our sins and then rise again so that we might enjoy eternal life, the same God who descended on the Apostles at Pentecost, is the God who is with us today and into the future: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we see that God is “solid”: a rock on which we can anchor our hope, even in the face of transition.
My brothers and sisters, Saint Paul reminds us today that “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” and that “[We] did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but [we] received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry ‘Abba, Father!’” In this time of transitions, let us not fall into fear about what we must lose, but rather let us go forward, led by the Spirit of God, to face each transition bravely, trusting that God is with us: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be in that world that will not end, amen.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 30th & 31st, 2015