First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

Sermon~June 16, 2019

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. Binaries, Trinaries, and the Elephant in the room
    3. Blindfolded people describing an elephant
      1. Described it as a snake, a tree, a wall, a rope, and a spear
    4. Elephant in the room – sticking too closely to any one of those descriptions
  2. Call for humbleness – today’s Gospel reading
    1. There is more but we can’t handle it now
    2. The spirit of truth will come
    3. Are we still speaking about God is Still Speaking?
      1. Yup
    4. Trinity Sunday
      1. Celebration of one of, in my opinion, the most helpful but also confusing metaphors for God
      2. 3 in one, One in 3.
        1. Are we monotheists, or not?
      3. A symbolic way to describe how God the Creator, the Son, and the Spirit relate to one another, and to us
      4. All descriptions of God are incomplete approximations
        1. Try to describe love
        2. God is Love
          1. In marriage a man and a woman become one.
            1. Why do you have separate names, bodies, etc?
          2. Trinity knot – best understanding I know
            1. Three points, but one knot. May see one person of the trinity more clearly, but all are united
            2. Persons, not roles, or skills
          3. How we relate and are related to God
            1. Not just powers, or roles, but there is embodiment, intention
          4. Historically, trying to understand the trinity has been rife with heresies
        3. Triniaries over Binaries
          1. No binary, no opportunity for direct opposition
          2. So much of our lives we order around binaries. Male\female, Ford\Chevy, Wolverines\Spartans, Conservative\progressive, Democrat\Republican, Gay\Straight, us\them, legal\illegal
          3. Too often, we extrapolate from those binaries to try to the central binaries of Right\Wrong and human\inhuman.
            1. Even where there are considerably more than two options, it often gets reduced down to two
          4. Trinity is an irreducible, non-directly opposing model. Three together in one.
            1. Example of unity in diversity
            2. Reminds us that God is present in all things
          5. Trinity can’t be understood only through reason, but through faith (wisdom)
            1. Not just taken on faith, though
            2. Can’t just leave it at different descriptions of the elephant, need to move around
          6. Trinity of Sustainability
            1. People, planet, profit
          7. Pastor Greg’s own imperfect understanding of Trinity – aspects of God at different frames of reference – transcendent, immanent, human
            1. God is greater than ourselves, ultimately beyond comprehension
            2. Yet, God’s spirit is everywhere, in everything, every flower, in us
            3. And God relates to us on our level as well, through one another
          8. Call of Wisdom
            1. Understood as Christians as one embodiment of the Holy Spirit
            2. Located out and about – in the crossroads, at entrances
            3. Voice for all of humanity
              1. Not hidden or secret
            4. Wisdom existed before creation, helped with creation, and delighted in it
              1. Parallel to Gospel of John’s Word
            5. Elephant in the room, the Gender of God
              1. Doxology – Creator, Christ, and Holy Ghost, vs. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
              2. God the Father
                1. Father’s Day, and God the Father
                2. In Jesus’ time, this was to make God more accessible. Not purely transcendent, but one who cares and loves
              3. The elephant in the room, No human example is perfect, because no human relationship is perfect
                1. God the Father is influenced by your relationship with your father, as well as what you understand the ideal of fatherhood to be, which is constantly changing (as is motherhood)
              4. If God the Creator must be God the Father, then this also isolates Wisdom to women
                1. Gendering God is limited help at best
                2. We Mostly do it out of habit
  • But that habit has unintended side effects
  1. God as Mother?
    1. Sometimes it’s good to associate God with ourselves, but sometimes it’s good to associate God with others, too.
  2. Where we find Wisdom in the interim time
    1. We are working on describing our church, including our collective understandings of faith and mission
      1. Like blindfolded people describing an elephant
      2. Need to remember to move around
    2. What are you learning about yourselves and your church?
    3. Joni Mitchell, “don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got til it’s gone”
      1. Learned from Neil and previous pastors
      2. And how have they helped set you up for what comes next?
    4. Wrestling with what you claim to believe
      1. Welcome to all –
        1. What does that look like?
        2. How does the church compare to the community?
  • What would Wisdom say? Wisdom teaches us that
    1. Welcome is deeper than just what one “believes”
      1. That gets back to binaries
    2. Relationship, experiences, seeing the divine
      1. We all describe the elephant differently, and need one another
    3. What can we do together is a practice of faith, not just reason
    4. Wisdom co-existed and delighted in creation. Maybe we should spend more time doing the same.
  • What if we have more to learn, as Jesus indicates?
    1. Spirit of Truth, spirit of wisdom
    2. Part of that new learning, like trying to describe the trinity, is seeing what formerly useful understandings of God might be leading you towards heresy?
    3. Holding too close to God as father biases against feminine understandings of God
    4. Sticking with gender binary goes against trinity as well.
      1. Not opposites
    5. Which way do we want to err if we are going to make mistakes?
      1. Err on the side of loving too much
      2. Err on the side of being excluded for who you include, instead of being included for who you exclude
    6. Getting in touch with Creation
      1. Delight
      2. God as creator, both father and mother





Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31  Common English Bible (CEB)

8 Doesn’t Wisdom cry out
    and Understanding shout?
Atop the heights along the path,
    at the crossroads she takes her stand.
By the gate before the city,
    at the entrances she shouts:

I cry out to you, people;
    my voice goes out to all of humanity.

22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his way,
    before his deeds long in the past.
23 I was formed in ancient times,
    at the beginning, before the earth was.
24 When there were no watery depths, I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs flowing with water.
25 Before the mountains were settled,
    before the hills, I was brought forth;
26     before God made the earth and the fields
    or the first of the dry land.
27 I was there when he established the heavens,
    when he marked out the horizon on the deep sea,
28     when he thickened the clouds above,
    when he secured the fountains of the deep,
29     when he set a limit for the sea,
        so the water couldn’t go beyond his command,
    when he marked out the earth’s foundations.
30 I was beside him as a master of crafts.
    I was having fun,
    smiling before him all the time,
31     frolicking with his inhabited earth
    and delighting in the human race.


John 16:12-15 Common English Bible (CEB)

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus is talking to the disciples in the upper room on Maundy Thursday, after he washed their feet, and before he left to pray and be betrayed in the garden.


12 “I have much more to say to you, but you can’t handle it now. 13 However, when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you in all truth. He won’t speak on his own, but will say whatever he hears and will proclaim to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and proclaim it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine. That’s why I said that the Spirit takes what is mine and will proclaim it to you.


The Word of God

For the People of God

Thanks be to God




Giving Thanks for Fathers Near and Far


We thank you for fathers near

Fathers with strong arms

And fathers with feeble knees

Present at table and at bathtub and at bedtime for prayers.

Thank you, God, for fathers near.


We thank you, O God, for fathers far away

Fathers who ache for their families

Fathers absent because of war,

Or disease,

Or despair,

Fathers who are present and absent at the same time.

Thank you, God, for fathers far away.


We thank you, O God, for caring communities

Where mothers fill in for fathers

And fathers fill in for mothers

And grandparents put on the apron and the towel.

Where aunts and uncles, and those who are absolutely no kin at all

Make our communities a home

Fit for habitation.



— written by Safijah Fosua.  Used by permission.

Posted on the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Discipleship website.