Ascension Church

Homily May 27, 2018


I. My piano teacher, Philip Lillestol, bristled at being called a “teacher”; he insisted he was a “developer of talent.” Every musical possibility, he believed, was already within us. It was an adventure for him to discover, identify, and develop each student’s singular sound, skill, and voice, enabling each to be the artist we alone were created to be. Mr. Lillestol was himself a brilliant pianist—and eccentric. If we were enjoying an especially productive session, he’d cancel the rest of that day’s lessons, send me to “Ralph & Jerry’s” corner market for a roast chicken and iced tea (to which he’d add a good quantity of vodka), and we’d work into the night.


I didn’t learn how to play the piano “by the book,” or by having someone explain it to me. I got to know the piano through the passion and wisdom of a true disciple of the instrument, someone who was in love with music. He lived music.


II. Not even on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity do we venture into the heady heights of dogmatic theology and philosophy. Today’s scriptures do not attempt an explanation of God. Rather, they record God’s actions, people’s real-life encounter with Him. Listen again to Moses’ homily:


Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God

speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?
Or did any god venture to go and take a nation forhimself
from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the Lord, your God,
did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.

III. So too, the first Christians had no doctrine of the Trinity. What moved them was not an understanding of God, but their experience of God. In Jesus Christ, they met God’s love face-to-face. Their Spirit-filled communion was another incarnation of that divine love. What constitutes the Church, its essence, its heartbeat, is the extension of that love, of the divine communion of Father, Son, and Spirit. We don’t teach the Trinity but live it when we offer ourselves to one another in joy and welcome. When the Christian community—when this parish community—practices hospitality and generosity and self-sacrifice, we imitate the Triune God, and make God visible and palpable.


“I am with you always,” Jesus says, “until the end of the age.” Only if we are his witnesses. Only if we live Jesus.456