5/26/13, The Dance

Proverbs 8:22-31, Romans 5:1-5, John 16,12-15

 

The Sunday after Pentecost in the church calendar year is designated Holy Trinity Sunday.  Following on the heels of Pentecost, the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity calls us to think about what it actually means that God has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell human beings.  What does it mean that we are invited into intimate fellowship with God as Creator, the Source of All Being, God as Eternal Word revealed in Jesus, and God as the Spirit of divine energy and love?

 

Through the first three centuries of church history, a variety of doctrines were proposed to explain the nature of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Jewish believers had always spoken of one true God in contrast to multiple pagan gods, but now three Christian gods had been named in the scriptures. In the 4th century political pressure from Rome forced the Church to clearly define its position on the nature of Jesus and the Spirit in relationship to God.  The doctrine of the Trinity and the Nicene Creed were the result of Constantine’s insistence that a firm declaration of true Christian doctrine be made.  Everything outside of that declaration was to be considered heresy. 

 

Though the word Trinity is not found in scripture, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was developed from biblical references. (Paul in 2 Cor. 13:13, Matthew 28:19) Some other contributions are traced in today’s readings.  In Proverbs 8, the voice of Wisdom identifies herself as the creative energy of God. Paul’s letter to the Romans reminds us that the Spirit of God was given as a gift of God’s love to sustain us.  The presence of this Spirit is the source of our hope, from which we draw strength to endure life’s hardships and disappointments. Finally, in John’s Gospel, Jesus repeats his promise that the Holy Spirit will be sent to indwell the disciples as the Truth by which they can live their lives after his example. So in these three brief passages of scripture, we see Creator God as the Source of all Being, Jesus as God the Eternal Word of truth, and Spirit as God ever-present with us, offering every resource of divine Wisdom. Holding everything together and energizing our relationship with God as creativity, truth and wisdom is the thread of Divine love.

 

Many astute theologians have become frustrated trying to explain what it means that there is one God in three persons.  Here’s a favorite story that comes up in their discussions:

Jesus said, “Who do men say that I am?”

And his disciples answered and said, “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elias, or other of the old prophets.”

And Jesus answered and said, “But whom do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple."

And Jesus answering said, "What?"

So we are in good company when we scratch our heads over this Trinity business. Maybe we will never understand the how of the Trinity, yet it seems important to ask why this idea of God being expressed in three persons intrigues us so.

 

In Genesis, the foundational story of monotheistic faith, God says, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness.”  OUR image! The image of God is presented as being communal. Our Christian faith story says there were from eternity three mutually dependent, inter-communicating aspects to the one God.  God is Creative Source, God is universal Presence of Love as revealed in Jesus, God is Energy and Wisdom.  Our ancestors have spoken of God as Father, Son and Spirit. These three aspects of God were seen as being in a kind of divine dance, exchanging between them an empowering love that sustains Creation (the dance) and draws all things into relationship with the Divine. 

That’s why the most recent effort to explain Trinity involves the idea of the dance that many of the images in our slide show illustrate.  Theologians call the Trinity a perichoresis of relationship, which refers to a “moving around in pattern.”  It’s like a 3-person dance that couldn’t fully exist without all the moving energy of all three participants.  The Body of Christ, when perfectly functional, could also be considered a perichoresis.

Perhaps the Triune nature of the Godhead found in the Christian scriptures is meant to teach us that God needs relationship in order to be fully revealed. It wasn’t sufficient for God to exist in monotheistic isolation, because God couldn’t be fully known that way.  Each one of us becomes fully human, fully expressive of being the image of God, only when we are bound in a love  relationship with God and others. In that way our life becomes Trinitarian like that of God.

If we are made in God’s image, are we also not meant to be a collective community of being that taps the power of love to dispel loneliness and heal the world’s injustices?  Instead, many humans are individually focused on acquiring pleasure and security. Feeling unfulfilled and lonely, we easily turn to the addictions of comforting substances, or the internet or television to fill that hole of longing within us. Human longing is for community, for the support of intimate friendship in both joy and sorrow.  God’s image is manifested to us in such varied ways through other people.  When we isolate ourselves from true community we also isolate ourselves from intimacy with the Trinitarian God.  We miss out on knowing God expressed in community as Source of Life, Word of Truth and Spirit of Wisdom.

 

Instead of reveling in and being amazed by the variety of perspectives that we bear to one another as the image of God, and utilizing the power of love to create cooperative community between us, the institutional church has over the years built walls of judgment and distrust. I believe it is the unique task of our generation to begin to build bridges of hope and acceptance that connect all we have to offer one another instead of reinforcing those walls that divide.  That’s the task to which this Lumen Christi community is called.

 

May the Triune God grant that as we work together here in McMinnville, a community of empowering love may become reality for us and for all people who seek to know God.

 By Sandi DeMaster