"then wilt thou not be loath to leave this Paradise, but shalt possess a paradise within thee, happier far. Let us descend now therefore from this top of speculation; for the hour precise exacts our parting hence" Paradise Lost, Book XII, lines585-590

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The dance of Trinity

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday, which means it's a
Sunday set aside to celebrate the doctrine of God
being three persons but still one God.  What, celebrating a doctrine sounds strange?  Well, probably because it is.  What makes it even trickier is that, as a preacher, almost anything I say on the subject will likely contravene the doctrine.  Because... well because it's an extremely convoluted doctrine and its underlying reality is so confounding to our experience and logic.  How can three separate things really be one thing? 

The idea of the Trinity developed over centuries of debate revolving around the scriptural witness, the experience of believers and the traditional interpretations handed down by Jesus' disciples.  There's also probably more than a touch of Greek philosophy thrown in as well, those old church dudes (and they were mostly male) loved their Greek philosophy.  In some ways, the development of the doctrine of the Trinity resembles a group of grumpy blind men trying to create a Renoir painting - lots of arguing over things that can't really be understood.  All analogies fall short eventually because they're, well, analogies - not descriptive reality. And there's no way to really describe alot of what God is or is about short of analogy, thus our understanding is always incomplete. People, mostly, hate ambiguity though.  Thus, lots of heat is generated by religious types claiming their analogy is the Truth. 

At the same time, their is something about the human experience of God which leads to seeing God in distinct forms.  The eternal God whose will underlies all of the Cosmos, existing outside of time and space, somehow remote and distant, Jesus of Nazareth who walked and talked and had to do all the things human do (yes, even those things) and yet in whose life and resurrection from the dead the earliest disciples experienced the divine, and all of the ways in which the divine purpose intersects our lives and makes its presence known to us; all three of these point to "God" and yet we cannot get over the feeling of separateness in them while somehow recognizing their unity of purpose and direction. 

There is to mind, very little to say about the Trinity other than saying "in this mystery I believe and trust."  But there is still much to be said about our experience of God, both in transcendence and in our relationships with others.  I became a Christian not because of the beauty of it's arguments on behalf of God's existence or because of the internal logic of its theology (which it isn't).  I became a Christian because of experiences I had whose explanation defied rational examination and the story of God as contained in the Christian tradition made the most sense, even if not perfectly. 

To me, Christianity is an ongoing examination of the world around us and a testing of tradition and scripture in light of that experience.  Faith is not about learning some arcane set of facts and holding fast to them in the face of contrary evidence.  It is a journey of discovery and reconciliation of our experience of God with others' experiences so that all together we might discern and live into the one underlying truth of God; that our universe is founded upon the twin principles of love and relationship.

Friday, June 6, 2014


Recently I received a Facebook friend request from my childhood best friend, someone I not had seen or spoken to in something like 35 years.  Of course, I accepted right away.  We had been inseparable before his family moved away.

And then he sent a message:
"I have one question for you...Just why couldn't I have my crystal radio set back? (I say that with a smile but I know you've grown up a lot since then I'm sure - but I do remember we had a fight over that.)"

So I replied: 
Honestly I don't recall. Now that you mention it, I remember using it in the basement where it probably still is. I'd be happy to return it now. I suspect I was reluctant to let too many things go.

But he messaged me again:
LOL - u don't remember much. I came and got it. We had a fight. You punched my chest and burst my blood blister that was on my chest. I think that was the last time I talked to you. I played with it for awhile. I think it was a $5 toy. I was just wondering why you were being so mean about something so trivial.

At this point, I have to be honest, I felt really bad.  Not only had I treated my friend terribly so long ago, and though it had obviously stuck with him, I had forgotten.  I was uncomfortable coming face to face with my 12 year old self and felt ashamed.

So I wrote back:
Probably because I was angry that you were leaving and didn't have anywhere to direct that anger except on you 

And it probably is true.  I was a pretty angry young person and looking back I think I had reason to look at the world as unfair and to be angry.  But at the same time, I can also recognize that anger wasn't an effective means to build a life.  And as I grew up, I was often my own worst enemy, my anger and stubbornness driving me to self-destructive behaviors and choices.

But somewhere along the way, I discovered the power of being loved which led me to begin to believe that there might be something like a loving God.  And slowly, my anger ebbed away.  Its not that I don't ever get angry, but its not the perspective from which I see everything around me anymore.

I've found redemption, I've cased in my anger for hope, my frustration for faith.  And in something as simple as Facebook friend request, God has again given me an opportunity to experience redemption, the redemption of a friendship derailed by anger.