Benediction Online

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Made in the Image of the Loving, Creating Trinity

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

A story is told about St. Augustine, one of the great theologians of the church, One day Augustine was walking on the beach contemplating the mystery of the Trinity. He came upon a boy who was digging a hole in the sand. The boy was pouring water from the sea into the hole.

When St. Augustine asked him what he was doing, the lad explained,

“I’m going to pour the ocean into this hole.”

“That’s impossible,” St. Augustine declared. “The whole ocean won’t fit in a hole.”

The child replied, “And you cannot fit the Trinity into your tiny little brain.”

Then the boy vanished, leaving St. Augustine to wonder if he had been talking to an angel.

Just as a single celled organism would have difficulty understanding the complexities of our multi-celled bodies which we take quite for granted, so the Christian church has come to know God as more complex than we can fully understand; three persons coexisting as one God.

If we look at contemporary Christianity we can see that there is a tendency for us to forget the Trinity and to concentrate instead on just one person. The Pentecostal and charismatic churches focus on the Holy Spirit, many Evangelical churches focus on Jesus while others focus on the almighty Father God, who is usually angry and demanding. It is much easier for us simple minded humans to have a God who is The Holy One or The Spirit than to allow ourselves to live with the discomfort of the uncertainty and the not-knowingness of the Trinity, three in one and one in three.

The essential and underlying nature of the Trinity reflected in all our readings today is Love. The creation of the world grows out of God’s creative love. Theologian Mark McIntosh has described creation as the pillow-talk of the Trinity. The pillow-talk of the Trinity. Just as humans who are drawn together in loving and committed relationship want to create together, to make something, often a home and then a family, so too the loving and committed relationship of the Tri-unity is, by its very nature, creative. It is almost impossible for the Trinity not to be creating.

The way the ancients imaged the creation of the world, they seem to have thought that God created it over a period of time, and that then it was done – finished. With the assistance of scientific understandings of continuing evolution, we have a different picture. We see the Trinity in constant creative mode, but with a partner. That partner is humanity.

We too are creative, just like the Godhead, and we are constantly creating, not only by our decisions and actions but also by our thoughts, intentions and prayers. Unfortunately, unlike the Trinity, we do not always create from love.

Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to choose to create from love, not fear, not hate, but love. We are made in the image of God with the capacity to be deeply loving and entirely creative, but there is a flaw in our make up, the flaw that we call sin. This flaw leads us to be self-obsessed, and to interpret our world from an ego-centric “what’s in it for me?” viewpoint. It leads us to feel that we have to protect ourselves all the time and so we assume that others are out to get us and often attack before we are ourselves attacked. Each one of us is astonishingly creative. Instead of using our creative powers in the most loving way, choosing to forgive and to connect, we use them to create defense systems and to imagine the ways we could be hurt.

We have an astonishing opportunity to work in loving co-creation with God to bring God’s reign on earth. That is our calling as the Church. We can do that at several different levels. To name but a few, we can co-create lovingly with our thoughts, we can co-create lovingly with our relationships, and we can co-create lovingly with our actions.

We can co-create through our thoughts. The way we think colors everything we do and say. If we think that we are more intelligent or more gifted than other people that will affect the way we act. If we think that the world is a hard and unforgiving place we will interpret everything as being difficult. Whenever we allow ourselves to dwell on unloving critical or aggressive thoughts towards another person or group, we are failing to take the opportunity to create love.

I am not saying that we should not use our abilities to discern what is happening. If someone is coming towards me pointing a knife at me, it is important to use all my God-given faculties to understand that person’s intent. But we all know that not everyone pointing a knife is malicious – that person could have paused in the middle of slicing bread to make an important conversational point and is just using the knife to gesticulate. We need to use our minds to discern what is happening, but when we are cultivating and providing room for thoughts which are aggressive in any way we are creating not love but aggression. That includes thoughts about ourselves.

Prayer is a particular kind of thought. I think that when we pray we are consciously joining with God in creating the universe. I don’t understand how it works any more than I understand how my thyroid works, but I think that prayer somehow provides energy for God to work. It provides an invitation. God respects our free will and does not push in where she is not wanted, so prayer opens the door, provides the invitation and says “come on in and sit right down” with me, with us, with my friend who needs your touch, and with the one I just can’t forgive.

We create lovingly when we nurture strong, loving and healthy relationships and let go of ones which pull us back. Sometimes God calls us to move away from old relationships which no longer help us to create lovingly. God also calls us to stay in relationship with people who are annoying, even destructive, so that through our prayer and our love the Holy Spirit may reach them and they too may be transformed. And in the amazing divine economy where nothing is ever meaningless, nothing is ever lost or wasted, whether we lovingly release a relationship, or lovingly stay, we are transformed to become more Christ-like. We are transformed as we choose to be loving and not to play host to the negative stories our minds feed us.

We create through our loving actions. “Become the change you want to see” has become almost a cliché, but in many ways it is true. If we want a loving world, we get to create a loving world by the way we live and the things we do. We help to create a loving world when we do even the most mundane things, like cleaning the church, lovingly and without complaining even in our minds. We help to create a loving world when we go out of our way to help someone else without making a story about how wonderful we are to help, or what a martyr we are to have to do this. We help to create a loving world when we stand up for justice in a way which is clear and calm, not dismissive or hateful towards those with whom we disagree.

God is love. The Trinity is somehow composed of three people who are also one. They live together in a constant state of loving creativity and have chosen to include humanity in that relationship. This is an astonishing privilege and an enormous opportunity as well as a responsibility. Humanity is composed of millions of people who are individuals but also somehow one. The way we respond to the opportunity God gives us is important.

What then shall we do?

Let us commit ourselves to loving creation. Let us commit ourselves to work unstintingly towards thinking only loving, forgiving thoughts, and to always seek to do the most loving thing in every situation.


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