When I did high school biology we started by studying a
single celled creature called an amoeba and gradually worked our way up the
life forms through worms and caterpillars until we finally reached… rabbits. As
I am always better at starting things than completing them, I remember far more
about amoeba than about rabbits.
The largest amoeba
are 0.000039 inches across.
They don’t have brains so I don’t know whether they can think or speculate
about the world. If they did, I suspect these single cell creatures would have
a very hard time imagining a multi-cell organism as complex as a worm, let
alone a rabbit or even a human being. We all have a difficult time imagining
what it would be like to be something other than we are. I cannot truly imagine
being a rabbit, let alone a worm or, heaven forbid, an amoeba without eyes,
ears, arms, legs, heart or brain – without any of the things that I find vital
to my life.
So it’s not surprising that we also have a hard time
imagining a more complex organism than us. But today is Trinity Sunday, and so
we get to try imagining the Trinity which must be a more complex Being than we
are. Three in One and One in Three.
We are monotheists. We trust in one God who is also three. It doesn’t seem to make sense, and nowhere is
it explained in the Bible. The early Church was not at all sure how to
understand this new concept of God that Jesus brought, with his talk of his
Father and the new gift of the Spirit, and it was really not until the end of
the second century that the idea of the Trinity – the tri-une God was firmly in
Does it matter?
Yes and No. God is God and God is far more than our brains
can imagine. That’s not going to change, however we talk about him or her. But
how we think about God has some important ramifications for how we think and
If we imagine that God is like a triangle with the Father at
the top and the Son and the Spirit as the lower two corners, then we are seeing
the Godhead as a hierarchically fixed structure. That will make us tend to
believe that the cosmos also has a hierarchically fixed structure. It’s a way
of thinking that some Christians use to support patriarchal structures where
women are subordinate to men.
If we think that the Trinity is like a sphere of ever-moving
energy, with the three Persons constantly in motion, spinning around one
another, and that the energy which keeps them moving translates in our
consciousness into praise, love, mutual surrender, joy and creativity, then we
develop a much more egalitarian way of thinking about the world, including
From that incredible creativity came the cosmos. It has been
said that the created world is the pillow talk of the Trinity. And God –all
three of her – longs for the whole of creation to be reconciled to Godself and
to become part of that dancing sphere of light, love, praise and glory. That is
our higher calling.
But it is not an individual calling – we cannot be fully
reconciled to God until the whole of creation is redeemed. Which leads me to
wonder, what if… what if we are not individuals as we seem to be, but are in
fact, cells in a much larger more complex being? What if the whole of creation
is actually one complex being and we are its cells?
I wonder how it would change our behavior if we saw ourselves
From that perspective I notice that neither the New
Testament nor the Gospel reading today are talking about individuals. The
passage from Romans says that we
peace with God through Jesus through whom we
have been given grace; that we
to share the glory of God and that God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who
has been given to us. Likewise in the
Gospel reading Jesus is telling a group of the disciples that the Spirit will
come to them and that even she will not be acting alone. Clearly there are no
lone rangers in the reign of God!
So we are being called into reconciliation with God, and with
us we bring the whole of creation. There is some fascinating research which
suggests that we humans directly influence each other’s behavior. In a
phenomenon known as “social contagion” researchers have shown that we can
transfer emotional states directly from one person to another. In fact, a
number of behaviors including obesity, smoking habits and school performance
have also been shown to be catching. We are so interconnected that we directly
influence one another – we are responsible therefore, not just for ourselves,
but for all those in our social network, to live in a way that brings praise
and glory to God.
God the Trinity is a community in constant connection, filled
with love, praise, joy and mutual surrender, constantly creating beauty;
creation is also a community in constant connection, but our communication is
not always filled with love, praise, joy and mutual surrender, and the things
we create are not always beautiful.
So we are called to make a difference. We are called to make
sure that we are behaving like the Trinity, that the conversations we have in
our heads and the conversations we have in our homes and work places and on the
internet are characterized by love, praise, joy, mutual surrender and the
creation of beauty. As Paul says in Philippians, “whatever
is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is
pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is
anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
How do we do that when we see a world filled with atrocities,
hatred, fire, flood and melting icepacks?
I don’t think that the answer is simply to turn off the television and turn
our backs on the reality of the struggle that creation is experiencing. But there is a place for limiting our exposure
to the violence and mayhem constantly being reported on CNN and other news
channels. We need to balance our mental diet with a focus on things that are
beautiful, on the people who are helping, on the ways that we too can help.
We are the people of hope. We are the ones who can bring hope
to the world. Through our own spiritual practice and through the grace of God,
as we change the places of anger and bitterness within ourselves and within our
families and community through a practice of radical forgiveness and reconciliation,
so that hope will spread. It’s not just bad things that are socially
As Helen Keller said, "Although the world is full
of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it."
It is our belief,
our trust and our hope that God’s love “which has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” is so great that
resurrection will happen and that we - and we
means all of this great organism of creation of which we are part – that we will
come to share in the glory of God. And ultimately we, will become part of the Triune
Godhead, that great shining sphere of ever-spinning, ever-dancing light and