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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

In thought, word and deed...

No audio this week, I am afraid, as I had to use visual aides and step away from a comfortable pulpit upon which to place my little recorder, but here is the writ:

I may have mentioned in a previous post how the Trinity is a poorly understood theology, and even more poorly explained by most theologians.  The reason this is so is that it is fundamentally a mystery, and there really is no way to explain it accurately.

For example, explain love.  Can't?  There you go, mystery.

Trinity Sunday is usually the day where most of us trot out really bad metaphors for the Trinity, and I am not going to be any different.

I have had the Trinity explained to me as an egg: shell, white, yolk, but all one egg.

Yeeeeeeahhhh, no.

I have had it explained as a cup of coffee with cream and sugar in: three ingredients, fully incorporated.

Neither.

My metaphor is this: there are three main ways you and I interact with our world: thought, word and deed.

Thought is pretty self-evident: it is the source of all motivation and inspiration, the source of all action, the source of intellect, judgment, discernment, interpretation.

Word: we speak, we hear, we communicate.  We state our intentions, we question, we explore through word and language.

Deed: we act.  We build, we destroy, we heal, we hurt through our actions in the world.

What I would like to imply is that the the three modes of interacting with the world correspond to the the three way God interacts with creation.

So you have in the Trinity God the Father/Mother, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  Or God the Creator, God the Redeemer and God the Sustainer, etc, etc.

In other words, you have God, Jesus and the Spirit.

So let's bring this back to thought, word and deed.

God as thought is once again the source of all knowledge, wisdom, morality, inspiration, motivation.  God is the wellspring through which all goodness flows.  God is the starting point of all action and indeed of all creation.

Jesus is often referred to as the Logos, the word of God made flesh.  Jesus literally spoke to us God's mind.  he told us about God's infinite love for creation, and he told us how we were meant to treat one another.

Then you have the Holy Spirit.  The problem with God is that he is not really accessible to us in the way our five senses normally access the world.  Nor is Jesus accessible to us in the same way he was to his disciples 2000 years ago.

But the Spirit is.  The Spirit used to be called the Holy Ghost, which freaked the crap out of me as a kid because it sounded like God was haunting me, but in reality we use the word all the time in a more understandable context: "They were in good spirits", "The spirit of the law is..."

The Spirit is not a ghost, the Spirit is an intention, a mode of being that puts God into action.

In effect, we are the Spirit.

Let me explain.  There is a mode of prayer that consistently annoys me.  It goes like this: "Dear God, please feed the hungry and clothe the naked".

I think many people walk away from that prayer feeling they have actually accomplished something.  Like the Holy Spirit is going to start flying around dropping food and clothes on people.

No.

A better prayer would be "God, I am thankful that I have extra clothes and food to give to the needy.  Please give me the strength and the will to go out there and find them and to do your will in the world always".

We are the vessels out of which the Spirit flows.  We are the lights through which it burns.  We are the tools through which good deeds are built.

Everywhere acts of justice, mercy, love, compassion, peace, forgiveness are wrought, there the Holy Spirit is found.

May that Spirit flow through you today.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Why the Trinity actually does make sense

Do download a podcast of my sermon, click here.

My sermon for today is based on John 14:15-21.

I am an Anglican.  That means that I am a Trinitarian.  The problem is that the Trinity is, by its very definition, a mystery.  "Mystery" is the word religious people often use to explain that which they cannot explain.

As a young person and even into seminary, I had great trouble with  the concept of the Trinity.  It seemed that God was reduced to a distant administrator, Jesus became God's clerk and the Holy Spirit became an errand boy of sorts.

Then add to that the fact that the Trinity seemed to border on polytheism ("But God is one!"), and we can perhaps understand why this is such a mystery indeed.

I have heard a number of explanations of the Trinity, ranging from the absurd to the merely whimsical (and most of them had to do with food: "The Trinity is like an egg; The Trinity is like a cup of coffee") but none of them actually ever got close to being a useful tool for spiritual wisdom.

Until seminary.  I can't remember who told me this metaphor, but this one worked for me.  This person said that as people, we interact with our world in 3 different ways.

1. Our thoughts.  We perceive the world, we analyze, we make assessments, we judge...our brain is how we perceive the world and thought is the first basis of how we interact with it.

2. Our words.  Whether we speak or write, our words have an impact on people.  Words communicate knowledge, perception, intent.

3.  Our action.  This is where we actually go out and do stuff.

So if we follow the chain, we think something, we say what we are going to do about it, and we do it.

Comparing this to the Trinity, this person said that God was the principle of thought.  God is the source of everything.  Christ, often referred to as "the Word of God made flesh" was someone to spoke the word of God, who told us what God was like and what God was not like.  He is the one who told us that God loves us dearly, and we ought to love one another dearly.  Then there is the Holy Spirit, which is that principle of action through which God still moves in the world.

The Holy Spirit is not a ghost, of course.  Whether we are religious or not, we often use the term "spirit" when we refer to the mood in a room or in a group, or even when we talk about our own mood ("He was in poor spirits; The volunteers were in high spirits").

The Spirit therefore can be conceived as the extend to which we allow ourselves to be moved by God, by our own thoughts, by the things we experience.

We perceive something, we make a statement about (internally or externally) and we act on it...hopefully acting out of love.

This chain can be interrupted, of course.  Many of us think things we do not say, we say we are going to do things but never do, and sometimes we act in ways that neither reflect what we think OR what we say.

We have a choice in most of our interactions with the world.  We can do the right thing or we can do the wrong thing.  It comes down to a moral choice: we can reach out to individuals and the world in love, or we can allow any number of other emotions to step in the way and guide that series of thought, word and deed.  We can let anger, fear or selfishness guide our process.

Let love guide your process today.