Pastor Dick Dahl has given us another wonderful homily this past weekend in my absence–enjoy! -Pastor Kathy
Today we come together to worship, but not to worship a deity on a mountain top or above the clouds, not a deity separated from us in another realm of existence, but rather the all encompassing and sustaining Mystery, beyond our wildest dreams and yet at the same time intimately within and around us, the Mystery of the Holy Trinity manifested in all of creation.
The reality of this belief is not immediately apparent. It appears as nonsense to some. But, as Gary Zukav writes in his book which is an overview of the new physics, “Nonsense is nonsense only when we have not yet found the point of view from which it makes sense.”
In my last homily here I noted Barbara Fiand’s words that we often say we are created in God’s image, but we usually create God in our image. We don’t usually go to the extremes that the Greeks and Romans of classical times did. They imaginatively peopled their concept of heaven with gods who depicted their own rivalries and conflicts. Nevertheless, we have often described God in human terms. And how could we not? How else can we relate to a Mystery that encompasses and sustains all that is, except through words and concepts that describe what we experience. But, as the semanticist, Alfred Korzybski put it, “The map is not the territory.” Or, as the physicist Fritjof Capra has written, “Because our representation of reality is so much easier to grasp than reality itself, we tend to confuse the two and to take our concepts and symbols for reality.”
As Christians, we believe that this Mystery has come to our aid–by somehow becoming one with us, by taking on human existence in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. In this human form the all enveloping Mystery made itself known. Jesus then chose the human image of a parent when he told his followers to call the Mystery “Father” or even “Daddy” (Abba) as he himself did. As a result, I think we have less difficulty relating to God as a Parent or God as Son, than we do as Spirit, even Holy Spirit. At least we stopped using the word “ghost.”
Why do we worship the Divine Mystery as Trinity? Jesus never used the word. Nor do we find it in the Scriptures. But it comes naturally from Jesus’ words. At the last supper with his friends, he told them, “I came from the Father and have come into the world.” He prayed, “Father, all I have is yours and all you have is mine.” He describes a dynamic relationship he has with his Father–and also with each and everyone of us.
But Jesus also said that he and the Father would come to us as Holy Spirit. Symbols are used to help us grasp this aspect of the Mystery—a strong wind, tongues of fire, a white dove, or the one Jesus used, the Paraclete, the Helper. Symbols help us, but they can also trap us into absurdities.
The Mystery in which we exist and which we worship is not three gods or “two men and a bird,” as one person put it, but a dynamic outpouring of Living Love, an intimate and dynamic relationship of Love. Fr. Richard Rohr points out that relationship is the deepest characteristic of God. In relationship we enter Mystery. Now “love” is something we can relate to, as is “relationship,” even though each is also a projection of human experience.
Ironically, the scientific discoveries during the past century reveal that nothing in the quantum world exists in isolation but also only in relationship. And instead of a static, mechanistic world, quantum physics reveals an unbelievably dynamic universe. If we believe that the Mystery we worship as God is the source of all creation, then it’s makes sense that creation reflects its Creator—that it should mirror on-going, creative Relationship.
Francis of Assisi called the world “our cloister.” Francis saw nature as the mirror of God. Father Rohr, himself a Franciscan, writes that this mirroring flows naturally back and forth from the natural world to the soul. He writes, “One has to sit for a while, observe it, love it without trying to rearrange it by thinking you can fully understand it.” He goes on, “This combination of observation along with love—without resistance, judgment, analysis or labeling—is the best description of contemplation I can give.”
We live each day caught up in the Mysterious Relationship we call Trinity. The Holy Spirit enables us to find the manifestation of God in nature, in our neighbor, in the Eucharist. Barbara Fiand observes, “One feels at ease in moments of presence, enveloped by the good.” She adds, “The life of Jesus was the ‘presencing’ of God. Our lives are called to be that as well.”
I want to conclude with the following thoughts from Father Rohr:
The followers of Francis of Assisi believe thatJesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity. It didn’t need changing. God has inherently loved what God created from the moment God created. No, Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God. This sets everything on an utterly positive foundation. Rather than being an ogre, God is Love. Rather than being sinners in the hands of an angry God, we are inherently and forever loved by God, no matter what we do or don’t do. God does not love us because we are good; God loves us because God is good. We can be good because we draw upon such an Infinite Source.
Modern science is helping us recognize that the physical universe is fundamentally different than it appears. Reality defies what common sense seems to tell us. In a similar way the Mystery of the Holy Trinity seems to defy common sense, yet the Holy Spirit reveals it to us as real.
Only loving relationships transform lives. God acts in us, ever flows through us, energizes us, and can never be separated from us. Francis of Assisi understood the entire circle of life has a Great Lover at the center of it all, the Triune Mystery that we worship today.