Sunday, June 03, 2007

God is more than two men and a bird

(I've yet to find an accurate, undisputed credit for the title of this blog entry - I think it was a Catholic)

A stranger once phoned and asked for an appointment to see me. She wanted to discuss a matter of some urgency. At the appointed time, she arrived and, after some small talk, she got down to business: “The Spirit has told me that you and I are to be married.”

I didn’t deal with that very well…

Unfortunately, passages like John 15:26 - 16:15 - the lectionary reading for this Sunday - lend themselves to this kind of interpretation. Read William Loader’s comments about this passage to learn a little of where John was coming from. William makes the point that verse 14 is already a fence around the apparently “carte blanche” spirit. Nothing inspired by the Spirit today should be inconsistent with what Jesus would have done.

So, instead of running away and leaving the hapless spirit-led woman in my office to the secretary, I should have taken her on a journey to discover Jesus’ principles on healthy relationship based on loving actions that take time and energy. Hopefully this would have seemed at odds with trying to start a marriage on a whim – even if it seemed to be God’s whim.

The question of how we deal with so-called spiritual messages from God raises the interesting Christian conundrum of the Trinity, the idea that Divinity is three people… um… but actually only one. God the Spirit offers to us that which belongs to Jesus (vs. 14) who in turn is speaking for God the Father…

This idea of the Trinity is not biblical, which is interesting when you consider that those who are often the strongest advocates of the idea are also those who espouse the supremacy of scripture… Scripture contains, at best, vague allusions to the idea. Really the idea belongs to church history as Christians struggled with worshipping Jesus and yet holding to the first and second Commandment to worship God alone. The debate was resolved (apparently) at the Council of Nicaea, which gave us the Nicaean Creed and the Doctrine of the Trinity.

As usual, Wikipedia is a good place to start for an overview of the subject of the Trinity. Suffice to say, the history of the Trinity has been nearly as bloody as the Crucifixion, which is to say, we’ve kinda lost the point, haven’t we?

Most people are content to leave the Trinity to academics in the mistaken belief that only theologians are qualified to think about such a complicated thing. This is mistaken mostly because academics, by their own admission (mostly), are often the worst theologians; anyone who engages with the idea of God and tries to insert God’s stuff into their daily lives is doing theology; such a person is a theologian.

The way we think about god affects the way we behave in the world. The Trinity offers us not a test for orthodoxy – “whose in and whose out” – but rather a spring-board from which to launch new adventures in spirituality and social transformation.

We need to begin with humility: "Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the triune God!" said John Wesley

Whenever we attempt to understand something essentially incomprehensible, anything other than tentative pictures, is arrogant in the extreme. This is why it is so startling to see how the church has repeatedly divided over this idea throughout the centuries.

I want to share the one picture I have found most helpful in understanding the Trinity and use it to demonstrate how this idea can affect important transformation of my spirituality and the world in which I live.

Consider someone you know who might be sitting near you as you read this. Maybe it’s your mother or father, a sibling, a colleague. What else is that person to other people – husband, girlfriend, confidant, lover, playmate…? Every person is many things to different people.

My father does not cease to be somebody else’s wife just because he relates to me as father. I am at one and the same time a father, husband, brother, friend and a myriad of other things.

In the same way, God is many but one all the time. God is relationship and we who are created in God’s image are created for relationship.

Now an interesting consequence of this idea is that God is not limited by our imaginations. God can be mother as much as father, a sister as well as a brother, a teacher and a friend.

Perhaps your spirituality has become dry and lifeless and prayer has ceased to be meaningful. Is it possible your imagination has become stuck with a single picture of God, while the dynamic divine has moved on with the rest of your life? Perhaps it’s time to imagine God as mother, God as confidant, or even, dare I say… lover?

Our society doesn’t treat mothers fairly. Neither do our sisters, aunts, daughters or wives get much justice. How would relating to God as female change our own attitudes and indeed inspire us to change our society?

What does my discomfort with the idea of God as lover say about my sexuality? Do I really see my sexuality as something to be nurtured as a blessing from God? What is God’s sexuality? If God is both male and female, yet neither at the same time, who are we to exclude those whose gender is non-specific?

The Trinity has the potential to unlock whole new adventures in your journey with God. Perhaps it’s worth reading up about this rich tradition…

1 comment:

bugs said...

thanks gregg, you have inspired me to think deeper about the Trinity again and to allow for the adventure that this brings.

On of the other inspirational and practical views on the Trinity that i have come across is that of John Wessels when he says: "In the beginning was community" He carries on to explain the the loving relationship between Father Son and Holy Spirit is so close and so intimate, so sacrificial and giving that the three in fact are one.

Any person who has been in a committed relationship where true love is experienced know this "oneness", this deep sense of community and can relate to this image.

It is out of this sense of true community that God creates humans in their likeness. Calling us to reflect true, loving, sacrificing, giving and intimate community.

I am getting carried away...

What i wanted to say Gregg is that your comment on God and sexuality has sparked a thought in me that still needs a lot of mulling over. thanks for that.

Ps. how is Phebe doing?