Christian churches all around the world are celebrating Trinity Sunday, this three-in-one aspect of God. And I know it's confusing, because we say we believe there's only one God. So if we believe that, how can we say God is also three? Our faith, Christianity, is a monotheistic faith, which means we just believe in one God. In fact, all of the world's major faith traditions are monotheistic faiths, including Hinduism, which is thousands of years older than Christianity.
And I mentioned that because oftentimes I hear people talk about how Hindus worship many gods. And that simply isn't true. You may hear that there are various deities in Hinduism, like you may hear about Shiva and Vishnu, and Brahma. Well Hindus understand these to be different manifestations of the one true God. And that shouldn't be hard for us to understand as Christians, because we also believe in one God, but we have three different ways of understanding God. We have the Trinity.
Now, if you were with us, last Sunday, I was talking about that popular Christian book and movie, The Shack. If you ever read the book or saw the movie, you know, it's about a man who returns to a place – a shack – where his daughter was murdered. And there he meets the Trinity. First, he meets an Asian woman, and her name is Sophia. Sophia means wisdom. She represents Holy Wisdom, the Holy Spirit. The next person in the Trinity that the man meets is Jesus. But it's not the white, blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus that we see in most Hollywood movies. Jesus is portrayed by a gentle Middle Eastern man. And the third person the man meets is Papa – God. And Papa is portrayed by a black woman.
And I love that the Shack has become so popular among Christians, because it is opening up people's minds to who or what God is.
Most Christians grew up believing God was an old white guy up in the clouds with a long gray beard, who was keeping track of all of your mistakes. But that isn't true. God is more like that wise, Asian woman, more like that gentle Middle Eastern man, more like that loving black mother, then God is the judgmental old man up in the clouds.
Now, of course, God isn't a person.
We want to create God in our image. But the truth is, God isn't a person. Scripture tells us, God is love. God is the power and presence, that force of love that birthed everything into existence.
But it's hard for us to pray to love. So we want to have images that we can pray to – they're really helpful for us. Now, the Trinity is something that maybe you have dismissed. But as we heard, in our Words of Integration and Guidance this morning, the Trinity can actually really help us on our spiritual journey in our trying to get closer to God.
Those words come from a really wonderful book. I think it's the best book I've ever read on the Trinity. And it's written by the contemporary spiritual writer Cynthia Bourgeault. I know we have many Cynthia Bourgeault fans in our congregation. Her book is called the Holy Trinity and the Law of Three. And she starts off the book saying, “Why should we even care about the Trinity.” She quotes the 20th century theologian Karl Rahner who said, ‘If we never spoke about the Trinity again in our churches, most Christians wouldn't even notice or care.’
And that's probably true. I mean, the Trinity appears nowhere in the Bible. If you read the Bible from beginning to end, you'll never see the word trinity. It was a concept, a dogma created by the early church fathers, in the fourth century – 300 years after Jesus lived.
Jesus never spoke of the Trinity because he never heard of the Trinity. It wasn't his teaching. But yet today in our gospel reading for Trinity Sunday, we hear that he tells his apostles about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So what was he getting at?
Well, he was trying to teach them God isn't what you heard about. God isn't separate from you, an old man up in the clouds. He's trying to get them to understand that God is with us, and within us, that there is this force. There is this understanding that God is the one in which we live and move and have our being.
So God is the one divine mind. But that Divine Mind is also with us in body and spirit. And we talk about that now in our modern-day, psychological understanding – body, mind, and spirit. When we have them all in balance, we experience health, wholeness, peace. And you know, wholeness means holiness. When we have those three in balance within our spiritual lives, we experience wholeness, holiness.
Now, Cynthia Bourgeault, in that book, gives us that wonderful example of the seed. It was so helpful for me in understanding the Trinity, and I hope it will be helpful for you. She says that you have the seed and the soil, it's two separate things. But put them in relationship with one another, take the seed and plant it in the soil, then another force comes into play – the sunlight. And those three together create new life.
I love that understanding. And it's what Jesus meant, when he said that a seed must be planted, a seed must die to being a seed for there to be new life. He wasn't talking about seeds, he was talking about you. If I took a seed and just put it on a shelf, it's never going to create new life. But take that seed and put it in relationship.
What I'm saying is you, the seed, and God are two things. But put yourself in relationship with God, plant yourself in God, then a third force comes into play the Holy Spirit, and that creates the new life that is within us.
Isn't that such a beautiful way to understand the Trinity?
Now, there's another wonderful book about the Trinity. And it was written by our friend Father Richard Rohr, and it's called The Divine Dance, the Holy Trinity and Your Transformation. The divine dance. He reminds us in that book that when the early church fathers were coming up with this concept of the Trinity, they were using a Greek world Greek word called perichoresis. It has the root word of the word choreography, where we get the word dance.
Father Roar is letting us know that the Trinity is a dance. It's a dance among those three aspects of God. If you've ever seen Whirling Dervishes, the Sufi – Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam. All the world's major faith traditions have mystical branches. So Whirling Dervishes spin around and around and around. Their dance is a spiritual practice. What that motion that dance does is unite the human with the divine so that they can become one.
That's the purpose of the spiritual life. That's supposed to be the purpose of religion. It means to realign the human with the divine, so that when we have that relationship, that dance, we become one. That's what Jesus was trying to get us to understand.
Now the man who wrote the The Shack, is Paul Jung. He also speaks of the Trinity as he depicts in the movie and in the book, and he says that the Trinity is a relationship. And I love that we are to be in relationship with those three aspects of God, that God that's with us, within us, and the spirit that unites us as one.
So let's conclude with those three aspects. Jesus speaks of the Father, if you've been coming to Douglas UCC, you know, he didn't mean an old man up in the clouds, and he didn't mean a male. Okay, the word he used, the Aramaic word, means birther of the cosmos. That's how he understood God as the Creator, who birthed everything into existence. So there's that aspect of God, then He speaks of the son. And I know this is confusing. Jesus isn't talking about himself. Jesus of Nazareth isn't the Son. Jesus, when he uses that word, is speaking from his Christ nature, his Christ self, his Christ consciousness, that's the son – that Christ, the light that dwells within us, and within all of creation. And then he talks about, of course, the Spirit that we talked about last week at Pentecost.
Those are the three aspects of God. Again, it's just that understanding that we're not separate from God, the Creator is with us, within us and as us, and we need to keep those three in relationship, body, mind and spirit. It's a spiritual practice, a spiritual dance.
And so my friends, what I would like to invite you to do during the Pentecost season, is to expand your understanding of God, of the Divine that is with us and within us, and to find time each and every day during the season of Pentecost, to connect with that light that is within you, so that you can begin to understand this relationship between lover, beloved, and love itself.
God to the third power, that is the spiritual law of three. Happy Trinity Sunday, and Namaste
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
Words of Integration & Guidance
from her book The Holy Trinity & the Law of Three
With so many urgent practical issues facing spiritual humanity, why waste time with the Trinity, a doctrine that most of the world (and even much of Christianity) regards as contrived and irrelevant? It takes a real stretch of the theological imagination to claim that it was ever a part of the original Jesus teachings or that it does a single thing to clarify or enhance these teachings. In fact, the eminent 20th century theologian Karl Rahner has claimed that if the Trinity were to quietly disappear out of Christian theology, never to be mentioned again, most of Christendom would not even notice its absence! I, however, believe that embedded within this theological formula which we recite mostly on automatic pilot (“In the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit”) lies a powerful metaphysical principle that could change our understanding of Christianity and give us the tools so long and so sorely needed to cooperate consciously with the manifestation of Jesus’ “Kingdom of Heaven” here on earth. That principle is called The Law of Three. If the universe is created in the image of the Creator and the Creator is a Trinity, it begs the question: What if we don’t live in a binary universe, but instead in a ternary universe? Let’s consider a simple example. A seed, as Jesus said, “unless it falls into the ground and dies, remains a single seed.” If this seed does fall into the ground, it enters a sacred transformative process. Seed, the first force, meets ground, the second force. But nothing will happen until sunlight, the third force, enters the equation. Then among the three they generate a sprout, which is the actualization of the possibility in the seed—and a whole new “field” of possibility. The Law of Three teaches us that a new kingdom is just waiting to be born.
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