Well, last Sunday, we all wore red in celebration of Pentecost Sunday. And every year on the Sunday after Pentecost Sunday, the Christian Church celebrates what's known as Trinity Sunday. So this morning, Christian churches all over the world are putting their focus on the very same thing: the Trinity God as three persons. Now that can be very confusing for us, because most of us who grew up in the church were taught there was just one God. So how could God be three?
Well, Christianity is in fact a monotheistic faith, meaning we just believe in one God, and the majority of the world's major faith traditions are monotheistic faiths, including Hinduism. I know that might be a surprise for some people. It's one of the greatest misunderstandings I think about Hinduism, is people think that Hindus believe in many gods, but Hindus just believe in one God like Christians do. So you may ask yourself, why do Hindus have so many deities like Vishnu and Brahma and Shiva? Well, Hindus understand that they're just all different manifestations of the one true God. And that shouldn't be a foreign concept for us as Christians, because we have the Trinity, God as three persons.
Now, if you were with us last year for Trinity Sunday, I mentioned about the movie called The Shack. Maybe some of you saw the film or read the book. In The Shack, a man returns to a place, a shack, where his young daughter was murdered. And there he meets three people: Sophia, Jesus, and Papa.
Now we know of course from scripture, Sophia is the Holy Spirit. It's the she that Jesus was talking about in today's Gospel reading, the Hagia Sophia is the Holy Spirit. Well, in the movie, Sophia, the Holy Spirit is portrayed by an Asian woman. And Jesus is portrayed by a young Middle Eastern man, not the blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus we usually see in Hollywood movies. And in the movie, God, the Papa, is portrayed by a black woman.
And I love that I love that. The Shack has become so popular in Christian churches because it's expanding people's thinking. It's opening up people's minds about the face of God. Yes, God is the wise Asian woman. God is the gentle Middle Eastern man. God is the loving black mother.
Now, of course, God isn't a person, we know that God isn't some old man up in the clouds with a long gray beard who’s looking down on you and keeping track of all of your mistakes. Some of us were taught that, but it isn't true. Scripture tells us who God is. Scripture says God is Love. God is the power and presence, the light and life of love that is eternally creating. But you know, it's hard for us to pray, let alone wrap our minds around the power or the force of love.
And so that's why we have the Trinity. It helps us in our understanding of God.
Now, our Words of Integration and Guidance this morning, which Chris read for us, come from a wonderful book I highly recommend from Cynthia Bourgeault, called The Holy Trinity and the Power of Three. Many of you know Cynthia Bourgeault from the Center for Action and Contemplation. She's a wonderful writer, and theologian. And she starts off the book by saying, “Why should we even care about the Trinity?” And she quotes Karl Rahner, the 20th Century theologian who said, “If the Trinity were to just magically disappear and never be mentioned, again in churches, most Christians wouldn't even notice.”
And maybe that's true. The Trinity appears nowhere in the Bible. It was a concept that was created in the Fourth Century, hundreds of years after Jesus died, by the early church fathers. So Jesus never taught about the Trinity because he never heard of the Trinity.
But as we hear in our gospel reading for today, Jesus does mention the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And what he was trying to teach his disciples was, God is the lover, the beloved, and love itself, that God is love to the third power, the power of three. And as we heard, Cynthia Bourgeault asks in her book, “Well, if we were created in the image and likeness of God, and God is part of a trinity, then maybe we don't live in a binary world. Maybe we live in a ternary world,” meaning there's a third force in play. There's God in us. But then there's this third force.
And she gives that beautiful example of the seed. I think it's such a perfect way to understand the Trinity. She says, there's a seed, and there's soil, two different things, but put the seed in the soil, and then the sunlight comes into play. And the three of them create new life.
Jesus says in Scripture, unless a seed goes into the ground and dies, it remains but a single seed.
He wasn't talking about seeds, he was talking about you.
Unless you become transformed, you're just going to remain a single seed. You have to die to the small self to the ego self, so that you can be transformed in the power of three. So that you can experience your Divine Self, your true self, your Christ self.
Now Cynthia Bourgeault’s colleague at the Center for action and contemplation, the founder of the Center father, Father Richard Rohr, also has a wonderful book about the Trinity. It's called The Divine Dance: the Trinity and your Transformation. And in that book, Father Rohr says that when the early Christian fathers were developing the concept of the Trinity, they were focused on a Greek word, perichoresis. The root word of that is where we get our word choreography. They were trying to explain that the Trinity is a dance. It's a dance of the lover, the beloved, and love itself. And the purpose of religion, the purpose of the spiritual life, is for us to join in that dance, to become one with it, to be in the flow of it.
William Paul Young, the man who wrote The Shack, said that the divine dance is a relationship. That's what this spiritual life is, my friends, we are to be in relationship – in a dance – with the power of three.
Let's look at those three: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, metaphysically, spiritually. There's just one God, one divine mind that is eternally creating. Jesus called that one mind The Father. But he was not talking about a person. He wasn't talking about an old man up in the clouds, Aramaic scholars have taken that word that was translated into father and what they said Jesus was more accurately saying was birther of the cosmos. So Jesus is talking about the Father as the birther of the cosmos.
The second aspect is The Son. When Jesus talks about the Son of God, He is not talking about himself. The Son of God is not Jesus from Nazareth. When Jesus speaks of the Son of God, he's talking from his Christ nature. The Son of God is the light of the Christ that was within Jesus. And he said is within you, too. That's the Son. And the third aspect is the Holy Spirit, the power, the grace, the force that connects the three, okay? The body, mind and spirit.
Body, mind, spirit – the mind - the Father, the body - the Christ, and the Spirit. When they are all in relationship, we have health. We have wholeness. We have holiness.
And so my friends on this Trinity Sunday, may we become more aware of the power of three in our lives, and may we more consciously be in relationship with it, so that we can truly live fully love wastefully and truly become all that God has created us to be.
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
Words of Integration & Guidance
By Cynthia Bourgeault 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 twentieth-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 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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