Wednesday, 12 June 2019
ALL IS THREE
Once upon a time a dandelion came to be growing in a meadow. The dandelion whispered to amino acids and nutrients in the soil: “You need only to allow yourselves to be dissolved in a drop of water and I will suck you up through my roots. You won’t feel a thing. Afterwards, you will be able to grow and flower and fly away in the wind as 1,000 miniature parachutes carrying seed.”
“OK,” said the amino acids and other nutrients, let themselves be dissolved in rainwater, and sucked up through the roots, and became dandelion.
The next morning a rabbit came hopping along the meadow. “Good Morning!” the rabbit said to dandelion. “How would you like to become rabbit? You’ll have to allow yourself to become nibbled and swallowed. It hurts a little, but then you will be able to jump bounce and romp in the moonlight, wiggle your ears, have baby rabbits.” The dandelion was not overly enthusiastic, but the idea of hopping sounded like a lot more fun than just being stuck, in one place. “Okay,” said the dandelion with a sigh, and allowed itself to be munched, and become a rabbit.
Toward evening a hunter came by, “Good Evening!” said hunter to rabbit (for he was an unusually polite hunter). “How would you like to become human? You must allow yourself to be chased, shot, skinned, cooked, and eaten. It isn’t pleasant I admit, but afterwards you’ll be able to play yoyo, sing in a shower and fly in a jet plane.” The rabbit was scared, but flying in jet plane seemed so exciting that the idea was irresistible. So, sniffing a little and wiping away a tear, the rabbit mumbled “OK,” went through that ordeal, and became human.
The next morning the human became aware of a unifying presence just beyond any personal reach: “Tell me, how would you like to become God?” It is a whimsical story but the point is not. Worldy life is Being in communion. God sleeps in the rock, dreams in the plant, stirs in the animal, and begins to awaken in the human. Proverbs celebrates this divine wisdom delighting in the human being before creation even began, so we are a soul in God’s image, one with the one who is One, Jesus, in whose spirit we can awaken to overcome the world.
The Spirit is really One reality. Universe means One changing, we breathe the same air, like it or not, as St Paul said, members of one another. The trees breathe out, we breathe in, both of us made of the same matter as stars. We are one. But, if you have travelled on a tube train you will know we forget this and think we are separate instead.
A BBC news report last week called the surprising benefits of talking to strangers suggested people stay in isolation, believing that reaching a stranger would make both feel uncomfortable, and we underestimate the positive impact of connecting with others, for our own, and others', wellbeing.
Instead, we distract ourselves with entertainment and control, with television about my body, my house, my garden, as if the limit of what we can do stops in the mirror or at the garden fence. Educated as individual bundles of genetic patterns deployed by a controlling independent ego, we think we are opposed to other controlling independent egos, we think we are autonomous consumers, we are reduced to what we can measure, aspiring to our purchases and lifestyle choices, in the technological bondage of a closed human conceptual system. This is also called sin.
So, true religion reminds us a person is part of one greater more than personal whole. Life is beyond us, within us, and between us, and each of these is One. Trinity means the Big Bang source of the universe, the inspiration found in Jesus, and the energy God sends now, the Holy Spirit, are one.
Rublev’s icon of the Trinity, above, painted in 1410, shows Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three androgynous beings, heads bowed, deferring to one another. A space in the front of the picture welcomes you to sit, and join in their eternal life. Another way to say this is that knower, known and knowing are One. This mutual indwelling reminds us we have one mutual source, one true Self, one dynamic dance. Such is the spiritual intimacy between Father beyond, Son within and Spirit between, that they enter into each other, permeate each other, dwell in each other. The Greek term for this is perichoresis, but it means God knows God in you and I as a shared being, love and knowledge, as Gregory of Nyssa said. Christian writer David Bentley Hart calls Experience of God truth consciousness and bliss. St Francis of Assisi said: you are looking for what is looking. Christian mystic Meister Eckhart said the eye with which I see God is the eye with which God sees me. Ephesians says, One Lord and Father of all, above all, through all, and in all, to bring unity to all things in heaven on earth under Christ. Jesus said: “You Father are in me, I am in you and they in us.”
This Trinity took centuries to argue over and formulate. People had a problem saying Jesus of Nazareth was divine because it threatened their Jewish belief that God is One, so they resolved it by saying God governs from Heaven, Jesus of Nazareth revealed this in person and the Spirit communicates it now, and these three are one being, Homo-ousious to use Greek language of the day, in three co-eternal persons, ie. none of them came first.
Like us, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are a personal process in relationship with one spirit. We think we have a static skeleton, but our personal skeleton is regularly replaced by new material, so we are not static, even beyond death. Like us, persons of the Trinity are not distinguished by different hair colour or likes and dislikes but relating differently, Fatherhood beyond, Son-ship within, holiness between.
God is not a thing, so St Augustine said as soon as you start counting you are in heresy. In the Bible One spirit descended on Jesus like a dove to confirm him Son of God, but that one spirit bears witness with our spirit we are heirs of God with him. This is the challenge, to release the very autonomy we use in the world.
But releasing a personal grasp is also participating in divine life. We have a personality, but we are a soul, we cannot live until we let our soul indwell mutually in God the spirit, because life is more than genes and psychological patterns. So….. in the name of the Trinity I invite you to become still. Feel your breath rise and fall, ask yourself if you are making it happen, or is God breathing you. Feel the weight of your body. Notice colour. Hear sound. Notice silence from which they rise, to which they fall. Rest alert, with your neighbour, in presence beyond person, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all +