Join the Chorus

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

Psalm 8
You have made us a little lower than God, and crowned us with glory and honor.

Romans 5:1-5
God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

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Today is Trinity Sunday. It’s fixed on the church calendar on the Sunday after Pentecost. It’s fixed, in part, so we can’t ignore it or pretend we are mere monotheists or Unitarians, which would be a lot easier in so many ways; easier, yes, but less fun. It may be hard to believe but it’s fun being a Trinitarian. Let me show you.

The word “trinity” or “triune” comes from blending “triple” and “unity.” God, we say, is One yet Three, or Three yet One. It’s a quirky feature of the Christian tradition. Our Jewish and Muslim monotheistic cousins think we’re nuts or heretics or both. But we just keep on saying: God is One and Three as well.

It’s illogical. It doesn’t add up and it frustrates other monotheists and everybody else. Which is why some end up screaming at us: Which is it? One or Three? To which we reply: Both. To which they reply: That makes no sense. To which we reply. Exactly. Stop making sense of everything. Especially God. A god you can define is no god by definition.

Hmmm… What’s that mean?

It doesn’t mean we should play dumb, stop thinking or asking questions. It only means some things can’t be grasped intellectually. Some things can only be experienced with the heart.

Sometimes there’s nothing we can do but stand in awe of certain holy mysteries, including those found by scientists. It could be many things in science but for me, it’s the “Big Bang,” namely, the notion that the entire universe was once contained in a pill smaller than a bb. Really?! Yes, really! That happens to be science’s best guess for the moment.

I’ve been reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Just About Everything. It’s a stunning reminder of just how huge and old the universe is and how small and peripheral we are. Less than cosmic dust. And yet you can’t help but notice that out of the evolutionary process something’s been “poured” into the human species that changes the equation of size, distance and age. Less than cosmic dust? What about this: “a little less than God?” (Psalm 8)

Anyway, back to the universe. In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s awesome. And to believe it all emerged 14 billion years (or so) ago from a tiny pill is about as believable as the notion that the entire universe began with the words: “Let it be.”

So what or who was at the beginning of everything?

That, as it turns out, is a question humans have asked for a long time. What was before that, and before that, and before that? It’s like those endless questions children ask on a long road trip: are we there yet, are we there yet, are we there yet, until someone says stop it. SHUT UP.

I’m not sure if the Greek philosopher Aristotle had children. But evidently he got fed up with that endless series of questions about what caused that, what was before that, and before that, and before that. He finally said, stop IT. SHUT UP.

And then to put all minds at ease, he said that it all got started by—are you ready for this?—the Prime Mover, orThe Unmoved Mover. And if that Unmoved Mover is a being of any sort, said Aristotle, it is Pure Mind. It thinks its own thoughts, contemplates itself. The Unmoved Mover is totally self-contained—which was the best guess at the time.

But humans are not content with the best guess at the time. We keep digging, probing, asking questions. We are still learning and science is leading the way.

A few centuries after Aristotle, Christians came along with a new twist on things based on their novel experience of divinity in a human. They discovered something in and about Jesus that was not just divinity or humanity but both-and. And that upset the equation between humanity and divinity. It prompted a different look at things and self.

Evidently, God is not separate from all—above and beyond all. God is One with All and All in One. God is above, beneath, beside, within. You name it. God is everything and nothing and something more than both. (See how fun this is?)

And to think we are made in the image of the triune God. Or did we make God in our triune image? At some point theology and anthropology merge.

Whatever was at the beginning, Christians said, it must be love. And that was non-negotiable. But for there to be love there must be at least Two. And since love between two persons is greater than the sum of the parts, there must be a Third something or other you can’t put your finger on.

God, as it turns out, is a verb not a noun. God can’t be boxed.

As C. S. Lewis put it: God is not a static thing--not even a person--but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance.

And that brings us to the Old Testament lesson for today (Proverbs 8).

Our Jewish ancestors surmised that creation sprang from love and delight but, unlike our Greek ancestors, they didn’t feel the need to be precise or mathematical. The poetry of Proverbs 8 portrays a girl named Wisdom (Hokmah in Hebrew or Sophia in Greek) as the Creator’s companion and collaborator from the beginning of time.

The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was brought forth, before the beginning of the earth.

When the Holy One marked out the foundations of the earth, I was there, right beside, like a master worker; delighting, skipping about and rejoicing beside the Creator, rejoicing in the inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

Centuries later the gospel of John (1:1-3) would introduce the Christ with those words: In the beginning was the Word. It echoes Sophia’s playfulness at creation but did anyone point that out to you? Even though the church officially crushed this and other feminine aspects of God many Christians retained it, especially the mystics. You can hear it in the hymn attributed to Juliana of Norwich, the 15th century mystic. Mothering God you gave me birth. Mothering Christ you took my form. Mothering Spirit, you nurture me.

The more I muse on the quirky doctrine of the Trinity the more I think it was originally concocted to be a little fun; something not so dry and passionless as Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover. Meister Eckhart, the 13th century German mystic thought so.

In the core of the Trinity, the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son. The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit. The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us.

And thus our birthright is laughter and delight in the world. At our best we lead the chorus of praise for creation. We join our voices with stars and quasars, mountains and meadows, trees and flowers, atoms and molecules, birds of the air, fish of the sea and critters of the land. It would be odd, stupid and even sinful if we refused to join the chorus.

Humans are, as someone said, nature noticing itself in a way that no other creature can. Somewhere, somehow a spirit was poured into the heart of our evolving humanity, an evolving consciousness not yet complete. Whatever that is, it gives us a distinctive role and responsibility on this planet, a “dominion” (Psalm 8)—not to exploit but to treasure and serve. You might say we ourselves are a trinity: source of life and love for others; a particular embodiment of life and love; and renewer of hope and joy for the world, with a spirit as wild as the wind.

And maybe that’s why we take out our cameras and focus on a particular flower, or lion, or sunset. With or without cameras, there are times when we have no other intent or desire than to admire and praise the beauty of being itself, which is our true vocation on this planet.

If you breathe deeply and hold still long enough you just might sense the One in All and the All in One that is You. It’s your breath which is your own but not only yours. No matter how small or peripheral you may feel at certain time, in moments like that you just might discover that you are right where you belong and always have been.

This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water
and then into the sky of this
the one world
we all belong to
where everything
sooner or later
is a part of everything else
which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite beautiful myself.
[Mary Oliver]