Lenten Meditation 9 March 2012
“It doesn’t have to do with being perfect. It has to do with staying in relationship, holding onto union as tightly as God holds onto you, staying in there. The one who knows all and receives all, as a mirror does, has no trouble forgiving all. It’s not a matter of being correct, but of being connected.” (page 67)
|The Holy Trinity, painted by Andrei Rublev|
I don’t need church; I can worship God in the forest (or golf course, or at home, or wherever) just as well, and I don’t have to put up with all the hypocrites. I am sure some of you have heard someone say something like that; perhaps you have even said it yourself at some point in your life. There have been moments that I have felt that way, but blessedly God has drawn me back into the arms of the community. Yes indeed there are hypocrites in every congregation, and you and I might be the biggest hypocrites from time to time. Salvation and redemption, however, are not about being sinless—or hypocrite-less—before we approach God. It is about being a part of a community that is working together to discover God’s call on our life and living that out as completely as we can.
One of the foundations of Christianity is the theology of the Trinity. Now the word “trinity” never appears in either the Hebrew or Christian Scriptures, but there are pointers to the community and communion of God within God’s self. “Let us make human beings in our image.” (Genesis 1) The story of the three travelers—the Lord--that appear to Abraham and relate once again the promise that Abraham will be the father of many nations, and, in fact, his wife Sarah will bear a child in the coming springtime. (Genesis 18) And there are many other examples in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the Christian Scriptures the examples are far more explicit: John’s Gospel is replete with references to the Father and to the Paraclete/Holy Spirit/the Advocate with Jesus referencing himself as the Son.
Are we then worshipping three gods or are we indeed monotheistic? The Jewish equivalent to our creedal statements, the Shemah, begins, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” It took the early Church 450 years to work out how we could articulate our understanding of One God in Three Persons, separate and distinct, and yet a unity. Perhaps the most famous attempt to describe this three-in-one God came from St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. I am sure you are aware that shamrocks are always associated with Patrick, but most Americans do not know why. As Patrick was evangelizing the Irish Celts, he was challenged on the concept of the Trinity. He is reputed to have bent down and plucked a shamrock, held it up and showed the three blades but only one shamrock all of the same substance, different, but the same. Some modern day Christians have used water in much the same way--ice, liquid, and steam—but there are theological difficulties with this metaphor.
My favorite representation of the Trinity is a Russian Orthodox icon painted by Andrei Rublev in the early 15th century. [Above] It shows the three visitors to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre, but clearly it represents the Father (left) the Son (center) and the Holy Spirit (right) seated at a table but with the fourth side closest to the viewer vacant inviting the viewer into the icon to commune with God. A meditational description of this icon is available through Google if you are interested.
We are called as Christians into a community of believers, not perfect, sometimes hateful to one another, all sinners, but seeking together to re-present the community of the Trinity to this world. It is only through community that we are able to discover our true selves and to grow into the full stature of Christ. Every Christian is different, we were not produced by a cookie cutter to all look the same and have the same abilities and gifts. St. Paul speaks to the concept of the differences of the various body parts in I Corinthians 12 and how no part of the body is more important than any other, but that all are necessary to function in a healthy manner.
Yes it is possible to worship God in the mountains; I have done that myself. But it is a poor substitute for praying in the community of believers. Yes God is occasionally mentioned on the golf course, but not often in a prayerful manner. Yes one can worship God at home alone, but there are too many distractions there; and in addition the community is not present to uphold edify and challenge.
As Father Rohr says, it’s not about being correct or perfect, it’s about being connected. Through community and communion, two words with the same root, we learn to live into the community of God, the Trinity, which shows us that we cannot be “lone ranger” Christians. Left to our own devices we will wander off on a path that will take us farther and farther away from God and alienate us from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes our challenge is to be connected, but that is our call. Pray for your community, your congregation; visualize one who is a challenge to you and pray that the love, mercy and grace of God may fill that person to accomplish God’s purpose. Try that for a week and trust that God is changing you.