Sunday, June 12, 2022
The Divine Dance
The Rev. Mark D. Wilkinson, Rector
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Katy, TX 77493
Trinity Sunday 2022
Trinity Sunday is one of those Sundays all preachers dread.. That a mystery like the Trinity could ever adequately be described in human terms is in many ways absurd. We are trying to describe God in human terms and no matter how hard we try we will fail. Even Jesus had to resort to analogies and metaphors in speaking of God and the kingdom. He really never did mention the Trinity. The Trinity was not defined until the writing of the Nicene Creed some 300+ years after Jesus rose from the dead! We’ve been working on it ever since then.
As I was reading the commentaries many spoke of the complexity of the Trinity and the difficulty that the church has always had in explaining the mystery of what the Trinity is. I went back to a series of videos that Richard Rohr made after he wrote his book about the Trinity, “The Divine Dance.” Richard makes the point that we spend too much time on the what, what is the Trinity, what does is mean, look like etc and miss the how the Trinity connects us to God.
Let me give you an example. One of the great splits in the church came in part because of an argument over the Nicene creed in the 11th century. A huge fight that ultimately split the Eastern and Western church came of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from just the Father as the Eastern Church teaches or from the Father and the Son as the Western church held. This was so great a dispute that it literally tore the early church in half.
My question along with Richard’s is does this really matter? Maybe this is less important for me because I grew up in a church that didn’t accept the Trinity and yes there are churches that call themselves Christian that do not accept the Trinity. Now don’t go calling the bishop I’m not saying I don’t believe in the Trinity. It took me a while but I had the advantage of coming to this without any previous baggage. I am saying the arguments over the specifics of how this all works just are not that important to my theology. It is a mystery not to be analyzed but to be explored and embraced.
Arguing about what the Trinity is, really is not the point. What we do in response to our experience of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit is the point. The key is in how the Trinity becomes a constant flow of love that includes us as well. Let me explain
First of all, we need to talk about the love to which I am referring. So many people hear love and think Valentine’s Day. The sentimental love of the candy and greeting card makers. The love that Bishop Curry constantly refers to, that Richard Rohr writes about, that Paul describes about in 1 Corinthians 13 is something entirely different. So different that the ancient Greeks had a separate word for it, agape.
Trinitarian love is one of a circle of unconditional love that flows through Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is a love that is totally emptied of ego. It is a love that is one of total selflessness. This is also a love that never fades or diminishes. We may be more or less aware, but the flow of that love never fails. The love flows from the Father to the son to the Holy Spirit and returns. As one is giving the love, they are being refilled by the others.
Now again the problem is all of this is metaphor. The Trinity is like, is like, is like…. I believe that better than words sometimes is art. I am a big fan of icons. My favorite one is the Trinity Icon by Rublev that hangs in the Hermitage Museum in Russia. You all should have copies that were handed out as you came in. From left to right you have God the Father dressed in gold. God the son has a blue cape that stands for the color of water and sky that in iconography represents the earth. The red of his robe represents the sacrifice he made for us. The Holy Spirit is on the right. The cup is on the table between them and Jesus is pointing to this, but he is gazing at the Father and the Father is gazing back. Now the Holy Spirit is pointing and looking at the front of the table. Now here’s the really good part.
You will see a small rectangle on the front of the table. For years it mystified people. It wasn’t paint it was the only rough place on the icon. Finally, one of the curators scrapped just a little bit off and the analyzed it under a microscope. It turns out to be glue. What they believe now is that there was a small mirror glued to the front of the icon. This meant that as you looked at the icon, you were then taking your place at the table, in that circle of divine love. The Holy Spirit is inviting us to take our place!
So, the most important part of this icon is the invitation for us to take our place at the table and become part of this flow.
The piece that we may have a real chance at experiencing is the concept of unitive consciousness. This is something mystics write about. Thomas Merton speaks of a sudden awareness after many years of study that while standing at the corner of 4th and Walnut in Louisville Kentucky that we are all part of one great universe. I was telling the Tuesday bible study that they have studied monks of a variety of faiths while they meditate. There is a point where the part of the brain that is really activated by meditation slows and starts to vibrate in sync with the magnetic field of the earth. It doesn’t matter what the faith, it’s the meditation. They all experience this unitive consciousness when this happens. Those people who really practice meditation can make that connection. I’ve had a glimpse, but that’s all.
Richard Rohr’s book is called the Divine Dance and I think that is a fabulous title. As a musician I experience this oneness when playing in an ensemble especially a small one like a quartet. You feel a deep connection and I suspect that good dance partners also have the deep connection. That’s why his title is so perfect for a book on the Trinity.
With those hints and examples, I hope you can look back and maybe find a time when you experienced this loving unity. More important you can be on the lookout for them and even seek them by practicing some meditation.
My message today on this Trinity Sunday is to seek the love that binds not just the Trinity but all of creation. If a few more of us would experience this unity in love, maybe we can bring some healing to our broken world. It’s worth a try!