May 31, 2015
I don’t know if they still do analogies on the SAT’s…
but for me they were the most difficult part of that test.
You may recall that the analogy section went something like this…
Kitten is to cat
as puppy is to _____
Analogies aren’t meant to test whether you know the meaning of the words,
but whether or not you understand the relationship between words.
The relationship between a cat and a kitten
is that a cat is a grown kitten,
so the answer would be dog – a grown puppy.
Trinity too isn’t about meaning – it’s about relationship….
It’s about the relationship of one God
in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Over and over again people have tried to explain it;
they’ve tried to tell us what it means;
and over and over again people (including Martin Luther)
have said don’t even try it – it’s a mystery.
It’s a beautiful mystery, I think.
Mystery is such a gift to us.
Mystery actually exercises different brain pathways…
When we focused on the facts…visual information in front of us,
information flows from the back of the brain to the front –
from the occipital lobe to the parietal lobe.
But when we imagine, or wonder, or contemplate mystery,
when we don’t have those visual images in front of us,
our thoughts move in the opposite direction – from the parietal to the occipital lobes.
So one good thing about not trying to figure out Trinity Sunday,
is that it exercises our brain in a different way!
As adults we don’t get a lot of mystery in our lives.
We’re supposed to know things; have the answers.
One of the things I love about being around young children
is that they make us realize how much we don’t know.
A friend of mine shared a story about a walk he took
with his 3 year old daughter, Addy.
Addy was full of questions.
They were walking around their block,
and Addy noticed that something was out of place in one of their neighbors’ yards.
There was a lawn sprinkler,
but it was turned upside down.
So, of course, Addy asked her Daddy,
“Daddy, why is that upside down?”
“I don’t know,” her father answered.
“But why did they put it like that?”
“I don’t know,” her father replied.
Well Addy also had been in Sunday School
where she was learning about the Trinity… J
So as they continued their walk,
Addy asked her father,
“Daddy, do God and Jesus know everything?
(she hadn’t quite yet gotten to the Holy Spirit)…
Phew! Finally a question he could answer!
“Yes, honey. God knows everything.”
“Where is God?”
“God is everywhere.”
“Is God here right now?”
Her dad answered,
“Yes, I believe God is here right now. You can’t always see God, but sometimes you can feel God.”
With that Addy immediately started “feeling” the air with her hands.
Clearly she’s using that occipital to parietal pathway with her imagination!
“Daddy, I am feeling God right now,” Addy tells her dad.
By now they are about half a block from the upturned lawn sprinkler.
Addison is quiet for a moment
and then she shouts out at the top of her lungs:
“God, why is the lawn sprinkler turned upside down?”
Addy never questioned the mystery…
she never questioned the mystery of God and Jesus….
she never questioned the mystery of how God could know everything and be everywhere…
she never questioned the mystery of how God could hear her question and how she might hear God’s answer…
Addy never questioned the mystery…
She was in that blessed age
where she knew she didn’t have all the answers.
She accepted it…and then saw the possibilities in it – the gift it was!
Trinity is not to be explained….
it is to be wondered about and imagined;
it is not the topic for an essay but a poem.
One commentator wrote this week that it shouldn’t be preached at all,
but just sung: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord!”
One of my favorite images of the Trinity
comes from 7th century Greek theologian John of Damascus.
For John of Damascus, the best way to imagine the Trinity
comes from dance and the word he uses for the Trinity is “perichoresis”
meaning “dancing around.”
If you’ve ever been to a Greek wedding,
you’ve seen some dancing.
Eugene Peterson suggests that we imagine a folk dance.[i]
The dancers are arranged across the floor in groups of three,
As the music starts, they begin dancing in a circle.
The caller signals and the group releases hands
and they seamlessly take new partners – always a group of three.
They weave back and forth,
in and out,
swinging, twirling, embracing, releasing,
holding on, letting go,
moving among each other.
As the music gets faster and faster,
someone looking on has a hard time distinguishing the individuals in the group;
they become a blur;
but there is no confusion – everyone has a role –
inseparable and yet distinct as the early church scholars said.
Here’s the thing:
you couldn’t talk to anyone about that dance
without talking about the relationship between the three.
We can’t talk about God,
without talking about relationship of the three-in-one.
And we can’t talk about the three-in-one
without talking about God’s relationship with us…
that God somehow, mysteriously, draws us into the dance.
So let’s sing the Trinity…
and if you’d like to dance as we sing…that would be perfectly appropriate!
[i] Eugene Peterson, “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places,” p44.