In observance of Earth Day several years ago, the Associated Press asked astronauts who had returned from space to recall what it felt like to look back at the earth. Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders, whose 1968 pictures of our planet became famous as “Earth Rise,” spoke eloquently about perspective: “We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”[i]
You know, sometimes it’s prudent to take a step back and reflect for a moment in order to gain a fresh perspective. I think that’s what all of us need today. A moment of reflection. Of course, we can’t gain our new perspective from a “Bill Anders” vantage point, but we can look at the current chaos in our nation and our response as people of faith with new eyes.
Now, as I said before, today is Trinity Sunday and the doctrine of the trinity is something that could benefit from a little new perspective. I mean, I’ve been at this theology thing for a good number of years and, over the course of that time, I’ve progressed and grown in my understanding of trinitarian theology. Like most of you, I began by just accepting the concept of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three-in-one, without question. When I became a student pastor I quickly transitioned to the more inclusive and welcoming Creator, Christ, and Spirit.
But then came seminary, with all its fancy terms like perichoretic coactivity and homoousios, and just between you and me, I was more confused than ever. So, I kind of set the trinity aside. Oh, I found ways to speak of it once a year on Trinity Sunday. I compared the trinity to three forms of water, (ice, liquid, steam). Then I likened the trinity to relationships (I’m a husband to my wife, a father to my kids, a son to my parents, three different relationship, some person) Actually, that one still works pretty well because it get at the relational aspect of God.
But it still wasn’t quite enough. So, about a year ago I began to revisit the concept of trinity. I read a book by Richard Rohr called Divine Dance and that launched my quest for a deeper comprehension and a re-invigoration of my personal trinitarian theology.
Now, the premise of this book, as the title indicates, is to recapture an understanding of God as three-in-one by adopting the image of an unending dance. Creator, Christ, and Spirit, ever-twirling, ever-dancing, ever circling one another seamlessly dancing together within the mystery of the Trinity. Rohr then uses this illustration to demonstrate to us that God is in fact “community.” A community that exists among the three-persons of the Godhead and their coactivity, their movement, he contends, is always dynamic and fluid, thus, the image of the twirling dance.[ii]
Now, you’re already familiar with this concept of the divine dance because it was the core of my sermon on the Trinity last year. But my quest didn’t end with Richard Rohr and this eastern concept of the “whirling dance.” A couple of weeks ago, as our nation continued to sink deeper into crisis, I began to wonder what image of the trinity might be more practical, more healing, more hopeful in the midst of all that’s going on. So, I came up with and new perspective, a Bill Anders view from outer space if you will, I came up with the concept of “I-God.”
I-God is a practical application of the trinitarian formula for the 21st century. It’s basically the three “I’s” of the trinity: the Ideal God, the Inspirational God, and the Intuitive God. This is how it works.
The Ideal God is God as creator, mystery, other-than, the More. This is the transcendent part of God that is often beyond our grasp. How is this practical? Well, one of the most basic ideas out forth by Scripture is that God is God and we’re not. The Psalmist says that God created humans “only slightly less than divine.”[iii]
Now, the Inspirational God is an extension of the Ideal. It’s not enough to simply realize that God is mysterious, we must also understand that God is around us. Incarnate is the theological term. Jesus, of course, is the face of the Inspirational God. Jesus inspired his disciples back then, and people of faith still today, as he healed taught them and us about justice, forgiveness, and compassion, living-out those qualities all the way to the cross. And Jesus inspires all of us, above all else, to be love and he challenges us to put that love into practice. A love that when practiced becomes more than a mere concept; it becomes a part of the very fabric of our being.
And it’s this indwelling of love that constitutes the Intuitive God. The Intuitive God is the Spirit of the living God within each of us and within all living things. The Spark of the Divine. The Consciousness of God dwelling within each person. The Intuitive God is the part of God which compels us to speak out for justice, stand up for equality, and to seek peace. The Intuitive God is the part of God in which we “live and move and have our being.”[iv]
My friends, as this pandemic drags on and as the consequences of systemic racism continue to unfold, we’re not wrong to long for the kind of soul calming peace that came over us, as we saw, for the first time, those distant pictures Anders took fifty years ago. But as history has once again taught us, we cannot truly have peace in this nation until we have justice for all. We cannot truly be the land of the free and the home of the brave until the privileged majority summons the bravery to stand up for the freedom of the disadvantaged.
But, my friends, if we summon that bravery, that courage, the courage to enact a new perspective, to live-into an updated understanding of God as Ideal, Inspirational, and Intuitive, then we can be nothing less than a faith community, and faithful individuals, who creatively find ways to become a voice for the voiceless, to advocates for racial equality, and to be promoters of non-violent resistance in the face of whatever kinds of evil we encounter. This is finally what it means to be Love …to be the Church!
[ii] Richard Rohr Divine Dance (Whitaker House Publishing) 2016
[iii] Psalm 8:5 Common English Bible (CEB)
[iv] Acts 17:28 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)