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Trinity Sunday 2016

There is an old story about the Trinity that goes like this. There was a man who never came to church except on Trinity Sunday. Finally, the head usher approached him and asked him why the parish only saw him on Trinity Sunday. What it for work reasons? “No,” he replied. “Family issues, perhaps?” said the usher. “No, nothing like that.” “Well, what then?” “I like to come to hear how the rector will try to explain the Trinity one more time.” Well, today your Rector is off the hook. The Bishop will now explain the Trinity to you. But first, think about quantum physics. The Danish physicist who threw down the bases for it said, “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum physics does not understand it.” If quantum physics is so hard to understand, which is only about atoms and their components, why should we be surprised that the nature of God is not understood?

Trinity Sunday 2016
Christ the King Church
Frankfurt, Germany

LISTEN TO THE SERMON 

There is an old story about the Trinity that goes like this. There was a man who never came to church except on Trinity Sunday. Finally, the head usher approached him and asked him why the parish only saw him on Trinity Sunday. What it for work reasons? “No,” he replied. “Family issues, perhaps?” said the usher. “No, nothing like that.” “Well, what then?”

“I like to come to hear how the rector will try to explain the Trinity one more time.”

Well, today your Rector is off the hook. The Bishop will now explain the Trinity to you.

But first, think about quantum physics. The Danish physicist who threw down the bases for it said, “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum physics does not understand it.” And elsewhere he said, “There is actually no one who really understands quantum physics.”

Now, who has a smartphone here today? Raise your hands, please.

(Did you remember to shut it off?)

Your phone is absolute proof that quantum physics works perfectly. The electronics depend totally on quantum effects. And yet no one understands it completely.

In fact, Albert Einstein and Bohr had a famous debate in 1930. Einstein protested that quantum physics couldn’t be right, because, as he said, “God does not throw dice.” To which Bohr replied, “Who are you, Einstein, to tell God what he can or cannot do?”

And now we are back to the Trinity. If quantum physics is so hard to understand, which is only about atoms and their components, why should we be surprised that the nature of God is not understood?

On one hand, what the Trinity is about is the affirmation in I John 4 that “God is love.” Not that God loves, or doesn’t love, like you and I love or don’t love. No, the teaching is that God IS love. Ice cream IS milk. Milk is the nature of ice cream.

Love is what makes God God. God’s nature or being is love.

So this means that the whole creation, and you and me, are the result of love. And if this is true, then you and I are beloved, right here, right now.

Furthermore, we all know something about love, namely, it is a relation between two or more persons. In order for God to be love, then God is relation.

The ultimate sign that God loves us is the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He is one of us, a real human being, but he is also in another sense God. Just as with quantum physics, our language and intellect fail to grasp totally how that is. God, who creates but is not a creature, who fills the universe but is not of it, becomes a creature. For us, the beloved, who cannot find our way, he became the Way.

To think about the Trinity requires us to turn back to ourselves, to what it means to be human. That is, after all, what Jesus’ teaching boils down to: he is what it is like to be truly human.

OK? So now hold on to your hats.

A word from the Xhosa language have become part of our vocabulary in recent years. It is Ubuntu. The former Archbishop of South Africa, Desmond Tutu, made Ubuntu a current word, when he speaks of what binds us together and what makes us human. Ubuntu doesn’t translate exactly, but he explains it thus: “A person is a person through other persons.”

Imagine a baby cast up alone on a desert island after a shipwreck. Will he or she live? How about a three-year-old? A ten-year-old? Maybe at 15 years of age, someone could survive, but only because he or she had had 15 prior years of living among others and learning to think, feel, and be human. But imagine that person is rescued after 20 years alone. Would you want to invite her to stay overnight in your home?

A person is a person through other persons. And God loves each of us because each of us is therefore unique. No one is exactly alike. All are precious, therefore.

But Ubuntu also implies that to be human means to be concerned about others as well as self. “Love your neighbor as — who?” Yes, yourself.

Now the fact that God is One and yet Three allows for God not only to send the Word to become human, but also to invite us to live into God’s own life. The invitation and the means to join God’s life we call the Holy Spirit. The Spirit hovered over chaos and brought forth the universe. Hovered over Mary and with her, brought forth Jesus. Hovered over his tomb and brought forth the New Creation, Jesus’ humanity.

And at our Baptism, the same Spirit hovers over each of us, and brings forth something new, a person becoming fit to share God’s life with Jesus. The question is, why would God do that? The answer is, love. God in Christ is the ultimate Neighbor, the real Person who makes us persons, who makes us human.

The former Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, used to quote Archbishop Rowan Williams, that “Baptism creates solidarities not of our own choosing.” I looked everywhere in Archbishop Williams’ books and couldn’t find it. Finally, I wrote to him and asked. He replied, “I don’t know where it comes from but it sounds like me.”

Baptism creates solidarities not of our own choosing. But if Ubuntu is correct, if what makes me Me is other persons, then becoming incorporated into God’s life makes that even more real. “Together we are the Body of Christ, and individually members of it,” Paul wrote. Or in the Book of Genesis: “In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

We are the image of God, the community of women and men. So God is love because God’s being arises from relations of love. It’s Ubuntu on a divine scale. The Three are the One. The One is the Three.

And because God is Trinity, we are becoming what we are created to become: the Beloved Daughters and Sons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Trinity. No, we cannot understand it. Heck, we can’t even understand quantum physics. But the right way to respond not only on Trinity Sunday, but every day of our lives, is —

WOW! Or, in religious language, Praise God!


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