#IntimatelyUnfathomable is the reflection for May 31, 2015, Trinity Sunday. What is the nature of God? How can God be 3 persons in one substance? How can God be near AND far? Why does God seem so out of touch with me? Find out in “Intimately Unfathomable”, the podcast for this week. Available on itunes and android. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #BruceAlmighty #Father #Son #HolySpirit #Unfathomable #Intimate
For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 5/31/2015, Trinity Sunday.
Please pause this audio and read Isaiah 6:1-8 and Matthew 28:16-20.
You will notice that today, I have asked you to read two passages for Trinity Sunday. One is from Isaiah 6, which is found in the Protestant readings for this Sunday. The other is from the Gospel of Matthew, which is in the Catholic readings for this Sunday. The reason I chose the two of them is because they demonstrate one basic truth about the Trinity: God is intimately unfathomable.
There are all kinds of paradoxes about God that describe the Trinity. A paradox is the holding of two concepts that are diametrically opposed to each other but in that particular case absolutely true. God is one and God is a community of persons. God is one substance in three persons. Jesus Christ is God and Man, fully and completely. God is far away (transcendent) and within you (immanent). God is beyond our comprehension and God is knowable.
A friend of mine used the movie Bruce Almighty in his sermon last week to talk about the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. I was thankful for that because I think this clip from Bruce Almighty is excellent about our relationship with God. We know God. We call on God when things are down and out. We blame God when all things go wrong, but do we really understand God? In this particular clip, when Bruce demands that God tell him how many fingers he has behind his back, he doesn’t even think that God could give him seven fingers on one hand. The clip from the movie can be seen at MySpiritualAdvisor.com where I have posted it above this reflection.
Isaiah, called by God in his ecstatic encounter with God in chapter 6, is called to proclaim devastation and an unpopular message to the people. The prophets always make me chuckle in the retelling of their called-by-God stories. They always say, “But I am unworthy!” It is possible to hear them trying to find an escape route from what God is going to call them to do. (“Oh, but I am so UNWORTHY—please go find someone else.”)
It is from Isaiah’s encounter with God in verse 3 that we get the Sanctus that both Catholics and Protestant Christians say during the Eucharistic liturgies: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty! It is part of the evidence that Christians believe is indicative of the fact that God is three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in one essence, the Lord God Almighty. Christians believe that this is foreshadowed in the way God speaks about himself by first saying “I” in statements and then ending them with “We.” In Genesis 1:26, God spoke in the singular and then said, “Let us make man in our image.” Here in Isaiah 6:8, God says, “Whom shall I send, who will go for us?” There is the paradox.
God is available to us in three forms, but to say that the Trinity is one form coming to us at a time is not right. God never acts in one person of the Trinity without acting as one in all three. The Father creates through the Son and sustains the creation in the Holy Spirit. To say that the Trinity is “Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer” is true to a point, but to say that it is God’s name is no more right than to call out to my attorney, whose name is “Tim”, “ Hey, ‘Lawyer’.” Jesus says in Matthew that God’s name is “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” We’ll return to this later.
It is true that Isaiah points out that God is beyond us. God is enthroned in the heavens and is pure, beyond our ability to approach him without being cleansed by him first. God is majestic and does NOT think like us. God is different than us. He is not as tiny, insular and parochial as we are. I do not believe that God is even as self-serving as we are. One of the things I love about the Bruce Almighty clip is that it shows how utterly incorrect Bruce’s thinking is about God, the world, who God is, and how God operates. The clip shows that without God revealing himself to us, we have no ability to even begin to grasp who God is. I believe it was St. Athanasius said of God, “if you cannot know his essence, know his economy”. Here the word “economy” means, “The way he works.”
Another obvious, yet not so obvious, thing this clip from Bruce Almighty, shows us is that God is knowable. We can converse with God. God comes to us and speaks to us. It is important because God is not us. He is unfathomable, in that his ways are as curious as the file cabinet with the long drawer which fits into a small cabinet–that Bruce cannot figure out, so he mocks it. Nor, can Bruce understand how his hand has seven fingers where it only had five before. It is possible to know the Lord Almighty, but not fathom him.
This unfathomability is critical to our understanding of everything. It is possible to know God’s name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is possible to understand that God is one. It is very hard for us to understand that God is three persons in one substance. This is because we are a species on one planet, in a galaxy among galaxies, in a universe that seems to be expanding and then will contract. We are on a tiny, spinning planet, that is perfectly suited for us to live and ponder everything that already existed around us. We have rules of physics that we have to live by. We sense that there is an infinitude beyond us, but we deny there is a God because that God doesn’t seem to have the same rules we have to follow, on this tiny spinning planet, in a galaxy of galaxies, in an ever expanding universe, beyond all of which is God.
Frankly, if God were fathomable he would not be a god at all—he would be a subject in school or a servant in shackles to humanity. That, I think, is the rub with our ever expanding technologically and scientifically egotistic species: God is not a subject to be studied or our servant to our whims. He is wildly independent, beyond us, and he is the one who will call us to account. To that, we cannot abide. Yet, in every way, he has shown himself to be both Holy and loving; demanding and giving, transcendent and immanent, Other and Lover.
So, this Trinity Sunday, I am calling on you to reconsider your concept of God. How is it that you have created God in your own image? How is it that you have left yourself beyond God’s accountability? How is it that you have named God and been embarrassed by that tiny definition of a name? How is it that you have not let God be the god in your life? How is it that you have worn him out? How is it that you have not appreciated his majesty, his magnitude, his unfathomability? How is it that you have not gone beyond the human definitions of words that we use to describe God and actually know the Lord Almighty in the intimate, passionate parts of your being?
When you consider these thoughts, take them to the Lord in prayer, then you will go beyond your own definitions and limitations you have placed on God. When that happens, that is when you, too, like Isaiah, will be ready to answer the call of the Lord. Amen.
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