Genesis 1:1,2; Matthew 28:18,19
Probing the Mystery
Imagine wanting to imagine God. What would God be like? I think we have all done some of that. Humanity has done this since the beginning of time. Here are some of the things we would expect of a being we would want to call God. You would want God to be strong, you would want God to be kind and just and merciful and you would want God to be there for you. In millennia’s past peoples found it hard to see God just one being. It was as if the divine task just was too big for one God. So it was for the Greeks and Romans. There was a god of love, a god of creation, a god of war etc. They just had different names for them. The ancient Hindus saw God as atman as one origin and being, but there were still many: gods, Vishnu, Hindu, Shiva, Hanuman, Ganesh. Traditional Southern Buddhism and Japanese Zen avoid the idea of God or gods but gods are part of Chinese and other Northern forms of Buddhism. What all these religions all understood is that God is so much greater than the ability of humans to explain God. Our thoughts and our language cannot contain God. That is why in the English language we still talk about God as “He.” So our understanding of God is always going to limited and incomplete. The Bible shows us a lot, but even there we have to read between the lines and also remember that although the texts are inspired they were still written down by human beings centuries before printing presses. Today is Trinity Sunday so we are talking about that difficult concept of God again: “Father/Parent, Son and Holy Spirit, Three-in-One. There are different ways to explain the Trinity, as various theologians have shown. Today I want to explain the concept with the words Power, Love and Presence.
Other than physical threat and personal loss, there are three important things we dread and hate as humans: one is feeling powerless, second is feeling unloved and third is feeling lonely. The idea that we have no way to influence and change our own lives or the lives of others, the idea that no one cares about us and the idea that we are alone in the world are deeply upsetting to us. Just experiencing one of those can make us completely miserable. And we have all lived long enough to have an idea of what that feels like. When things are going badly in our lives, when we see cruelty and injustice we believe God should eradicate, when we feel lost and alone, we can get deeply unhappy.
The Bible teaches us that God is powerful, that there is a power of creation. It also teaches us about God’s undying and perfect love for us. And, as we celebrated at Pentecost last week, the Bible teaches us that God is present with us as Holy Spirit. All three of those ways God is at work involve one thing: energy. When we have power, we can apply our energy in some away that we can use the energy of those below us to do things that will make a difference. When we have show love, we use the energy of compassion to make another human being or other human being feel cared for. When we are truly present with people, we use the energy of our bodies and our focus to make another person not feel alone or lonely.
But, friends, the energy of power, the energy of love and the energy of presence may all use and need energy, they are still separate things. You can have power without love, you can have love without any power to speak of, you can be present without significant love and without power. One does not necessarily mean the other or demand the other. However, when we use faith we can combine the three in one, we can connect the dots. Now in Christian theology we believe that the most perfect power possible, the most perfect love possible and the most perfect presence possible are contained in one being, the One and only God, Three in One. Does it fully explain the mystery of God? Of course not. God can never be held in something constructed by people as God is beyond explanation.
I don’t know if you ever heard of the expression:”Your God is too small.” What this means is that people are talking about God as some vengeful, judging, destructive being who would like to do nothing more than punish us or a God who is ready push aside whole groups of people because of what their origin or whom they love. Or even worse a God who condones killing innocents. We make God unattainable by making God small and petty just like we are at our worst. That is why so many people do not fall I love with God, because we have trouble showing how big-hearted God is.
Friends, people need an answer and a remedy for their powerlessless, for their feeling unloved and for their loneliness. May we offer them the one God of power, love and presence Who has room for all of us. May that give us solace.