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The Lord Our God is One…or Three?
John 16:12-15 Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
by Rev. Janet in CNY

The Proverbs passage says Wisdom was created before the earth was formed, before the mountains and the fields. Wisdom is usually portrayed as a feminine figure, from the Greek word Sophia. Some people equate this "Wisdom" with the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit is God, so it cannot be a created being. But if Wisdom IS a part of God, as it must be, because God did all the creating, and has all wisdom and knowledge, then wisdom is not a created being. See how twisted around these studies can be?!

One of my courses at TC3 this past semester was Astronomy. We learned about the unimaginable vastness of space…the emptiness of space…the innumerable stars that are there, and that many thousands of them have planets orbiting around them. Some of those planets may be able to sustain life much the same as our own. I enjoyed the course very much, but it raised many questions in my mind. Unfortunately, these are questions to which there is no available answer. Notice I said AVAILABLE answer. There are answers, but we won't get them until we set foot in heaven. Ralph Milton, author of the weekly edition of Rumors, spoke of stars this week. I quote:

My son Mark is a very scientific type who is deeply interested in astronomy. He does deep space photography, which involves freezing his backside on a high, dry mountaintop, while a computer attached to a telescope takes exposures that go on for hours and many nights in sequence. I admire the process, but don’t ask me to explain it. On his wall, Mark has a poster based on some pictures taken by the Hubble telescope. One frame shows the sky we see with the naked eye - the Big Dipper. In the middle of that Big Dipper a tiny section of seemingly blank sky, about a quarter inch square, is framed. That is then blown up to about a foot square, and it turns out to be full of stars. In the middle of that picture, again a quarter inch square is framed. That is then blown up to an even larger picture, and again, it is just full of stars. Mark also has a book, most of which is written in techie-talk. But there was one paragraph I understood. If you take a thimble full of sand, the grains of sand in that thimble would be approximately equal to the number of stars you can see with your naked eye. If you then filled up a wheelbarrow full of sand, that would represent about the number of stars you can see with modern telescopes. But if you then filled up boxcars full of that sand, and those boxcars went by at the rate of one every two minutes, and those boxcars went by for a week without stopping, that represents the number of stars in the known universe. I can’t get my head around that at all. And maybe it doesn’t prove anything. But for me it is a glorious symphony to the grandeur and mystery of God.

All that we know about these distant stars comes from looking at them through telescopes, analyzing the light rays they emit, and comparing them to things we know here in our own solar system. Since we see light that has been traveling many years to reach us, we are actually seeing the stars as they were years ago when that light actually left the star and began to move toward us. Scientists believe that light moves at a certain speed, therefore these stars are a certain number of years old, usually older than our own system which they believe to be 4.5 Billion years old. All the stars and solar systems came to be because in the emptiness of before space, there was an explosion that caused matter to spread out from the point of explosion in all directions, and that matter eventually gathered together into stars, planets, moons, asteroids, comets, etc. This all happened approximately 5 to 15 billion years ago.

Approximately, I say, because it is neither necessary nor possible to be more precise. And the space between stars is so large, they tell us the stars are thousands, even millions, of light years apart. A light year is the distance a ray of light can travel in one earth year, traveling at the speed of 186,000 miles per second. Do the math—in a year that comes to, let me see, 60 seconds time 60 minutes times 24 hours times 365 days, times 186,000…carry the 1, …hmmm … about a gazillion miles, give or take a few hundred yards. And here's another question: Where did the matter come from? Nobody knows. Scientists can't even agree if the matter was compressed into a spot the size of a period at the end of a sentence, or only compressed into a body the size of Jupiter, or maybe just compressed into a ball as big as our entire solar system.

Well, if scientists who make it their life's work to study this can't answer the questions, we're not going to answer them in our short discussion this morning! It is the same with the question of the trinity. We know certain things, but the subject is so vast, so far beyond our sight and grasp, that we cannot begin to answer the questions we have about it. Biblical scholars and theologists have discussed and argued and researched for almost two thousand years, and have not figured it out yet! I was discussing this week's scripture passages with some other pastors. Here are some of their comments: ? Wisdom/Sophia is but one way to talk about the activity of the divine in the world.

The Creator God displays wisdom … in setting limits and bounds in creation. The Son is the source of wisdom according to I Corinthians. The Holy Spirit reveals to the believer the mind of Christ and the mind of God, which should make us wise.

The question of Wisdom's "creation" may be answered by reference to the original Hebrew of the passage. The Hebrew verb is "qana" which has two meanings: one is "to create" ... the other is "to possess". If one uses the latter meaning, the creation issue doesn't arise. It is worth noting that the "to possess" meaning was the one chosen by those who translated the Hebrew into Greek for the Septuagint.

…a three-fold Power--God helping us to hear what Jesus is saying, and Jesus owning his Sonship as God's loving mercy; and the Holy Spirit being the silent translator to our own lives and situations.

I have found that what resonates best for me on Trinity Sunday is to explore the ancient Eastern Orthodox concept of "perichoresis" -- the Persons of the Trinity dancing around together, joyfully participating as community in all the acts of creation, redemption and sanctification and inviting us into the dance.

We have often used metaphors to give examples that are familiar to us, that we hope will give us a better understanding of the Trinity concept. We've talked about eggs: Shell, white and yolk—three parts of a whole. This does NOT help us—God is not a whole being divided into three separate parts made up of three separate substances. God is whole in and of Godself, Jesus is also wholly God, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, but God IS spirit, so the Spirit is also wholly God… Even Jesus had incomplete explanations of the Holy Spirit when He told the disciples to wait for the Spirit's arrival. Okay, lets try steam, water, ice---these are all the same exact substance, but in three different forms.

Or how about any one of us and three or more different roles we play or relationships we have? You see, nothing comes close! I don't think we need to figure it out. I think it is something we need to take on faith, just as we take it on faith that God IS, and that Jesus IS, and that the Holy Spirit IS, we also accept that these three are one God. Perhaps they are different FACES of God, or different personality characteristics?

No, that cannot be, because each one is like the other. And we know from scripture that God never changes, so it cannot be that at one time God is one thing, and another time God is something else. Tertullian, one of the theologians of the early church, [also] explained the Trinity in a metaphor. God the Father he described as "a deep root, the Son as the shoot that breaks forth into the world, and the Spirit as that which spreads beauty and fragrance."

What a lovely metaphor! However this, too, falls short of encompassing the concept of the Trinity. You see...the more we try, the harder it gets! I believe that we are not meant to understand. The Trinity has no simple comparison to anything on the earth. And that is as it should be. If God could be successfully compared to anything on the earth, God would not BE God! Examining the idea of the Trinity, the Three-In-One God, stretches our minds and understanding. Each time we do it, we get closer to truth. How much closer? Maybe as much closer to the truth as when earth is at one point of its orbit that makes us closer to the next star!

We must remember that we will NEVER understand God while we live in this human form. It is too much for us to bear. Just as we cannot mentally grasp the vast expanse of the universe, we cannot accept, our minds cannot encompass the enormity of God, the splendor of God, the glory and majesty of God! So lets just enjoy and celebrate: "-- the Persons of the Trinity dancing around together, joyfully participating as community in all the acts of creation, redemption and sanctification and inviting us into the dance."