and Father's Day
19 Jun 2011
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” (2 Cor. 13:13) In the name …
Today is both Trinity Sunday and Father’s Day. Let’s begin with the Trinity. The Trinity is the essential mystery of Christianity. It is the nature and identity of God. I really would have liked to have said “of God Himself” for emphasis, but the Trinity is not male. God the Father is no more a male than the Holy Spirit is a bird. The Trinity is the distinctive essence of the divine. When the ancient Jewish people were building their Temple, there would be found absolutely no depiction of God. It was forbidden by the Jewish Law. God is beyond depiction, and any attempt to do so would have been judged blasphemous because it would have always come up short. When they rebuilt their Temple after the first one was destroyed and the people were sent into exile, the holiest part of the Temple was left purposely empty and dark. There was simply nothing in the world that could define or even symbolize the mystery of God’s identity. God’s very presence was defined by the unknowable, and that was the meaning of the dark-emptiness of the Holy of Holies in the Temple.
Then comes Jesus. Is it any wonder that when the church started to preach about Jesus as not only sent by God, but as the Son of God, that people brought-up to imagine God in the empty-darkness of the Temple would be repulsed? How could this carpenter from Nazareth possibly be God when nothing imaginable could even begin to depict God’s perfect nature? It wasn’t so much the teachings of Jesus that disturbed His generation as it was the idea that Jesus brought God into our ordinary world in such an ordinary way. But that’s the beginning of Trinity. Somehow the unimaginable God entered into our world in the person of Jesus of Nazareth so that we could experience God and so that God could experience us. This revelation of God as unimaginable and simultaneously real, as all-powerful and simultaneously ordinary, as distant as the heavens and simultaneously near as a fellow human being, all of these contradictions and complexities found in the carpenter from Nazareth were what started the church thinking about Trinity.
Last week on the Feast of Pentecost we celebrated the sharing of the Holy Spirit with us so that God’s presence would remain a real part of our lives even though Jesus had returned to the heavens. During the Canon of the Mass, in words taken from John’s Gospel, we speak of the unity of Father and Son, of God and Jesus. Now that we’re in the Pentecost Season we have to realize that the Spirit is also essentially God because otherwise all of the authority of the church and all the intimacy of individual faith-lives disappear. We need to realize that the Trinity is not a revelation of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a revelation of the Spirit working through the church and her members after Jesus of Nazarth..
The Trinity wasn’t agreed upon as the nature of God until well into the fourth century of the Christian era. If the Spirit is not the living presence of God always among us, guiding us and inspiring us, then the Trinity is a lie. That’s how important and essential it is that Spirit be a part of church and faith. Jesus revealed God to us and us to God, and the Spirit is what keeps that revelation ever a part of the present. This is part of what compelled Christians to start thinking about the nature of God as Trinity, as the unimaginable and the intimate simultaneously brought together in the nature of our God.
It seems like I’m always driving up and down Route 91, and it also seems like the government is constantly without money but that they keep spending it creatively anyway. Maybe you’ve noticed the cameras all along the highway. I don’t know what their exact purpose is, but I’m sure they’re expensive, and I’m assuming somebody, somewhere is checking the picture-feeds at least randomly. So to break up their monotony as I drive by on 91, I smile and wave at the camera. My daughters ignore my request to wave with me, but some of their friends will join in a friendly hello. Somebody some day has got to notice the yahoo in the yellow Focus waving at them.
Without the revelation of Trinity, that’s the picture of God. There’s no connection, no interaction. It’s just the idea that God, whoever God may be, is watching. It’s as cold and mechanical as those silent cameras sitting atop those metal polls on the highway watching us as we quickly drive by. And to make it worse, those cameras don’t want us to wave at them. They’re only there to catch the accidents, the stolen cars, and in the post-9/11 world maybe even worse. They’re looking for the bad, not the friendly. They want to remain anonymous and separate. Without the Trinity, God is much the same. He’s our judge, but not our Saviour. And again, this is why Trinity is so important to our faith even if it is so deep a mystery that it is hard to embrace never mind understand. The Trinity is what makes God a part of our world and our lives, and that’s what outweighs all the rest.
And this is why Jesus speaks of God as Father, and not only as His Father, but as “our Father.” He’s trying to convey the nature of God as protective, supportive, engaged and loving. It is the greatest compliment to fathers in general that the image of fatherhood is used to illustrate the nature of God in particular. The Trinity is the rejection of the camera-on-the-poll idea of God. It is, instead, the embrace of God as “our Father.” This is a wonderfully amazing revelation of the nature of God, of a God once expressed by a dark-emptiness. And it is both a compliment and a challenge to fathers everywhere to try and live up to this ideal of loving support. For those fathers who try to be there for their sons and daughters, who try to be examples for them of what is good and right in the choices they have to make in life, who encourage their children to be their best and who console them when life is not its best, whether those fathers be with us or are in heaven, we thank them this Father’s Day. And for all these things we pray in the name of the Trinity, by signing ourselves in the name of the Father (+) …
Fr. Randolph Calvo