Saturday, 18 June 2011

Trinity - is like....

     John 3:16-18

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of
God’s only Son.’

One of the things I love most about Jesus is that he is just as tongue-tied as the rest of us about explaining mystery. Well, maybe somewhat better than some of us,  but the 50 parables of the Gospels are no more than metaphors and imagery as Jesus tries, over and over again,  to refine the statements - God is like....the Kingdom is like....Heaven is like...

But most of all, the most indescribable of all, the Holy Trinity that is our God. St Anselm writes that 'faith seeks understanding' but the seeking simply creates more of a need to understand what cannot be understood. Over the years I have written reflections on the Trinity in the form of a dance; a mathematical paradox and a creative interactive force. Do I even dare to try again?

To be honest I wasn't going to.  When I was thinking about this feast a few days ago the thought came into my head that St Anselm was wrong - faith does not seek understanding - faith seeks reassurance. Asking God to find a way to let us know that it is true; that 'He' is true; that 'They' are true. Faith seeks ways of turning faith into proof and that is as impossible for us as it was for Jesus. It just has to happen; which is why, sometimes, it can only happen when there is nothing left; when all the 'truths' have passed us by or let us down. When we are hiding in the shadows believing ourselves lost and suddenly a shaft of light appears. Then the thought of this God of many levels and relationships becomes a need to have a parent and a family that we can belong to. Maybe we need less proof and more instinct. Heart speaking to heart(s).

But then I was driving home tonight and I had a 'God is like...' moment - so here it is. And, if you are a geographer you might have to forgive me.

One of the best things about the summer is that the time is often right for me to go and watch the sunset over the one of the rivers on each side of the penisular where I live. On the Liverpool side is the River Mersey, a remarkably idiosyncratic river that sailors and pilots have learnt to treat with respect over many centuries.

At the mouth of the river is a lightship called the Mersey Bar. If you asked most of the locals, they would say that the Bar is not the lightship but the barrier of water that keeps the river from the sea and vice versa. And indeed the flat bottomed ferry boats turn back at the heavy pulling of the 'Bar' tides and giant ocean liners and containerships will not cross this invisible gateway until the tiny, experienced pilot boats appear to lead them upriver.

It is a place of neither/or and both/and. This tract of water ensures that the ocean and the river maintain their identity. Freshwater meets seawater yet the borderland allows the salmon, the dolphin and the porpoise and myriads of other lifeforms to travel from one to the other. The water is uncontained, unlimited, unrestrained but there is a point where the ocean is no longer the ocean and the river no longer the river. This is the'Bar' - not the signage on a lonely lightship but the presence that is both/and.

Just as Jesus is the Gate and the Gatekeeper; the means by which the immense permanence of God and the creative impulsiveness of God is reconciled and made open to the universe, and beyond; as Jesus is the bridge holding Heaven and Earth, God and Man together; so he is the Logos  - the principal, the defining, the uniting element of was, is and will be.

And because he is both God and Man - we have been included in the mystery -by default or intent.
            As in  Rublev's Icon, the invitation has been made. The Trinity is no longer self-contained - it has a crack in it and we are meant to find our way in.

Perhaps this is no better an example than any before; perhaps it is a 'you have to know(love) the sea(God) to get it' moment; then when you get it you still can never explain it.  But it's an attempt and maybe it will resonate with some.

Explain mystery? Only a human being would even try.

            It is like....



claire said...

The Trinity is no longer elf-contained - it has a crack in it and we are meant to find our way in.

How lovely, Word. Thank you. I also very much like your explanation of the Bar on the Mersey :-)

I have a feeling that the Trinity sends us invitations after invitations to join it at the table and become part of that magic circle. I also find it is a Dance...

Thank you, thank you, Word. All I want to do now is nestle in your words and stay there for a while.

sattler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sattler said...

Such a beautiful post! God takes such a risk with us, given our addiction to making truth tractable. This the language of mysticism - 'God is like' or strange phrases from the Old Testament (God's 'back' or the tortured glorious language of Ezekiel). The language delights us but still leaves us hungry for more.

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you both - I do like 'God is like...'moments - they remind me that Godde is actually 'like' everything and help me to notice the more bizarre as well as the most mundane.
Oh, nestling in Godde Claire; what a lovely idea.
every blessing m+x

Jade said...

I used to struggle with the concept of the Trinity when I was a child. I've heard so many explanations, but never found one as good as this one. Thanks so much for your wisdom & creative thoughts. God bless you.

Word in the Hand said...

Thanks Jade - although I think we are meant to struggle - who wants a God they can explain? Blessings to you.

Philomena Ewing said...

Beautiful post- Didn't realise you were from Liverpool !
Like you, living by the sea provides so many opportunities to approach liminal space. Last night I walked along the shore at Hayle in Cornwall -it was so beautiful and I thanked God for the grace of living in Cornwall. Serendipity brought me this poem by Alice Meynell from The Visiting Sea- hope you like !( even though it has nothing to do with Trinity!)
"As the inhastening tide doth roll home from the deep, along the whole shining strand, and floods the caves, your love comes filling with happy waves
the open sea-shore of my soul."