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Worship Materials: Trinity

From the Festive Worship collection

 
THEME            The many and the one – Images of the imageless God.

 

THOUGHTS FOR REFLECTION

  1. Do not let the Christian doctrine of the Trinity alienate you from the oneness of God; for God is both the many and the one.
  2. While God has many faces, it is an act of idolatry to claim that any of these faces is all that we can know of God.
  3. Our logical mind may not he able to hold together the many and the one, the three and the one; but the wisdom of our spirit’s intuitive depth tells us all things belong together as one, despite their apparent separateness.
  4. To localize God in a heaven out there is idolatry.
    To confine God to the heaven within is idolatry.
    For God is in all and through all. (Ephesians 4:6)
  5. Humor is the antidote to idolatry and the pomposity which it spawns. It is only the God with whom we can laugh who can enable us to distinguish between the manifestations and the mystery itself.
  6. The Trinity is not so much a definition as an invitation to experience mystery.
  7. God is greater than any image; yet an imageless God appears lifeless to all human beings who have not allowed themselves to experience nothingness.
  8. When the images shatter we are left without the possibility of using our image of God as a justification for our behavior.
  9. What is the wisdom of the Trinity?
    It is the wisdom of the non-interfering, compassionate parent, the vulnerable child and the always present energizing spirit.
  10. God is both the centre and the circle, the weeping and the fun, the dancing and the stillness, the many and the one.
  11. We can describe the Godhead through reason but need intuition to experience the Godhead.
  12. Definition can produce idolatry but without description there is no incarnation of the divine.
  13. The image of the Trinity or three-ness, or triptych, seems to be embedded deep in the human psyche. Another example of it in the Bible is that of the child, the adult nurturer and the sage spelt out as follows:
    The creative child and youth: Jesus, Pharaoh’s daughter and Ruth
    The adult nurturer: Mary, Joseph and Elizabeth, Noah and his wife
    The reflective sage: Anna, Simon, John, Priscilla and Rahab.
  14. The Trinity is better understood in terms of question rather than definition, as mystery rather than as dogma.
  15. In God the Creator we are one with the Earth.
    In God the Son we are one with all people.
    In God the Spirit we are one with everything.
  16. God is not a proposition to be debated but a presence to be experienced.
  17. God is essentially mystery and a mystery defined is a mystery destroyed.
  18. If you have experienced the presence of God you do not have to prove it. If you have to prove the existence of God it is likely that you have not experienced the presence.
  19. The shadow in God speaks of an inclusive God rather than a dualistic one.
  20. Every adult human being performs a number of roles, exhibits a number of faces. Some of these could be parent, offspring, partner, employer or employed, sportsperson, cook, gardener etc. Therefore it is totally reasonable to assume that the roles of God are infinitely more than those displayed in the concept of the Trinity.

 

PRAYERS

  1. O God whom no image can encompass, no definition encircle and yet who meets us in the gentle touch of love, the beauty of a butterfly’s wing and the laughter of children, help us to move beyond our attempts to limit you, intellectualize you or to eliminate you from all that is earthy, sensuous or vibrant so that we may greet you in every particle of this spectacular universe which you are creating.
  2. O God who is greater than any image yet who appears to us in many forms help us to move beyond definition to mystery, beyond the space of limitation to the glorious freedom of the children of God.

 

HYMNS

When masks of God both age and die. (BL)

Beyond the boxes we create. (BL)

When the world reveals a fractured face. (BL)

You are the process God. (BL)

 

O three-fold God.

www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/boundlesslife

You are greater O God.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

Come let us dwell in that place.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

We are sisters of the earth.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

 

Your mystery, O God. (STS1)

God is beyond all words. (STS1)

What image shall I use? (STS2)

Singing the Sacred Vol 1 2011, Vol 2 2014 World Library Publications

 

POEMS / REFLECTIONS

 

THE TRINITY

(A Sequence for Human Development)

From Father/Mother Creator — being in touch with nature.

To Son — being in touch with our common humanity.

To Spirit— being in touch with all things everywhere

 

AN IMAGELESS GOD

If only we could discern the imageless God beyond all the images then history, dogma, liturgy would assume a new perspective. The many images, many certainties, many opposites would merge into the oneness of mystery; a mystery of forgiveness, delight and loving strength in the midst of death.

 

WHEN THE IMAGES DIE

When the images die

How shall I conceive of you, O God?

If I cannot picture your face

To whom shall I talk?

Must I depend on definition

Or can I commune with one

Who is beyond description

Yet manifest in all that is.

When the special language dies

Then I shall address you

In the sacredness of the every day

In the poetry of the heart

And in the music of my own soul.

 

THE TRINITY AS PROCESS

The traditional concept of God as three persons can lead to an anthropocentric view of God as three super human beings. This may have been helpful in the past but today we are having to re-evaluate the significance of human beings in our ever expanding cosmic setting. So to think of God only as three super human beings is hardly to do justice to the cosmic dimensions of the cosmic mystery. Actually it is inaccurate to speak of three persons in a literal sense as it really means three personas in the sense of roles that were played in a Greek drama. As a result of all this it could be helpful to think of God in terms of three primary processes

  1. The creative and creating process.(God the Creator)
  2. The transforming and indwelling process.(God the Son)
  3. The empowering process. (God the Spirit)

However, to be faithful to the Christian vision we need to affirm that behind all the processes is the process that holds everything together in a dynamic interaction, the supreme form of which is love such as is displayed in Jesus Christ.

 

A TRINITY OF POWER

Within each of us there dwells a trinity of power-

The power to nurture and sustain like God the Parent,

The power to liberate through the laughter and tears of our Inner Child,

The power to release in us and in others a creative and loving Spirit.

 

DEPENDENCY AND BELIEF IN GOD

  • Belief in God the Father can arise out of dependency on a group, a tribe, a nation or an institution.
  • Belief in God the Son can arise out of dependency on an individual, a parent, a lover or Jesus.
  • Belief in God the Spirit can arise out of a person becoming independent, discovering their own worth and feeling no greater or less than any other person.
  • Belief in God the Mystery can arise out of a person experiencing inter-dependence with all things.

 

FOCUS FOR ACTION

Because God is essentially mystery, the doctrine of the Trinity raises more questions than providing answers. But that is the nature of mystery. Finally we have to leave our rational mind behind and simply trust the awesome unknown.  However here are some questions that hopefully will help us on our journey.

  1. How do my present images of God relate to my own personality? Do they reduplicate my familiar self or do they reflect my shadow side? Note: There appears to be a two way relationship between ourselves and the images of God we hold most dear. In other words, we tend to worship a God that resembles us (e.g. the artist tends to worship God the artist) and the God we worship confirms us in our ways of behaving. If we worship God the rescuer, we will almost certainly continue to accept the victim role, but if we worship God the empowerer we will reject the need to continue in a dependency relationship.
  1. Are we moving into an age of Spirit rather than an age of Christology? After all, Jesus said that he would send the Spirit to us. (John 15:26)

Note: It is easy to gain the impression from the Bible that the Spirit is the manifestation of a continuing life of Christ, but the Spirit is present throughout the Hebrew Scriptures which Christians call the Old Testament.

The relationship between the ‘persons’ of the Trinity is best summed up in the concepts of the `Quicunque vult’, consubstantial, coeternal, in other words of the same reality that always has been. While the condemnations of the `Quicunque vult’ or Athanasian Creed are repulsive to most modern Christians there are some delightful phrases in it, like ‘the Father incomprehensible’, ‘the Son incomprehensible’ and ‘the Holy Ghost incomprehensible’!

     3.  Does belief in the Trinity mean that there are only three faces, three valid images of God?

4.  Interpretations of Jesus have changed throughout the history of the Christian Church. Is it better now to think of Jesus as Liberator rather than as Savior, as co-worker, rather than as Lord?

  1. Is the difference between Christ’s divinity and that of God within me (the Inner Christ) one of kind or of degree?
  1. Do our images of God empower us or dis-empower us?
  1. We used to think of God as unchanging, but if God is the God of the process, could it not be that God is in dynamic interaction with the process?
  1. As modern science becomes more compatible with mysticism and mystery, shouldn’t our emphasis be on Christ the mystical prophet rather than the divine victim?
  1. How has my understanding of God changed over the last 10, 20, 30 years, e.g. has it moved from God the supreme moralist to the God of relationships? Since relationships always demand a more complex understanding of reality than that provided for by black and white moral simplicities, should we replace the black and white image of God with one that encompasses all the hues of the rainbow?
  1. Of the great range of images of God which are available why have I chosen the ones that I am currently using? Do my images of God both comfort and disturb me, confirm and challenge me? If we do not have images of God which challenge us then it means we have probably settled for a policy of no growth in our spirituality.

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Text and image © William Livingstone Wallace but available for free use.

 

 

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