Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Trinity

Well, maybe I won't write that essay on Trinity. (As I wrote it, it disappeared word by word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, and even whole paragraphs, answers to questions no one was asking.) The lessons for this week are fundamental - Genesis 1:1 to 2:4. You can hear the music. Mode 1 is eminently singable. This may be the best 13 minutes you spend today.

Add then Psalm 8 (pdf of music here). And rather than the farewell discourse, (John 14-17), an endless source of material on the relationship between father, son and spirit, (which of course we have already read in the 50 days of Easter) the lessons of the Revised Common Lectionary are from the end of 2 Corinthians and the Great Commission from Matthew's gospel. These of course each contain a Trinitarian formula, 2 Corinthians 13:13, and Matthew 28:19. The lessons for this Sunday summarize in a few words what we have been pondering since Easter.

Jesus, the man, born of Mary, has a beginning. Psalm 8 speaks of a mortal whom God 'visits', of a child of humanity made lower than the angels, or made just less than God, and then crowned with honour and glory. This is an image of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, who is appointed judge, as we have read in the past three weeks.

People talk of Jesus, the human, and his 'pre-existence'. I think this word 'pre-existence' can be 'non-sense'. The word is unrelated to our normal sense of sense: touch, hear, see, taste, smell, and balance. So I am tempted to remove the hyphen and say 'nonsense'. There is no need for this concept. Sense (what we have touched and heard and seen) comes through presence, not through a theory of what to believe.

The Nicene creed uses these words of Jesus, begotten before all worlds. In this it recalls the Hebrew, olam, meaning era, or age, or world, to come or remembered. World in this case is not the multi-verse or the uni-verse with linear time but rather, one could say, that it sets God apart from material in motion. God is Spirit (as Jesus reminds the Samaritan woman). In our memory of multiple eras and multiple cultural worlds, in our anticipation and hope for a world to come, this begotten is in the face of - i.e. 'before' all those times and contexts.

Jesus, is also son of David, as in parallel, Adam is son of God. From the phrase, child of God, Jesus is rooted in humanity. This is a human being, one of us, not some imaginary pretense at our flesh and blood. The Anointed is truly come in the flesh. And the Anointing Spirit is truly come upon us and lives in us. This is God with us. This is the presence that we truly desire, the satisfaction for which all our desires were made, the food that satisfies. (No need for greed or the fear that gives rise to it).

Why did we need the choice of Israel of which David was the anointed king? The choice of Israel gives a specific context for our human condition. There has been no human government based on covenant mercy but there have been many examples of such mercy within this canonical history. Perhaps the best rationale for Israel is in the long Psalms: 78 and 89. Psalm 78 gives us multi-generational Israel, selecting down into Judah, as a parable for all of us. Psalm 89 clearly demonstrates in its structure the reality of covenant mercy yet the failure of the Davidic monarchy.

And why did we need this particular son of David named Jesus? Christendom has demonstrated in its first two millennia that it has failed in the same way Israel failed. And it has also succeeded in the same way Israel succeeded. It does try to care for the fatherless and widow. Many governments in this tradition have refused to abuse the guest or the afflicted among them.

So could we succeed more fully? We must be 'one' - unified rather than separated from each other. If it can be said that the three, father, son, and spirit, are one, as Christians believe, why is it that Christians are so fragmented? We have a responsibility to be one as God is one. And yet there are, as someone quipped, more denominations in Christendom than there are varieties of cheeses in France. Our unity has been compromised again and again by politics, economics, and the accompanying self-interest. (Remember the quail.)  But it is not just the quail, it is also our understanding of holiness. Yet especially here we must have unity rather than division.

Unity is the essence of God as noted in Deuteronomy 6:4 - Hear O Israel, YHWH our God, YHWH is one. Notice how the Hebrew manuscripts use big and little letters in this verse: the last letter in the first and last words of this section are writ large.
שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהוָ֥ה ׀ אֶחָֽד׃
This passage is a call rather than a creed. It is an invitation that creates its own enabling. The separations, the fragmentation, the infighting, the self-interest, the failure to govern are not like God, and we are called together to be like God.

The words YHWH one are also in the apocalyptic passage Zechariah 14:9. This prophet looks to the end and promises a day when YHWH will be one. How strange. In this case the phrase includes the verb 'to be' and it is imperfect tense (a story-telling future, perhaps). Note that the KJV has one LORD, an impossible translation. The tetragrammeton, the four letters of the name of God, never takes an adjective as a qualifier. My Lord is fine, My LORD is again nonsense.

Time behaves strangely here, with us being called into what we see as future, but which is really a primal unity that was before all worlds?
I think I will leave you to contemplate the music for a while.

I don't know which version of this essay (a trial indeed) will find its way to the blog while I am away on holiday.