Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily for Trinity Sunday – 15 June 2014 – Belief and Non-belief

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Trinity Sunday A June 15, 2014 – Belief and Non-belief

Exodus 34:4b-6,8-9; Daniel 3:52-56; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; John 3:16-18

Sixty years ago yesterday, Flag Day (June 14, 1954), the words “one nation under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance by a joint resolution of Congress. While there still are diverse opinions about the existence of God and the roles God plays in human affairs, now as then, a majority of Americans today say they believe in God. 

On the other hand, there have been a growing number of atheists in this country like the late Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great) and Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) who are certain there is no God. Their writings and others have sparked a national conversation between religious and scientific world views. 

As you know today is Trinity Sunday. The temptation each year is to try to explain in simple terms how there are three persons in one God — creator, redeemer and sanctifier. However, the bigger task for us, it seems to me, is to figure out how we come to believe that God is at work in our everyday lives. 

In his book, The Belief Instinct, evolutionary psychologist Jesse Bering asks: Is there really a God who cares for you? Why are you here? What will happen to you after you die? Bering presses further. Are God, souls and destiny simply a set of seductive cognitive illusions? In other words, did God, if you believe in a God, design our minds … to believe in a God? [1]

The word trinity or triune God is not explicitly found in the bible. However, the scriptures do contain clues and references to the ways God is revealed and functions in our lives. God’s creative process is not done.

In the first text today, from the Book of Exodus, Moses and God seem to be enjoying each other’s company even as they argue back and forth. God is present to Moses in a cloud, on holy ground, in a burning bush, anytime, anywhere. This God of all creation keeps the covenant even though the people created by God do not. Scholars say this mysterious presence of God, shadowing us and our every move, is God self-communicating, God bursting forth in every nook and cranny of creation. 

God cannot be contained by space, time or gender. Jesus called God his father and often implied that they were so close they acted as one. Many of us call God father or mother knowing fully well God has no gender. It is a way of relating to God — like relating to a father or mother in real life.

What about Jesus of Nazareth? How did he come to be called God? Christians believe Jesus identified with the creator God. We remember Jesus as the revelation of God. This Mediterranean Jew Jesus is the human expression of the creator God’s out pouring or self-emptying which is still going on. The birth of Jesus reveals the cosmic eternal dimension of Christ which, for Christians, encompasses all of humanity, all animal life, the whole environment and the multiple universes. This eternal Christ has no beginning and no ending. It is Christ in evolution. [2]

How do we experience this God in our lives? At the beginning of our liturgies we hear “may the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of a compassionate God and the communion of a holy spirit always be with you.” The Jesus of history is the creative breath of the Spirit God. This is why we call him Jesus the Christ, the anointed one, the messiah. 

This same Spirit unites believers into a cohort to bring forth the kin-dom of God on earth. In this sense we are part of the ongoing, unfolding of Christ. Like the universes our lives are not static. We are living beings in a constant process of transformation. Nothing stays the same with God. Moses asked God to overlook those people who were stiff necked. We cannot be stiff necked if we believe God is with us. Christians today need to be anything but stiff necked if we are to make a difference in the world. 

We say that our worship, our liturgy, rehearses us for living beyond the walls of this church. If the God we worship with Christ and in the Spirit continues to function in our lives and if this Godhead is still being revealed to us in different ways then we who believe in God cannot be comfortable with the way things have been. For us to believe how the God of all ages continues to be present to us today requires an openness on our part to challenge religious assumptions and learn how to bridge the gaps between tradition and vision.

But belief in a mysterious triune Godhead is not that simple no matter how we try to understand or explain it. G. K. Chesterton once prayed to God, “I believe, help my disbelief.” (Mark 9:24) In one of her recent blogs parishioner Amy Biancolli wrote about struggle as a form of belief. In Amy’s words, “My faith cannot be pegged on whether this actually happened or that actually didn’t. Our brains are too limited, too small, too confined by this pressing and solid world, to grasp the things that span beyond it.” She continues, “A major element of belief, is the belief in my own cramped capacity for belief. I am incapable of true belief and that’s the basis for my belief.” [3]

The triune God is indeed a mystery until that time in our lives when somehow, somewhere, something happens that cannot be understood in human terms, grasped by intelligence, proven by science, or triggered by emotion. Some will say that is God at work – constantly creating, saving and sanctifying. 

Alice Walker’s Shug said it this way. “The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. It? I ast. Yeah, It. God ain’t a he or a she, but a It. But what do it look like? I ast. Don’t look like nothing, she say. It ain’t a picture show. It ain’t something you can look at apart from anything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’ve found It.” [4]

Or, as playwright Ntozake Shange put it, “I found God in myself and loved her fiercely.”  [5]

_____

 

1 Bering, Jesse. The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny and the Meaning of Life (New York: Norton) 2011, 8 ff.

 

2 See Delio, Ilia. Christ in Evolution. (Maryknoll: Orbis) 2010

 

3 Biancolli, Amy. “Struggle as a Form of Belief” in Albany Times Union (May 8, 2014) http://www.timesunion.com/living/article/Amy-Biancolli-Struggle-as-a-form-of-belief-5463707.php> Amy is a member of this faith community.

 

4 Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. (NY: Harcourt) 1982

 

5 Shange,Ntozake. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf . (NY: Scribner) 1975

 

 

 

 

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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

4 thoughts on “Homily for Trinity Sunday – 15 June 2014 – Belief and Non-belief

  1. One of the best Trinity homilies ever! David offered a really fine one last year, too.

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  2. Thanks for a fresh perspective in your Trinity Sunday homily! And thanks for Ilia’s “Christ in evolution”, a belief I cherish. I was out of town this weekend and knew I would miss hearing you speak the words of Trinity. The next best thing is reading it but hearing your words is best! Thanks, Dick.

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  3. I am so grateful for these words that speak to our very beings, and speak my truth so well.
    Thank you Richard. It is a pleasure to listen to you. Debbie Trees

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  4. Perhaps Cardinal Mueller will increasingly come to see that theology is evolutionary and rooted in the cosmos. Delio and Johnson are certainly great women forerunners among a host of other academics of all stripes faith persuasions and concentrations, and reading pastors like you. I rely entirely on your weekly homilies. I just wish I could get them on Sunday. Thanks so much for what you do to assist me in deepening my faith with new insights.

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