Sermon – June 16: 3×1 = 1

Some find it easy – especially on Fathers’ Day –  to think of God as monolithic, as father, as all-powerful. It surely was easier in ancient times. People imagined a god on every hill and under every tree. The Greek and Roman gods lived in the heavens. The Semitic gods went along with their people when they travelled. Everyone determined truth based on their own experiences and because ancient times were controlled by monolithic all-powerful male rulers, images of God blended comfortably with images of men.

Later we began to understand life as more complex. A scientist of our century named Julian Jaynes documents the ancient evolution in a book called The Origin of Consciousness that argues for a change in the structure of the human brain between 900 and 300 BCE. He believes that the change resulted in humanity becoming able to tell the difference between the voices of their own heads and the voice of God.

The Bible tells us that this time span in Israel corresponds to people’s growing certainty that there is one God whose name is YHWH. One of the certainties of ancient Israel and their central prayer is pronounced as: “Hear O Israel, the LORD our God; the LORD is one.”

The people of Jesus’ time said “Yes, this is so.. the LORD is God, the LORD is one…But – big but. Because in this man some discovered a new understanding of their God. It was as if God’s own Son had come to bring them a new way of knowing the Holy One.

And then their world fell apart. “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel,” said the traveleron the road to Emmaus, “but he was handed over and crucified…”

Yet, as we’ve been hearing these last few weeks, they sensed that God’s spirit was still with them, granting them courage to shout out the good news to anyone who would listen. They developedmultifaceted ways of speaking the truth of the one God and some people began to tell their truth with different stories. If we were to forget the stories of Jesus, then we would lose something of the richness of his story and the healing power of his life. As a result, God would be the same, but we would not be.

And if we forget the stories of the Spirit, God would not be lessened, but we would be diminished. So what do these Christian stories say collectively and what new understanding do they add to the nature of the one God?

Well, they all say something slightly different – the letters of Paul’s and the gospel stories point to Christ the redeemer. What we learn from John isdifferent – mystical, otherworldly, love centered. But all the stories point away from the notion of a monolithic, distant creator/warrior god. Instead, they point towards to a growing conviction that God exists in relationship. Name God any way you like – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, – there are many words you can use, but there’s no way to describe God that is simply monolithic if we stay true to Christian experience.

Let’s take a breath here and remember what we know about the nature of relationships. Psychology tells us that – from the moment of birth – creaturesfind their identity only in one another. An infant’s first truth is the total bond in which he lives with his mother. An infant’s first task is discovering his father, a separate person from the mommy-and-me dyad. None of us can ever know ourselves except as we relate to another. I am pastor, sister, mother, friend. And in none of these ways of being can I name myself without naming another.

So we live in relationship, created, the Bible says, in the image of God. What being made in the image of God means is that the relational energy within God spills over into human life, opening us to the truth that – within the being of God and the being of us– the One and the Other are of equal value and are equally loved.

Whatever threatens this balance of loving and being loved is unhealthy in the vocabulary of the psychologist and sinful in the vocabulary of the theologian. Despite differences in kind or power or culture, everyone is to be equally cherished and comforted for no less a reason than that it is God’s own nature to do so.

So what we are saying is this: Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Hear this: whoever has seen the Christ has seen the Creator. Hear this: God will not leave you orphaned; the Spirit will guide you into truth; the truth of the One God.   Amen.

Posted by Rev. Barbara Ewton

Leave a Reply