Monday, June 17, 2019


In the 70s, I logged many hours meditating 
at the Boulder Shambhala Center.
I recently went back there for some quiet time.
and found the building under major construction.
Beside the front door, a large sign said
         Enter in back.

So I went to the back door and found another sign 
         saying, Enter in front. 
This was Buddhism at its best. 
I was thrust into the creative stuckness
         famously celebrated by Robert Pirsig 
in Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

And this is why we talk about God in paradox. 
I am not impressed when people believe in God.
I don’t even know if their belief is a good thing
         until I know who this God is that they believe in.

Archbishop William Temple said:
         If you have a false idea of God, 
the more religious you are
                        the worse it is for you
 – it were better for you to be an atheist.

When we say God,
we must use the word carefully – even reverently.
ByGod, Christians mean the Holy Trinity.
The Trinity is a way of imagining God 
that is a paradox like the Shambhala center signs. 
It is a set of contradictions that do not define God 
         but rather open our minds to the mystery.
But Americans are especially uncomfortable 
with open minds.

 In the student lounge of Harvard Divinity School 
I once overheard a conversation 
between two young women on the verge 
of graduation and ordination. 
The first was afraid the ministerial board 
wouldn’t approve her. 
They might expect her to believe in the Trinity
– and she was not going to say that, no way, no how.

The other agreed that it was unjust and oppressive. 
The first bemoaned the waste of her theological education 
and her ministry died aborning. 
The second then mused, It’s so seductive though, isn’t it?

 What do you mean “seductive”?the first asked.
Well, the second said, the way Prof. Coakley explains the Trinity, 
it’s just so lovely. 
It’s relationship as the heart of everything instead of power. 
It’s really beautiful and so good, so moral.

The first student nodded and sighed, 
Yesit is. When you read St. Basil and St. Gregory,
and St. Thomas Aquinas, it just makes so much sense. 
It really seems true.
There was a long pause. 

Then the first student continued. 
It’s hard to sacrifice all I’ve worked for. 
But there’s no way I’m going to say I believe in the Trinity.
Of course not,the second student said. 
It would be corrupt and absurd.

These were bright, theologically educated people.
They knew that God is infinitely beyond any doctrine, 
that doctrines are metaphors reaching out into the dark, 
grazing the face of mystery
with fingertips of language.  

So why is the Trinity such a taboo 
that they recoil against it no matter 
how beautiful, how good, and even how true it seems?

The reason is all there in dear old Sigmund Freud.
He explained how we get our primitive image of God 
            from early childhood experiences of dependency. 
The God image we formulate in the crib is 
         of God the patriarch, 
 the big boss, the dominator-god. 

If our parents were benign, 
we may feel safer with this dominator-God. 
If our parents were frightening or neglectful, 
our attitude is apt to be less positive. 
Either way, when we were dependent, subservient children, 
we all got God the dominator stuck in our heads.

But it isn’t the Christian God because it isn’t the Trinity. 
The point of the Trinity is to reject that primitive image.
The Trinity isn’t an individual lording it over creation.
The Divine Nature is too complex, too relational, too loving 
to be represented by a big guy in the sky.
So our image of God is an interpersonal relationship.

The Trinity isn’t 3 Gods.
The Trinity isn’t one God with 3 jobs.
The Godness of God, the Divine Nature,
            is the relationship among three persons.
Their relationship makes them Divine.
Instead of an individual dominating creation, 
God is a web of love
procreating creation into being. 

I am not making this up.
It is ancient as the faith itself – more so.
As Hindus had long before called God the Cosmic Dance,
St. Gregory of Nazianzen and St. John of Damascus 
called the Trinity a circle dance 
like Native American folk dances.

The saints who first described God as Trinity had,
 for generations been dancing
 in a meditative prayerful circle
            that would later be taken up by Sufi dervishes. 

T. S. Eliot wrote:
                        At the still point of the turning world . . .
                        at the still point, there the dance is. . .
                        Except for the point, the still point, 
                        There would be no dance,
                        And there is only the dance.
Reality is, at its heart, a dance 
-- a community, a striving for relationship. 

Everything depends on this.
The word Godmeans our deepest value. 
It represents the highest good, 
the truest truth, the most beautiful beauty.
God is the North Star orienting our whole life.
Our image of God determines what we value, what we do, 
and ultimately who we become.
If we worship the primitive dominator God,
            we worship power.
We spend our lives either cringing before it
            or trying to become dominators ourselves.
But if we worship the Trinity, 
            the cosmic circle dance of love,
            then we strive to become dancers and lovers.
to practice friendship as a spiritual discipline.
Christians are not baptized into docility before
oppressive powers either human or divine.
We are not baptized to be dominators,
            or to be maverick rebels doing our own thing.
We are baptized in the name of the Trinity.
We are baptized into the dance, 
into the sacred pattern of mutual delight,
into the joy of serving each other in love.