May 19, 2019
Wonder of Wonders
John 3: 1-12
The Trinity can be described with the analogy of an ever-flowing river or fountain of Love. A classic analogy for the Trinity is three buckets on a moving waterwheel. Each bucket fills and empties out, then swings back to be filled again. The Father empties into the Son, nothing held back. The Son empties into the Spirit, nothing held back. The Spirit empties into the Father, nothing held back. They can empty themselves because their love is infinite love. [Bonaventure (1221–1274)]
No wonder baptism is a blessing with water.
People filled with an emptying-filling flow of love do not need to cling to their own power. People who trust the constant availability of divine love have the power they need; and this trust overflows to others.
People who do not experience the infinite flow of love at the center of life, most often live in anxiety of scarcity. They worry that there’s not enough—money, security, health care, food or good will to go around. Anxiety about scarcity leads them to be self-centered. Are we confident that we will be refilled? Or do we hold back? How much do we focus on protecting ourselves or our own image? Instead, we can trust that God’s infinite love has the world and us covered.
The roles of the Trinity are basically interchangeable. We often use the analogy of three persons—persons of the Trinity is an analogy needed because the mystery of the Trinity is behind our understanding. The Trinity is often compartmentalized with the Creator-Father as the infinite one, the Son as immanent (the one present and near to us), and the Spirit as intimate. Yet, the Trinity is a continual flow of unity. We are filled with Trinitarian empowerment when we embrace inter-weaving Infinity, presence, and Intimacy—all Three.
People who are marginalized, oppressed, “poor,” or “mentally disabled” tend to be open to trust in the Trinity. Disempowered people need to trust love to maintain hope.
Mutual relationships help them cope and survive. They find ways to serve others. They know that God who suffers WITH them can give them peace of mind. People who consider themselves to be mostly self-reliant tend to be less receptive to divine power and mercy. Yet comfortably well-off people who are in synch with divine love are drawn to mutuality with dis-powered people…and authentic gratitude to God.*
*[Adapted, Richard Rohr, Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation pp. 90-1]
What is your understanding and experience of the Trinity?
Who/what is the Holy Spirit?
After a congregation recited the Apostles Creed using contemporary translation of Holy Spirit, a young boy asked his dad, “Who is the Holy Spearmint?”
Holy Spearmint might be a fair analogy for the Holy Spirit.
"Fill us with the freshness of mint, Lord!”
How does the Holy Spirit function in your day-to-day life? How do we determine what is right or wrong? Is the Holy Spirit at the center of our decisions? Someone has said that trying to understand the Bible without the Holy Spirit is like trying to read a sundial by moonlight.
Early Christians credit the Holy Spirit for their empowerment. The New Testament tells story after story of Christians filled with evangelistic zeal and respect and care for others. Christians therefore differed dramatically from the highly stratified and prejudiced 1st c society.
The Holy Spirit inspired Philip to explain the story of Jesus and baptize a black Ethiopian eunuch. Philip’s action was literally death-defyingly bold. The Holy Spirit inspired Peter to baptize a high profile Gentile Roman centurion’s whole household based on their faith alone.
The story of Nicodemus n the Gospel of John focuses on the Holy Spirit. Jesus told Nicodemus that the Holy Spirit empowers people to be born anew—again and again. Jesus even asserted that the indwelling of the H Spirit is essential for a person to be a part of the kingdom of God. Jesus claimed that the H Spirit presses us to examine our lives. Is our vision of the kingdom of God a self-generated concept; or is our concept of God’s kingdom continually guided by God’s H Spirit? Since the Holy Spirit is mystical and eludes comprehension, Jesus offers analogies that give hints about the Holy Spirit: Jesus tells Nicodemus that the H Spirit is as unpredictable and pervasive as the wind.NOBODY knows what direction the wind-like Holy Spirit comes from.
A modern parable tells about a boy flying a kite on a windy day. The kite kept going higher until it was out of sight. A man saw the boy holding the string but could not see the kite. He asked, “How do you even know you have a kite up there?” The boy replied, “Because I can feel it.” Although we cannot see the Holy Spirit, we can sense the Holy Spirit at work.
We might claim spiritual wisdom and experience based on years of church membership. Yet Jesus reprimanded the religious leader Nicodemus because he did not even believe earthly things that Jesus told him. So how in the world would Nicodemus believe heavenly things that Jesus tells him?
Jesus laments that light has come into the world, but people love darkness rather than light, for fear that their evil deeds would be exposed. Jesus reassures Nicodemus and us: Whoever does what is true comes to the light, it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God. Jesus infers that deeds “wrought in God” are inspired by the H Sp. Deeds that are not inspired by the Holy Spirit are of our own making; not God-inspired. So what’s Jesus’ point?
A young missionary, Herbert Jackson, was given a car to help his mission work. The car would not start without a push or jump-start, so Jackson devised a solution. Each morning, he asked some children to help him push-start his car. And then he parked on a hill or to left his engine running. For two years, the missionary used what he believed was his ingenious method.
When a new missionary arrived to take over the mission, Jackson explained his method. The new missionary opened the hood to inspect the car and commented, “Dr. Jackson, I believe the only trouble is this loose cable.” He twisted the cable together and started the engine. For two years, Jackson had used his own solution and endured needless trouble and extra effort. Power to start the car was there all the time—it only had to be properly connected. The H Spirit is like electricity: If you want a piece of toast, and put it in the toaster, the bread will stay limp unless you connect electricity to the toaster.
Christians are connected to guidance and power of the H Sp. However, many Christians do not seem to be tuned in to the H Sp. This lack of connection may be a major cause of church decline across the nation. Do Christians tend to think of God as our Co-pilot, rather than us as God’s co-pilot? Do Christians mostly do self-generated good deeds? Self-generated good intentions can cause serious problems, as most of us have learned first-hand. I remember wanting to help a friend by telling him that his wife was upset because he spent too much time away from home. Turns out they were in marriage counseling and I aggravated the rift in their marriage. If I had prayed before I gave MY counsel, I probably would not have said a word.
Craig Brian Larson tells about a park ranger in Yellowstone who led hikers to a fire lookout. The ranger was so intent on telling the group about flowers and animals that he turned his mobile phone off so it would not be distracting. A nearly breathless lookout ranger found the hikers and urgently asked why the ranger hadn’t responded to his messages. The lookout had been trying to warn them that a grizzly bear was stalking their group. What are the consequences if we tune out the Holy Spirit or disregard wisdom found in the Bible? Do we put ourselves and those around us in danger?
As the Apostle Paul explained to skeptics in Athens: God “is not far from us, but is the one in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27-28). Since God is always present, a sense of disconnection is an illusion. We cannot undo the eternal flow of divine love, even by our worst sin of ignoring God. God is with us, and God’s love will win. Wonder of Wonders!
Let us pray: Holy Sp—refresh us and think thru each of us until your ideas are our ideas. Amen.