06/12/22 – A Geometric God

A GEOMETRIC GOD

June 12, 2022
Trinity Sunday
Prov.8:1-4, 22-31; Ps.8; Rom.5:1-5; John 16:12-15
Rev. Denise Clark-Jones

You’ve probably heard the simple illustration explaining the difference between knowledge and wisdom. It goes like this: ‘Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.’ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made a more serious observation: ““Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” What King captured in his remark is the pinnacle of human thought: knowledge, wisdom and goodness. It is presence of these three that we find the kind of truth which the author of John’s gospel speaks so eloquently. Augustine, the great theologian of the 5th century, offered this explanation: “True wisdom is such that no evil use can ever be made of it.”

In the two Old Testament passages we just heard, we hear the uplifting words that we are special among God’s magnificent creations. We are the only beings in God’s creation given the desire for knowledge. The term, homo sapiens, joins the Latin word homo, meaning “human” with the Latin word for wisdom, “sapientia.” Current events would suggest that we more often display our humanness than our wisdom. The author or authors of Proverbs attest that we humans are prone to folly.

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday, the only special day in the Christian calendar which does not identify with an event in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Trinity Sunday is devoted to a theological doctrine, an intellectual construct, an attempt by human minds to see into the mind of God. The word, trinity, does not appear anywhere in the bible. The bible warns us that we, as mere mortals, can never completely know the mind of God. In John’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that the knowledge he has is ‘more than they can bear,” so he must reveal what he knows in small doses and in a timely manner.

Proverbs is set in the context of a father giving advice to his son to enable him to make wise choices. But this is not just an ordinary father, this is a king giving

advice to his son, who will one day have the responsibility of the kingdom. The words have been attributed to King Solomon. The book of Proverbs serves, along with the book of Job, as one of two bookends to the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament. Proverbs impart knowledge and wisdom gained from observing human behavior and the consequences of wise and unwise decisions. Job, on the other hand, deals with the inexplicable: Why is there suffering in the world? If God is good, why do bad things happen to God’s creations? These two books do not contradict each other. Instead, Proverbs has a rational cause and effect model, whereas Job points to the paradoxes of human life. The wisdom given in Proverbs contains truths we have observed and can grasp. Job posits the universal questions for which humankind has never found an answer. We know that there is much that has proven its veracity in Proverbs, but we struggle with the questions Job has about the mysteries, and apparent injustices, of life that bring suffering.

The book of Job addresses the wisdom that only God possesses. Our wisdom is finite. There is knowledge that only God has and only God has the power to reveal. Our Proverbs passage read today heralds the good news that God’s Wisdom established all that is in the world and how it operates. God did not roll the dice or flip a coin; God had a plan that was created with Wisdom and Goodness. Science has uncovered many truths concerning the logistics of the world, but many mysteries remain. Science will not tell us why the world was created. The bible answers this question, which God has revealed. God created the world out of love and the desire for relationships based on love.

In response to the Proverb passage, the psalmist invokes the mystery of God’s creation, including humanity, with this question: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” (Ps. 8: 3-4) The psalmist tells us we cannot fathom the wisdom of God’s design or why we were created to be the crowning glory of God’s creative spirit. We can only respond with awe and gratitude.

In our communion liturgy, we give thanks “for the mystery of our faith” – the mystery of God so loving the world that we were given the Son, the incarnation of God’s Word, who came to live among us, taught us, loved us, died for us, and was raised in glory for all the world to experience the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and eternal life. With the psalmist we question: “Why us, God?” The answer that has been revealed to through the model of the Trinity, with each of the three persons – God, Christ, Holy Spirit — in relationship with one another.

The concept of the Trinity came from a need for human beings to wrap their minds around God, the resurrected Christ, and Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, which people experienced but could not communicate without a common vocabulary in which to express what they had experienced. The early Church Fathers presented the Trinity as a way of perceiving the mysterious God that acts from beyond us, beside us, and within us. The One who has and continues to create us and all the world in which we live; the One who has lived among us and confronted us in our humanity; and the One who redeems us and draws us back to this One that we call God.

Of course, once the Church Fathers came up with the doctrine of the Trinity, they had to fight with anyone who proposed a different model other than their equilateral triangular God. First the concept of three equal persons was argued. These arguments centered around whether or not Christ was both human and divine and whether or not Christ was co-equal, the same being, as God. The winners were established by the First Council of Nicaea in 325 from which we get our earliest official creed. The Eastern Orthodox Christian Church God created within us the desire for knowledge, wisdom and truth, but within limits because there can be only one God. The creature cannot become the creator.

It is the bible, not infallible because it was written by human beings, which is our guide as it is based on hundreds of years of people receiving revelations from God. If there is any inaccuracy it is from the human interpreter. As my mentor was fond of saying about the bible: “Human beings wrote the words, but God is in the spaces.” We are able to acquire knowledge to improve our lives within the place in creation God has given us. However, the sin of pride is an enemy of knowledge, wisdom and goodness; another enemy is fear. Today we see in our society a fear of knowledge and truth that fuels self-serving evil. When we refuse to learn, are afraid of other people learning, and even defame those who seek knowledge, we create a society of self-serving, belligerent fools. As the saying goes: “those that refuse to learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

In the book of Proverbs, a royal father attempts to teach his son so he will not make the mistakes of others before him. He is teaching his son political truths because his son will one day be responsible for his people. While we are a society obsessed with our rights, this biblical model is a parent teaching a child about responsibilities and the importance of making wise decisions for both themselves and their community.

Christ came to live among us, but left us with many questions with which to challenge us to seek God’s truth. This was the dilemma facing the disciples when Jesus announced he would be leaving them. To guide us toward wise and righteous discernment, Christ promised his disciples a guide. In John, Jesus describes the function and the authority of the Holy Spirit that will be sent to the people after his ascension to God. All that the Father has is mine. (16:15) For this reason, I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” Jesus also calls the Holy Spirit, the “spirit of Truth.” God’s truth was proclaimed in the life, death and resurrection of Christ; the Holy Spirit continues to keep us open and discerning of God’s truth. That truth must go through the filters of the human mind: and, when we close our minds, the Holy Spirit has a hard time getting through. Self-knowledge and the humility to recognize one’s own lack of knowledge is essential for wisdom to flourish.

We are most challenged by all the competing forces that claim to have the truth. The Apostle Paul dealt with charlatans, who spread false statements, and the divisions they created in the new churches Paul started. Although Paul never uses the word, “trinity,” in our reading today, he stresses the relational foundation of what we call the Trinity — the relationship between God and humanity, the relationship God desires between human beings, the relationship between God, the father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Love is what tears down the boundaries and makes us one. Paul gives expression to the doctrine of the Trinity with his claim: God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (5:8) and “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”(5:5)

In response to God’s Word, as a conclusion to our thanks and praise to God, we will celebrate the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, what the early Christians called the Eucharist. We acknowledge that our human capacity for words cannot describe, proclaim, or elicit faith. We engage in this spirit – filled ritual to proclaim “the mystery of our faith” in a way words alone are not sufficient to bring us into an experience of God’s holiness – which is marked by ultimate truth, perfect goodness and steadfast love. We ask for our Triune God to be present with us and make us more holy within, that we might live more holy lives out in the world.

Amen. May it be so!

 

 

 

 

© Rev. Denise Clark-Jones, 2022, All Rights Reserved
Westminster Presbyterian Church | 1420 W. Moss Ave. | Peoria, Illinois 61606
WestminsterPeoria.org  | 309.673.8501