Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Wonder with the Hen, the Lion, and the Puppy in the Everlasting Basket

The Trinitarian Basket
(with an inner and outer beast)
Nicodemus comes to Jesus in darkness, curious and confused. Jesus speaks of being recreated from beyond. This busting up of expected categories seems to further blind and perplex Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, and they're not the evil villains we sometimes make them out to be yet they seem to really like their silos, everything in its place. He is looking for a sign. A good concrete thing to put in its place. Whereas if he had found the freedom to wonder, to let go, to play along, he could have known that god is everflowingly lifegiving. The text doesn’t tell us how Nicodemus responded, but the silence speaks volumes.

Fourth-century pastor and Trinitarian theologian Gregory of Nyssa cautions us: concepts create idols, wonder understands. It is Trinity Sunday and the questions of the day are some of the oldest questions in Christianity. How do we fit together the Hebrew scriptural roots with the experience of Jesus as eternally foundational and alive historically and a part of us now? Gregory of Nyssa is wise when he warns us: concepts create idols, wonder understands. I don’t know what you think or feel about any point of trinitarian concepts, but I am glad you are here. And I invite you to wonder with me about a hen, a lion, and a puppy in an everlasting basket.

There once was a basket that was just the right size for three friends, and everything they loved. It had room enough to embrace, and somehow room to dance, and somehow room to spread far far out, and never feel far apart. In this everlasting basket is one God. God the hen, God the lion, and God the puppy. 

Jesus gives us the image of a mother hen. He offers us the parable where we are nervous chickens are running around the yard and the great wing of god the mother hen gathers us. I imagine this Hen brings us ‘our daily bread’. Hens as an image for the creating god are even more fantastic if you imagine a hen that's always making eggs! Yet I have a deeper reason, that I don’t think Jesus knew about - at least not the way we do. Fossil records and genetics tell us that inside the history of a chicken is a dinosaur. A chicken is a reminder of the extraordinary expansiveness of time and space and the re-creativity of god. For all the kind and benevolent imagery of that mother hen with her wing, the word dinosaur comes from the word meaning terrible and fearsome and the definition of the holy isn’t only placid peacefulness but a kind of trembling in fascination awe. This chicken is a symbol of the essence of God’s love and tremendous power. But also a reminder that God's time and being is beyond our limited scope.

In the everlasting basket, where there is a hen, then maybe we can wonder about Christ as a lion. If you're wondering why I've chosen a lion, you need to read the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. That Christological fable where the Christ figure is Aslan. The great but not tame lion, the king of all Narnia. He is enchanting and he is fierce all at once. When Aslan is on the move darkness and frigid-ness come to an end. There is no fuzziness about whether or not Aslan is a Christ figure in the Narnia series. So a lion is a good image for the being of beingness that is Jesus the Christ.

The last creature in the Trinitarian everlasting basket is a puppy. To really understand the biblical idea of Holy Spirit we actually have to forget most of the ideas we have that go with the word spirit or as some of you may remember the translation ghost. The Spirit of God is animated, always loudly breathing hardly ever stationary. Like a puppy. They are full of energy anyone who's had a puppy or spent time around a grown-up dog who does not know that they are not a puppy, you know about the force of passion and energy I am speaking of in a concrete way. There is no divisiveness or tepidness or contempt in the Spirit of God. Furthermore, animals in my life who have known that I have been in grief have come to my side stayed with me. Maybe you know this experience too. Active tangible drive and empathy of a puppy is a good image for the is-ness of the Spirit of God.

I would be remiss if I didn't name that what the personas of the Trinity share is the be in the being-ness of God, the is in the isness, the will of willingness. Each of my animal pals have a bee sticker to remind us of that essence, the be of being commonality and also to remind us of the community that the Trinity are in their are-ness. Like bees.

So why does wondering about the Trinity matter? It matters because there are foxes in the farmyard. The Trinity matters because it seems so dark, and around us there is a frozen wasteland of numbness and uncaring that unconfronted will continue to break and destroy us. We bind ourselves to the strong name of the Trinity, not for ourselves alone but for each other. The Trinity matters because it models God’s intention for the whole creation: it is and it practices fluid tangible love. Categories create idols, wonder understands. The hen, the lion and the puppy, they're held in an everlasting basket that is as close as an embrace and is his big and broad as the universe. There is room in that basket for you room for your hope room to never feel alone. Room to act concretely against distortion and polarization.

In the baptismal font I have 5 different kind of stickers for you. There are chicken and lion and puppy stickers. There are also dinosaur stickers and bee stickers. As you leave today I invite you to take just three stickers, it is, after all, Trinity Sunday, and we're brought to you by the number 3. I want you to make a choice. Choose one image that comforts you choose one that challenges you and one that could motivate you. Take your 3 stickers and wonder have some prayerful curiosity about what we can do to release perilous certainties, to build fierce relatedness, to wonder about how we are well-equipped to partner with God to become his beloved community.

Categories may be temporarily satisfying, but they are the source of so much human-made terror. And nothing in who we are called to be in union with, nothing that is union with each other and the loving God of all seems to be about exclusive categories. The Holy Trinity, one God is at work in our wondering, our courage and our darkest struggles. Let us live our way into our questions with wonder. One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, love you and are on the move with you, with us, with all. Amen.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Walla Walla, Washington
May 27, 2018

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