Amusement park theology

51ErBZc24ML._SY355_This is a repost of something I wrote two years ago. Call me a lazy blogger, it is true. That said, I am always interested in what I had to say before, because sometimes it does not ring quite a true as it did in my past. At other times, it rings more truly. This is post that reflects the latter.

For a long time I understood the Trinity as God the Father as an old man with a white beard, God the Son as Jesus who was blonde and blue eyed, and the Holy Spirit as a Dove. That was easy! Maybe not so fast…

The Trinity often gets watered down, expressed poorly, or worse. True enough we can’t so easily express what the Trinity is, and it is a bit too facile to keep saying that the Trinity is simply some mystery of God. Of course the Trinity *is* the mystery of God, but are we invited by God to dive deeper rather than walk away with a pat answer?

Perhaps the trap is to either get too heady or theological. I may have done so with my throwing in of the term perichoresis in the original post, but I will leave it, but it is about dynamic being held in dynamic movement in the end, not big words. Ultimately the invitation of God – of the Trinity – is into deeper and dynamic relationship. It can be like falling in love and it can be like a ride at the amusement park. Whatever God or Trinity is, constant motion, dynamism, and movement seem to be required. Now that speaks to me, that’s why I keep saying yes. That’s why I keep going “wheeeeee!” What a ride!

PlaylandParkway 136x93When I was a little girl, my father, loved to take us to a local amusement park, Playland. This old fashioned park was shown to the world in the Tom Hanks movie, Big. I can easily recall the excitement of seeing the Playland Parkway sign, letting us know that we were almost there! Wheeee! Let the fun begin!

When I was about 11 years old we headed there one day, to meet up with another family who had a daughter about my age. She wanted to go on a ride that terrified me. And no – I had never been on it, but just the thought of it sent me reeling! It was called the Round Up at that time. It iis the one where you stand up and hold on, but when the ride gets going, centrifugal force holds you in place. My dad liked this ride, but I would never go on it with him. However, not wanting to act like a baby in front of another kid, I Continue reading

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Wheeee! Some thoughts on the Trinity

PlaylandParkway 136x93When I was a little girl, my father, loved to take us to a local amusement park,  Playland. This old fashioned park was shown to the world in the Tom Hanks movie, Big. I can easily recall the excitement of seeing the Playland Parkway sign, letting us know that we were almost there! Wheeee! Let the fun begin!

When I was about 11 years old we headed there one day, to meet up with another family who had a daughter about my age. She wanted to go on a ride that terrified me. And no – I had never been on it, but just the thought of it sent me reeling! It was called the Round Up at that time.  It iis the one where you stand up and hold on, but when the ride gets going, centrifugal force holds you in place. My dad liked this ride, but I would never go on it with him. However, not wanting to act like a baby in front of another kid, I Continue reading

Back With More Reposting

In the midst of trying to finish my paper on the Creed, an accompanying audio/video project and all the other matters of life, I reposted two older Trinity Sunday reposts.

However, I am back for a third… and why not! It is Trinity Sunday after all and that means three!

In the midst of life I have been reading and commenting on three (Trinity!) different posts. One is from Frank at Why I Am Catholic, and it is about the Corapi matter. I choose to not say much about that, but I did weigh in over at YIM in the comments. Humility is a gift and I think that God offers it to me all the time, but I am clumsy and drop it, don’t notice that God is giving it to me or otherwise turn my nose up at it, however unintentionally.

The second post is from Allison (formerly of YIM) and now she hosts Rambling Follower, a relatively new blog. She wrote about an older couple who were seeking to marry in the Church and who had a less than great experience. In trying to look at the human side of things and explore how we can block the pathway to Christ, a flurry of comments came up about law, doctrine and rules. Now rules, doctrine and law matter, but without love they are nothing. Again, the blessed gift of humility is sought, with a dose of wisdom. 

Finally our third example is from Deacon William Ditewig at Deacons Today: Dalmatics and Beyond. Bill was writing about the aforementioned Corapi matter and once again, a post generated some strong comments in the thread. So once more, I prayed for the gift of wisdom as I left my own comments.

All three posts remind me of the essential need and the foundational matter of the Roman Catholic Church and that is the intersection of the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. We must have both.

To which I now point you to a fine Trinitarian story called The Three Hermits by Leo Tolstoy and a post that first went up over at the parish blog in 2007. If there was ever a short tale that underscored the need for the spirit of the law, it is this one!

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I am away this weekend, but I have a moment and I wanted to republish this post from August of 2007. We have added many new readers since then, so this may be new to you.

It is a great reminder that we live in a day to day world of practical measures that often demands doing and saying more and more and more just to keep going… but that at the heart of the Trinity is a purity and a simplicity that is startling in its clarity.

Peace and Blessings to all.
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The Three Hermits is a short story by Leo Tolstoy, based upon on old Russian legend. It is a lovely allegory about prayer and simplicity.

The story basically says this- a bishop was traveling on a boat. When on this boat, he hears about some hermits. These hermits live on an island that the ship was passing. A fisherman told the bishop about being stranded overnight on that island and encountering these three holy hermits.

The bishop is compelled to go see this trio and convinces the captain of this ship to send him ashore in a rowboat. Off he goes to see these old men who are apparently living lives of simplicity and prayer.

Upon arrival he informs them that he wants to see what he can do to teach them something about the Lord. After all it would appear that he is so well schooled and learned as the bishop and they are but three simple ones on an island. The men say little. Undeterred, the bishop forges ahead and asks them to spell out just how they are saving their souls and serving God.

He quickly learns that they have but one prayer… “Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us”. While happy to hear that they know the Trinity, the bishop now goes into an explanation of how to pray the right way. To this end, he attempts to get them to memorize the Lord’s Prayer.

All day long he would say the words, the men would try and try to memorize and repeat them and each time the three holy, old men would just fumble their way through. Finally though they got it and the bishop was satisfied.

At this point the bishop takes his leave and as he rows back to the main ship he hears them praying the Lord’s Prayer in unison. He is so pleased that he could share his great knowledge with these simple servants. Unable to sleep he is standing on deck in the silent night. He feels so good about how he could teach these men this prayer and he thanks God for the chance to have enlightened the island dwellers.

Suddenly he notices something white and shining traveling towards the boat. It was moving at such rapid speed he could not fathom what it might be! Needless to say he was alarmed and turned to the helmsman to see if he knew what was happening. The helmsman just about loses controls of the ship.

And in the great white light he could suddenly make out the three hermits running across the surface of the water! The helmsman nearly faints and the bishop is shaken to the core.

As the hermits neared the ship the holy old ones said in a single voice “We have forgotten your teaching, servant of God”.

The bishop- realizing with gravity what has happened, simply tells them that their own original prayer will truly reach the Lord. Understanding that he – the great bishop – could not teach these men, he simply asked them to pray for “us sinners”.

Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us.

This story so beautifully illustrates that sometimes the learned have much to learn from the simple. Which pretty much sounds like something Jesus tried to tell us in many ways.

If you would like to read the story please click here.

Trinity Sunday – Another Repost

(Another repost from last year…)

Yesterday I put up a long post about Trinity Sunday. It is a study in relationship and it is a bit wordy!

Today I am reflecting on a more simple image that has been influenced by my friend Lindy, by some work from Richard Rohr and from Fr. Pat’s homily that I heard at the 4pm liturgy.

Lindy suggested that we call this Imagination Sunday… and I think that imagination is at the heart of our faith, the heart of the Trinity, so I like the idea of focusing on imagination.

Richard Rohr and Father Pat both spoke about images and dynamics, although each a bit differently.

I am pondering God as Father – but God also as Creator, which implies power. Not power in the negative way that we often perceive it, but the power to imagine and to create, with great love.

I am pondering Jesus as Son – Jesus as human, vulnerable, weak. Not weak in a negative way that is easy to jump to but rather weak as in human. Vulnerable is really a better way to put it. Our culture rejects vulnerability, our faith demands it.

I am pondering the Holy Spirit as… Well, not as a Dove, not as a Flame. I am pondering the ruah, which means spirit and is feminine. Now to say that feminine is not always held up or considered as part of the prevailing male image of God is a whole other blog post or more!

God and Jesus are a horizon and that horizon is linear, the addition of the Spirit makes for a dyamic that mediates the Divine and Human natures and create the Trinity.

No, I’m not even sure of what I just wrote, but in my heart, in my imagination, I find comfort it in its truth.

Here is a lovely song for Trinity Sunday, courtesy of Paul Snatchko, who had it on his blog. Paul started out as a blog friend, as did Lindy. Having met them both I am grateful! I bring this up because our faith is incarnational and relational… the heart of the Trinity.

Trinity Sunday – Reposted from 2010

(This was originally posted last year, but due to time challenges, it shows up again!)

Look at that image for a moment if you will. The Father is not the Son. The Father is not the Spirit. The Son is not the Father. The Son is not the Spirit. The Spirit is neither Father nor Son.

All are God. Each one is God. It bears repeating… All are God. Each one is God. And yet God is one!

Even for those of us who believe in this One God of Three Persons, there is a good deal of mind bending that can go on if we try to understand the Trinity in our Western-Culture-Meets-Left-Brain manner. This manner often includes seeing “three persons” as we imagine persons – God as white haired, bearded and maybe slightly scary old man, Jesus as either Western European handsome or bleeding and wounded and finally the Holy Spirit as a dove or maybe a lick of flame.

None of that really breaks through to make the Trinity manifest as our God who is so present in ways that we struggle to recognize and respond to in our lives.

None of that really breaks through to make the Trinity manifest as our God who is so present in ways that we struggle to recognize and respond to in our lives.

When we use the word mystery in relation to the Trinity it can act as a polite excuse… “Oh, the Trinity! “ (ahem, clears throat) “That! It is a mystery!” And with such, we are potentially absolved from getting a headache trying to put the triangular trinity peg into a round left-brain hole!

Thus ends so much study of the Trinity and that is very sad. At the heart of the Trinity is a constant self-revelation of God and relationship, community. These are not abstract concepts but something very real and something we must be in relationship with in order to respond, participate and cooperate with God.

We can’t use mystery as a manner of abandoning our place in the relationship with a God that is relationship. If it is mystery, then we must enter into that mystery, not abandon it.

Let’s refocus… How do you imagine God in relationship with you?

“God’s To-Be is To-Be in relationship, and God’s being-in-relationship-to-us is what God is.” Catherine Mowry LaCugna, from her book, God For Us

Think about that for a moment… “God’s being-in-relationship-to-us is what God is.’ God’s being in relationship is what God is. This makes the old-bearded-white-haired-man seem less likely to me. In fact this brings to mind images of relationship from the Song of Songs:

“Set me as a seal on your heart,
as a seal on your arm:
For stern as death is love,
relentless as the netherworld is devotion,
Its flames are a blazing fire.”

This is no longer God looking down at me, but rather the God of relationship, all three-in-one of God, staring at me, calling me into relationship in a most intimate and passionate way.

And it is a little bit uncomfortable!

So yes, this is mystery, but it is mystery as invitation and welcome, not mystery as an impediment of understanding, or mystery as confusion.

God – as Trinity, God – as invitation, God – as Love… in three persons. If a symbol is what it does and if the etymology of the word symbol is a combination of “token or mark” and “to throw” we can understand little else other than something real has been thrown at us. It has also pursued us in endless relationship.

This Trinity-relationship also negates individualism – which is probably one of, if not the greatest challenge to Trinitarian understanding and engagement in our culture. Our most basic national values are based on a kind of individualism that is antithetical to this God of Trinitarian relationship.

We are often so focused on our own relationship with God, that it can be easy to forget or ignore that our relationship with God is completely dependent on our relationships with others.

The model for understanding this in some way is to pray, to study and to simply be with the Trinity, God, Father and Son in ever present and constant motion and engagement with one another.

Trinity Sunday – Revisited

Yesterday I put up a long post about Trinity Sunday. It is a study in relationship and it is a bit wordy!

Today I am reflecting on a more simple image that has been influenced by my friend Lindy, by some work from Richard Rohr and from Fr. Pat’s homily that I heard at the 4pm liturgy.

Lindy suggested that we call this Imagination Sunday… and I think that imagination is at the heart of our faith, the heart of the Trinity, so I like the idea of focusing on imagination.

Richard Rohr and Father Pat both spoke about images and dynamics, although each a bit differently.

I am pondering God as Father – but God also as Creator, which implies power. Not power in the negative way that we often perceive it, but the power to imagine and to create, with great love.

I am pondering Jesus as Son – Jesus as human, vulnerable, weak. Not weak in a negative way that is easy to jump to but rather weak as in human. Vulnerable is really a better way to put it. Our culture rejects vulnerability, our faith demands it.

I am pondering the Holy Spirit as… Well, not as a Dove, not as a Flame. I am pondering the ruah, which means spirit and is feminine. Now to say that feminine is not always held up or considered as part of the prevailing male image of God is a whole other blog post or more!

God and Jesus are a horizon and that horizon is linear, the addition of the Spirit makes for a dyamic that mediates the Divine and Human natures and create the Trinity.

No, I’m not even sure of what I just wrote, but in my heart, in my imagination, I find comfort it in its truth.

Here is a lovely song for Trinity Sunday, courtesy of Paul Snatchko, who had it on his blog. Paul started out as a blog friend, as did Lindy. Having met them both I am grateful! I bring this up because our faith is incarnational and relational… the heart of the Trinity.

Trinity Sunday – A Study in Relationship

Look at that image for a moment if you will. The Father is not the Son. The Father is not the Spirit. The Son is not the Father. The Son is not the Spirit. The Spirit is neither Father nor Son.

All are God. Each one is God. It bears repeating… All are God. Each one is God. And yet God is one!

Even for those of us who believe in this One God of Three Persons, there is a good deal of mind bending that can go on if we try to understand the Trinity in our Western-Culture-Meets-Left-Brain manner. This manner often includes seeing “three persons” as we imagine persons – God as white haired, bearded and maybe slightly scary old man, Jesus as either Western European handsome or bleeding and wounded and finally the Holy Spirit as a dove or maybe a lick of flame.

None of that really breaks through to make the Trinity manifest as our God who is so present in ways that we struggle to recognize and respond to in our lives.

None of that really breaks through to make the Trinity manifest as our God who is so present in ways that we struggle to recognize and respond to in our lives.

When we use the word mystery in relation to the Trinity it can act as a polite excuse… “Oh, the Trinity! “ (ahem, clears throat) “That! It is a mystery!” And with such, we are potentially absolved from getting a headache trying to put the triangular trinity peg into a round left-brain hole!

Thus ends so much study of the Trinity and that is very sad. At the heart of the Trinity is a constant self-revelation of God and relationship, community. These are not abstract concepts but something very real and something we must be in relationship with in order to respond, participate and cooperate with God.

We can’t use mystery as a manner of abandoning our place in the relationship with a God that is relationship. If it is mystery, then we must enter into that mystery, not abandon it.

Let’s refocus… How do you imagine God in relationship with you?

“God’s To-Be is To-Be in relationship, and God’s being-in-relationship-to-us is what God is.” Catherine Mowry LaCugna, from her book, God For Us

Think about that for a moment… “God’s being-in-relationship-to-us is what God is.’ God’s being in relationship is what God is. This makes the old-bearded-white-haired-man seem less likely to me. In fact this brings to mind images of relationship from the Song of Songs:

“Set me as a seal on your heart,
as a seal on your arm:
For stern as death is love,
relentless as the netherworld is devotion,
Its flames are a blazing fire.”

This is no longer God looking down at me, but rather the God of relationship, all three-in-one of God, staring at me, calling me into relationship in a most intimate and passionate way.

And it is a little bit uncomfortable!

So yes, this is mystery, but it is mystery as invitation and welcome, not mystery as an impediment of understanding, or mystery as confusion.

God – as Trinity, God – as invitation, God – as Love… in three persons. If a symbol is what it does and if the etymology of the word symbol is a combination of “token or mark” and “to throw” we can understand little else other than something real has been thrown at us. It has also pursued us in endless relationship.

This Trinity-relationship also negates individualism – which is probably one of, if not the greatest challenge to Trinitarian understanding and engagement in our culture. Our most basic national values are based on a kind of individualism that is antithetical to this God of Trinitarian relationship.

We are often so focused on our own relationship with God, that it can be easy to forget or ignore that our relationship with God is completely dependent on our relationships with others.

The model for understanding this in some way is to pray, to study and to simply be with the Trinity, God, Father and Son in ever present and constant motion and engagement with one another.