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The Call to Worship
Each one of us here is different.
ALL: We are unique individuals.
We come from various backgrounds.
ALL: We come with differing needs and dreams.
Yet the Lord calls us to worship in unity.
ALL: Praise be to God who blesses our diversity and our unity.
We gather this morning in the name of the creator,
who creates time and space,
galaxies stars and planets;
in the name of Jesus, born on planet Earth;
and in the name of the Spirit, who fills Earth with her presence,
in this time we call “now”
and in this space we call “here”
we commune with you.
Make your presence felt amongst us. Amen
A reading from the Torah (Deuteronomy 6.4-7)
Listen! Our God is the Great I Am, the Source and Substance of all Being! 5 Love the Infinite with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. 6 These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. 7 Recite them to your loved ones. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up.
A reading from the Apostle Paul (Romans 8.14-16)
All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. 15 You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are…God’s children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Mother-Father God!.” 16 The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children.
Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher, Virtual Chaplain, Sunshine Cathedral of Second Life
This week we celebrate and lift up the concepts of unity and the doctrine of the Trinity within Christianity This idea of God the three in one does not originate in the bible. It comes from doctrines that humans created to try to explain how Jesus could be both human and God, how the One God could be incarnate in a human form, and how God the holy Spirit is sent to us as the comforter to companion us on our human journey.
The old way we described the Trinity is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Nowadays we use other words, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, etc. to break the concept of Trinity out of male language and open it to the ideas that are expressed in the Trinitarian God. This concept of Trinity brings out the breadth of opinion understanding for the Trinity. And what we want to really concentrate on here today is that we do not need to agree on the particular symbols we use to describe the vastness of God.
Bishop John Shelby Spong asserts that these “parts” of God that we describe consist of the “Father [Parent] or source, the originator of all that is. We also experience God as the ultimate depth of meaning that is within. That is what the symbol “Holy Spirit” stands for. Finally, we experience God coming to us from other lives and most especially through the life of the one we call Christ. That is what the symbol “Son” stands for. So, Holy Trinity is an attempt to give rational form to our God experiences. It is not a creed to be believed so much as it is an experience to be explored.”
My colleague and friend Rev. Anne Atwell says, “I believe that the trinity also offers us the opportunity to witness images of the Divine within other lives and faith expressions – which then can create a unity (an acceptance or greater understanding) of various beliefs. This concept really is about how we can express our relationship with God. If we remain stuck in our own personal experience, we will miss how others see the Divine and their experiences will remain a mystery to us. To see the Divine as a mystery with the understanding that we can never fully comprehend God is to understand that God is a mystery to all – but each will find their own way of encountering the holy.”
It seems ironic that the only way we can even touch the surface of the vastness of God is to respect those images and symbols of the expression of God that are different from our own, perhaps even alien to us. Remaining open to hearing and attempting to understand another’s experience and understanding of the complexity of God allows us to engage symbols of God that we might otherwise never conceptualize. And each time we allow ourselves to entertain a different understanding or symbol for God we expand our human mind’s capacity to grasp the overwhelming magnificence of God.
This idea of three parts appears in many religious traditions. The number three is very commonly considered a “divine” number. Three can be seen as the natural progression of life, the beginning, the middle and the end. Hinduism has a triune deity. Buddhism teaches the Three Jewels, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. As Rev Dr Durrell Watkins says, “ These Three Jewels consist of the Buddha, the teaching, and the community that is learning and experiencing the truth of the teaching.”
So our Doctrine of the Trinity is not unique to Christianity. But I want to turn the three “parts” of the Trinity away from an idea of distinction or separation into three parts and view it rather as an image of Unity. I’ve heard the Trinity described as an image of relationship…. Three images relating one to another not only three different things that can relate to us in three different ways or relate in specifics to three very different people.
Durrell reminded me this week of an image of joyful relating, dancing, sharing erotic energy that builds to a point of orgasmic relation from which creation is born. And so it is our diversity in unity that gives us even a partial image of God.
At Sunshine Cathedral we celebrate Unity Sunday, acknowledging an awareness of our unity with the Source of Life and thereby processing yet another level of our own divine spark, our own belovedness. Whatever names or symbols we use to describe God we can only benefit from learning about other folks ideas about what that diversity of God might mean.
And I think it’s very important to understand that, in our human state, we can only begin to conceptualize the God who created the universe, the God who redeemed us from separation from our Divine selves, and the God who lives within our hearts teaching us in that still small voice. One of the simplest ways I’ve seen this idea of Trinty / Unity illustrated is in so called “Children’s Sermons” where popsicle sticks are handed out to each child and they are instructed to break it in half. In nearly all cases the child easily breaks the stick. But when three sticks are stacked one on the other, the wood is to strong, it can’t be broken or at least not easily so.
That is what it means to be in community. That is what is means to be in communion with each other. We strengthen each other, we expand each other’s gifts and minimize each other’s shortcomings. That is what it means to begin to grasp our own worth, our own value, and our own belovedness. We do this not by concentrating on our own weakness, but rather holding firm in our minds the ultimate strength we have when we live in relationship, in unity.
In relationship and community we can begin to glimpse God’s “is-ness.” In the Torah God tells Moses “I am who I am, I have been who I have been, I will be who I will be.” Eternal unity not eternal separation. This is the lesson for us this Unity Sunday at Sunshine Cathedral. For better or worse we are the family of God. Our difference is our strength.
May we respect the diversity of our experience and imagery so that we can begin to glimpse the face of God. When we love each other we are loving God. And when we love God we express our love for all of humanity, all of us made in the images of God. Amen