All is One; One is All

On June 11, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

All is One; One is All Trinity Sunday Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Let there be peace among us and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression. And now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. Traditionally, the Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday. It’s tricky, though, […]

All is One; One is All
Trinity Sunday
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

Let there be peace among us and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression.
And now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

Traditionally, the Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday. It’s tricky, though, because for many people, talk of an incomprehensible Trinity is more of a stumbling block than a stepping stone to faith.

The difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that the doctrine of the Trinity is not a biblical one. Even if you think you see the shadow of the Trinity in scripture you will never find a doctrine of the Trinity, a clear teaching, or even a clumsy teaching about it in the bible. It just isn’t there.

Those who object to the doctrine of the Trinity note that Jesus never taught about it, and, for that matter, the bible was written by Jewish people, and there is no Trinity in Judaism. The doctrine of the Trinity was codified about 3 centuries after Jesus’ time.

There is definitely room in Christianity for those who do not identify as Trinitarian. Most Christians for the first couple of hundred years of our faith were not Trinitarian. But what about those who wish to cling to the symbol of the Trinity? It is how they were introduced to God, and it remains appealing to them. Well, for those, I also have good news.

I was taught as a child that there was one God in three persons. But “persons” is a misunderstanding. The Latin word used was persona, which was a theatrical mask. The personas of the Trinity were the way people experienced and talked about God. Like all symbols, the personas of the Trinity were for human aid. God can be experienced, but not explained. Still we try to explain our experiences, and then insist that people literalize and worship our explanations. The Trinity could no more explain God than any other symbol. It’s a vocabulary to help us talk about what cannot be described.

God is like a Parent, giving life to all that is…that’s one of the roles or masks of God.
God is like a friend who encourages us and affirms us, or we could say, redeems us…that’s one of the masks of God.
And God is a sustaining power that never lets us go, an indefatigable Helper…that’s another one of the masks of God.

Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer;
Parent, Friend, Helper;
Father, Son, holy Spirit:
those words don’t define God, they just help us express some of the ways we’ve experienced God.

There’s an African myth about a god who was walking down a road one day. The god wore a big, ostentatious hat. The right side of the hat was red. The left side of the hat was blue. After the god had walked by, people on the right side of the road said, “Did you see that god in the amazing red hat?” People on the left side of the road said, “We saw the god, but the hat was blue.” Red hat, blue hat, red hat, blue hat…and the people got in a big bloody fight over which color the hat was.

The joke was they were all right. The people who saw the hat as red really did see it that way, and the people who saw it as blue really did see it that way.

Doctrinal and dogmatic disputes usually amount to fighting over a hat…each side is honestly describing their experience, and neither experience in any way limits the god under the hat nor diminishes the different experience of the other seekers.

It’s not surprising that Christians would eventually come to speak about God as a triad…much older religions had been doing so for a very long time. And, Christianity is a syncretic religion…borrowing and adapting traditions from Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Paganism, and, of course, adding their own insights and revelations.

Buddhism has its 3 Jewels: The Buddha, his message, and the spiritual community.

Taoism has yin, yang, and the Tao…the blessed light, the sacred dark, and the way of the universe…all things flowing into and out from one another, all life being connected.

The oldest organized religion on the planet is Hinduism and they have a deity called a Trimurti…three deities sharing the godhead…Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva…that is, the creator, the preserver, and the destroyer…symbols for the life cycle…birth, maturation, and decline.

The ancient Egyptians had three chief deities that shared the top role, they were a family: husband, wife, and child (Osiris, Isis, and Horus).

The Greek goddess Hecate was a triple goddess, a deity known in three phases.

The ancient Greeks had goddesses called the 3 charities; the Romans called them graces. They were Splendor, Joy, and Goodwill.

For Greek philosophers “three” represented fullness or completion…past, present and future; beginning, middle, and end, the whole of life. Aristotle wrote, “All things are three, and three is all; let us use this number in the worship of the gods.”

Some aboriginal cultures talked about the divine as Sky Father, Earth Mother, and Great Spirit.

In the middle ages, Christian mystic Julian of Norwich thought of God as Truth, Christ as Wisdom, and the Spirit as infinite goodness. She said Truth is our Father, Wisdom is our Mother, and infinite Goodness is our Lord.

Most of us have heard that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. One God, understood in three ways: power, knowledge, presence.

Charles Fillmore, co-founder of the Unity Church, understood the Trinity to symbolize Mind, Idea, Expression.

Ernest Holmes, who wrote the Science of Mind, said he believed in Eternal Goodness, Eternal Loving Kindness, and Eternal Givingness. Holmes seemed to have a threefold understanding of the divine nature.

And Scotty McLennan, a Unitarian Christian minister, has written that even as a Unitarian he can appreciate Trinitarian symbolism. He says for him, God is Ultimate Concern, the Face of Compassion, and the Breath of the world: three ways of understanding one God.

We may experience water as liquid, gas, and ice. We even talk about ourselves as mind, body, and spirit…a whole person, but more than any one expression. And we are made in the divine image.

The Sufi poet Hafiz often wrote of God as an intimate partner. He said, “Cloak yourself in a thousand ways, still I shall know you, my Beloved…you are the breathing of the world.”
We may not have the patience to think of God wearing a thousand cloaks, but maybe we can play with three masks.

All is one; one is all. That’s what the great teachers tell us; that’s what the Trinity suggests as well. Maybe for Pride Month the symbol of the Trinity can represent for us a diverse and yet unified community. Gay, bi, or straight. Cisgender or Transgender or gender non-conforming: All is one; one is all. We are many; we are one. For Pride Month the Trinity could be described as: Love is Love is Love!

“Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is one!” I believe that God is one, but our needs are many and God’s grace meets us where, when, and how we need it. We, though many, are one; and God, though one, shows up in many ways to remind us of that.

If your experience of God is that she wears a blue hat or a red one, or three masks, or a thousand cloaks, what is most important to me is that you dare to believe that you are a person of sacred value, held by a divine love that is all-inclusive, unconditional and everlasting. Maybe that’s my Trinity: All-inclusive Love, Unconditional Love, Everlasting Love. Don’t waste time arguing or worrying about the Trinity, just let yourself experience the love that it is meant to represent.

One last story: Countless ages ago, the Trinity was having a play day. The Trinity, being pure Love, started dancing…sort of a divine Tea Dance. That dance generated so much joy that finally it produced an explosion of pure delight! The fallout from that big bang is creation.

Our world, our universe, our lives were created from an explosion of immeasurable love. We are made from divine love and the love we share honors the Love that created us. Do what you will with the symbol of the Trinity, but embrace the idea that you are forever loved. This is the good news! Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2017

Glory to God:
Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer –
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.

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