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     This Week's Focus: "Perspective"
       Click the link for John 16:12-15 


Dear Friends,

Like their view of the world, the art of the Middle Ages was flat. The Bayeux Tapestry, the windows of Notre Dame, the early Giotto’s… they are lovely. But they are flat. Their renderings have height and width, but they lack depth. The Medieval mind’s eye could not convey to the hand the three-dimensional reality of the world around it. With the Renaissance came the rediscovery of classical perspective. And the beauty of Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael exploded.

In this week’s gospel, Jesus is opening our eyes to the full dimensional reality of God… Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not three Gods in one. But three perspectives… three Persons in one God… defined by their loving relationship… Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.

They cannot be separated, because there is nothing that separates them. They are consubstantial… they each exist totally within the other. And while each is introduced to us sequentially in scripture, there is no chronological divide. Each always was and always will be one and entirely God.

There is a story of St. Patrick explaining the Trinity by illustrating three leaves united in one shamrock. It’s a charming story… but it is fatally flawed. Plants can be dissected. The atom can be split. But neither term applies to the one, true, Triune God.

That’s because Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are bound inseparably by the creation, transmission, and reception of love… the essence of God. It is a perspective infinitely more profound and infinitely more puzzling than the simple geometric reality of height, width, and depth.

Addressing the complexity of this ultimate mystery, St. Bernard explains: “How can plurality consist with unity, or unity with plurality? To examine the fact closely… is rashness; to believe it… is piety; to know it… is life… and life eternal.”      

This morning we are well into John’s gospel and a young Jesus is already talking about his departure. For chapter after chapter, he tells the disciples that he loves them, but must leave them. He is here on a mission. His time is limited. He must return to the Father. But don’t worry, Christ’s race is a relay. The Holy Spirit will take the baton from Jesus and stay with us to the end.

On Trinity Sunday I find comfort in this analogy. The Creator of the universe is the ultimate lead-off. The Redeemer then rallies God’s people, taking on our sins, energizing and empowering us with his grace. Then running the anchor leg, the Holy Spirit abides with us and carries us home to glory.

Thomas Jefferson, who claimed to be a Deist rather than a Christian, went through his copy of the New Testament with a razor cutting out all of Christ’s miracles, claims of divinity and allusions to the Trinity. In John’s gospel, it’s like editing out all the consonants and leaving only the vowels. Without the divinity of Jesus and the mystery of the Trinity, we are left with meaningless gibberish. But from beginning to end, John gives us the whole gospel: vowels, consonants, miracles, a divine Jesus and a Holy Trinity.

To illustrate his theme, John gives great care to the connections and transitions of Father to Son and then from Son to Holy Spirit. The verbal and conceptual beauty of John 1:1 has never been surpassed: In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. It’s just as lovely in Latin: In principio erat Verbum... But whatever the language, the real beauty is inherent in its perspective… an introduction to the mystery of the Trinity: Jesus, God, and man, is, was and always will be one with the Father.    

This soaring introduction to the divinity of Jesus and his continuity with the Father is a tough act to follow. No wonder Jesus takes almost eight chapters of John to make his long goodbye. And in this protracted valedictory, Jesus continues to reveal the mystery of the Trinity over and over. He is returning to the Father and invoking the Holy Spirit. He is telling us that the circle is unbroken. We are never abandoned.

We live always and entirely in the love of God. We are created by the love of the Father. We are redeemed by the love of the Son. We are preserved by the love of the Holy Spirit. That is the conceptual perspective of this gospel and the reality of the Trinity.  That is the sublime beauty of one loving God in three divine Persons.


 

A Reflection for 
The Feast of Trinity Sunday
©The Reverend Canon David F. Sellery

 
Copyright © 2019 David Sellery, All rights reserved.


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