Blessed Trinity of the Future©
Rev. Jim Ryan, Ph.D.
Dog lovers will be amused with reassurance, I think, when I say that my dog – for absolute certain – knows and understands one word. (Actually, he knows many more which was the subject of one of my blogs between 2017-2020. The title was, “My Dog has a larger vocabulary than POTUS.”) But, I digress.
The word that Connor, our Irish Setter, knows for certain is “walk.” Say that word. Ask the question, “Connor, wanna go for a walk?” Simply suggest, “Maybe Connor and I will go for a walk,” and what you’ll get is 70 lbs. of excitement, running through the house, knocking things over in his wake, and one big red dog standing at the door with that look back over his shoulder that says, “I thought you said, ‘walk.” So, I said walk one day a couple weeks ago and the ritual ensued. I put him on his lead. I would love to walk with him off leash, especially around the farm. But, if you know Irish Setters, especially one who is hitting his prime going on 5 yrs. old, then this is what you know. Irish Setters are bred to run and to hunt. Connor, off his lead, would be across the creek and up the hill on the other side on his way to the next farm in no time. Rather than tunnel vision, he has what I call tunnel scent. So, he stays on his retractable leash which at least gives him 30-60 feet of roaming space.
On this notable day he and I started on his walk around the big grey machine shed, out toward the field where the corn is just breaking through the soil, alongside the brush and trees atop the hill that drops off on the south leading to the lower field. Connor starts in to the brush and I look at the corn. Next thing I hear is this very loud, “SQUEAK!” Connor had stepped on a fawn where it was lying – not having a care that it was going to be stepped on. After his first shock, Connor bolted after the fleeing fawn. Me being distracted – I came very close to being launched into the high grass and down the hill – being at the other end of the leash. But I regrouped and held him as tightly as I could while he held his head high, nose up, taking in the smell of his very own Bambi.
Having gained control, mostly, of the leash, a thought came to me. I have heard that baby deer imprint with almost instant instinct when, newly born, the mother licks the baby clean. Mother bonds with baby and baby connects with Mom. I have also heard that if this process is interrupted it is possible that the fawn bonds with whatever creature has done the interrupting. I thought, “Great, now we’ll have a baby deer to raise because Connor stepped before he smelled.”
So, that didn’t happen – the other-creature bonding I mean. And we hope Mom and baby have been happily reunited. This did get me thinking about relationships, how they form, what they mean.
And, that got me thinking about the Blessed Trinity. What a leap, right? After much thought, I have two things to say here. The first is about relationships and the second is about the future. First, relationships and the Blessed Trinity.
Perhaps you were raised like me to be instructed on how to know God through the pages of a catechism – Baltimore Catechism, to be precise. Looking back on it, I came to a view of God who is functionary. God is the Creator. God is the Redeemer. God is the Sanctifier. And since form follows function, just so our religious artwork was full of the Old Man taking a Sabbath rest on his throne above, full of the much younger man – cross in hand – approaching the throne and the dove hovering over all. But, you know, all that form and function only gets you so far.
What happens when life presents its own challenges and we look for deeper insights than form and function? What happens when other people take on special and deeper meaning in my life? What happens when we value more than any other one person who relates to me, and I to them, in a way that makes life worth living? What happens is we find God in such relationships. And God’s meaning takes on presence – a presence that must be divine.
The Blessed Trinity becomes community rather than 3 functions, 3 persons. One becomes inseparable from another. After all what is Creative Word anyway? What is the Spirit of the Just One? What is a Promised One without the Promiser?
Rather than what God can do for us – in our relationships we treasure who God is, because when I and Thou are One there is no need of metaphor and simile – attempting to describe what God is like. Remember, “the glory of God is the human being fully alive.” (St. Irenaeus, second century BCE). Let me add, fully alive in relationships – the experience of which is our experience of God. When the Blessed Trinity is community the metaphors turn upside down. When you find yourself saying, “God is like the best version of loving you,” maybe then God in relationships is the meaning of God in community. And maybe then Blessed Trinity has moved from a functional what to a personal who – in whose image we are made.
The second thing I would like to say today has to do with future. Don’t we think that every couple who commit their lives to each other do so for the future? Aren’t relationships formed with a view of hope in all that is unseen, or all that is possible? And don’t these relationships change and adjust to new plans when life and the world’s circumstances intervene? So long as the future, sometimes especially due to its unknown features, holds excitement for hew possibilities our relationships become convincingly divine.
It seems to me that one of those dilemmas that are also roadblocks preventing people from being excited with future’s possibilities resides squarely within institutional religion. When the religious message which people hear is that a two thousand year old way of doing things is best those people very often run away from such a message. Making it worse, some churches try to package the future with interpretations from the past. A couple cases in point. Some denominations tie themselves into pretzel-like justifications on the legitimacy of ordaining members of the LGBTQ+ community. They cannot live with the future that calls to them to recognize one whose call to Ministry is about new possibilities. Other denominations cannot see that the Baptismal call opens tremendous leadership possibilities that a culture of clericalism only denies.
The past does have reliable guides, though. For example, recall the advice of Gamaleal (Acts 5:34). When confronted with a decision as to whether to punish the apostles for preaching and healing in the Name of Jesus, the Sanhedrin, council of Jewish leaders, heard from Gamaleal, a Pharisee, a highly respected teacher of the law, and one of their own members. Gamaleal said to the Sanhedrin, “My advice is that you have nothing to do with them (the apostles). Let them alone. If this purpose or activity is human in its origins, it will destroy itself. If, on the other hand, it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them without fighting God.”
One way to allow the future to reach into our lives is to put into practice an understanding of “eschaton.” This is the sense of the already and the not yet. The love of Christ, for example, has already become our model for daily living. And yet we hope that our future is the source of the possibility of the fulfillment of that love – both in our life ahead, as well as when life never ends. It is a denial of this eschaton reality when institutional religion steps in to make judgments on these future possibilities; possibilities, for example, of how to live out the call to community. Remember Gamaleal who advised, “Leave them alone.” Their works will show God’s future.
The philosopher, Richard Kearney, advises on how to live this eschaton life by configuring a persona. We know all about person – all those things we share as creatures of the Creator. We use this understanding of person to name the very Creator who is our source of life itself. But to configure my own persona is to reach beyond living here and now. It is to put into reality a vision of future possibility. The person who envisions one’s own specific future takes on the charge to respond to possibilities as they present themselves; possibilities that say, “Let no one say this can’t be done.”
Kearney writes in his book, The God Who May Be that one’s persona takes on two commitments, one is to be “incarnate in flesh,” and the other is to be “transcendent in time.” Incarnate in flesh means, as the hymn sings, to be the “Eyes and Hands of Christ.” As the Incarnate One, Jesus fulfilled God’s promise and now reaches to us from the future as we build the City of God. This is forward looking work, this call from the future.
Transcendent in time means we claim the challenge to live each day as a reach to an uplifting power that provides us with a vision and a conviction that moves us beyond the here and now. To transcend is to search for God’s own comfort. Heaven becomes earthly with such a sense of God’s presence. The final verse of the hymn, “Be Thou My Vision” goes:
High pow’r of heaven, my victory won
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be my vision, O Guider of all.
Let their works, works made possible by future hope – let these works be the evidence of God. This Blessed Trinity – in its relational life, a life full of possibilities and of visions realized, is indeed the Blessed Trinity of the future.
A Prayer (JR)
We gather here- a community born of possibility and freedom. While we
acknowledge your relations within your Blessed Trinity – 3 persons, 1
God – we are also grateful for your gifts that come to us as if from out of
Where did this faith come from, this gift of being the eyes and the hands of Christ?
How did this courage appear, this stand for the Spirit of equality and diversity?
And, why does this vision assure us of your high power of heaven?
With God all things are possible. We are the future, here and now.