June 16, 2019
|Reading 1||Reading 2||Reading 3||Reading 4||Reading 1 Alt||Reading 2 Alt|
|Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31||Psalm 8||Romans 5:1-5||John 16:12-15|
by Ignacio Castuera
All the Scriptures for this Sunday contain references to a “plurality” of voices from God. Pastors have a most important task addressing correctly some issues related to the doctrine of the Trinity.
I come from the Wesleyan branch of Christianity and John Wesley was clear that the Trinity is not mentioned in the Bible. He did not make a big deal about that but implied that since the term was not in Scripture it should not become a sort of test of one’s faith. I am sure that throughout our history the majority of Christians were primarily perplexed by the Trinity, used the formula, some cross themselves using Father, Son and Holy Spirit but have been unable to explain to each other (never mind to those in other faiths) what this doctrine is about, and took refuge in the language of “mystery.”
Carl Gustav Jung, the great Swiss psychologist, was extremely frustrated by the fact that his father, who was a pastor, refused to teach young Carl anything about the doctrine and skipped the chapter in the Confirmation book they were using stating that it was not important and that nobody knew anything about it anyway.
Whichever text a pastor decides to use this particular Sunday, it is most important that a few statements be shared concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. One, it appears to be biblical but it is not. Two, and most important, it is the attempt of the teachers of the early church to state clearly that Christianity is monotheistic at a time when our tradition could have become polytheistic. Three, Christians need to be loving and tolerant towards those who sincerely question the doctrine; too many suffered and died because they questioned the centrality of the teaching. This is a good time to remember Servetus, the Catalonian martyr who escaped from the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the Iberian peninsula and took refuge in Geneva only to be martyred under Calvin’s directives. Four, God is active in a variety of ways and there is no real reason why to stop at three! (The eighth chapter of Proverbs suggested for use this Sunday certainly opens intriguing possibilities, and it is important to at least mention that it is worth pondering, studying, questioning, enjoying.)
This Sunday presents a great opportunity to talk about how Process thought presents a concept of God that is congruent with the Christian faith and illuminates the tradition we honor. The juxtaposition of Proverbs 8 and Psalm 8 opens the door to talk about the everpresent God. God does not only create the universe (with the advice of Wisdom as per Proverbs 8) but God is present in all creation (as per Psalm 8.) The God that Jesus reveals is not satisfied with creating a wonderful universe; this God permeates every corner of the heavens. The Deists were wrong; God did not just create and retired. And the pantheists are wrong; God is not just present in every element of creation; God also transcends the totality of creation. This position is called “panentheism” and it is easier to accept in light of the two other texts for this Sunday.
Romans 5 exalts the role of Grace as does process thought. Whitehead has a quick summary of the three ways in which God has been imaged by the religions of the world (Ruler, rules giver and philosophical principle.) But, adds Whitehead, in the Galilean origins of Christianity there is another image that dwells on the tender elements of the universe. Love is not dominant, it is not an obscure philosophical concept and it is even “a little oblivious as to morals.” It is through this graceful loving God that,according to Paul, we can endure thanks to the fact that the Deity the psalmist perceives in creation is constantly active in us helping us to perceive ways to honor God and serve other.
There is in the Old Testament another trinity that pastors need to point to. The widow, the orphan and the Ger (translated as sojourner in many texts and as alien in others.) At a time when widows, orphans, and aliens are targeted by people and policies, this ancient trinity needs to be emphasized more than Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When one tackles those who attack the vulnerable people and the vulnerable elements in creation, then persecutions might ensue. Then Paul’s words in Romans come to strengthen us: “…we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts…”
Today’s challenges can be best met as we internalize the belief that God is constantly present in all creation and especially present in us to look after that creation, especially the most threatened sections of that creation. Today’s sermon can build on the miracle of Pentecost and the “mystery” of the Trinity to persuade those who understand themselves as being loved by the One who creates and is constantly in that creation and insistently in them to defend and protect the fragile planet and all who dwell in it.
The Rev. Dr. Ignacio Castuera has been involved in ministry since his teens in Mexico. He is a Claremont School of Theology alumnus who served churches in Hawaii and California. Castuera was District Superintendent in Los Angeles, psychological counselor at UCLA, Social Service Agency Administrator and National Chaplain for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Ignacio has been active in the Process Theology International community since the mid 1960’s.