Sunday, February 15, 2015

Transfiguration and Trinity: Into the Silence of God

Transfiguration and Trinity: Into the Silence of God

Last week several folks asked me about the Trinity; one of “riper years” and another just budding in his youth. In both cases, it was more the third person of the Trinity that caused the doctrinal difficulty. Obviously, if we believe in God the Father, we believe in the One who is the creator of heaven and earth. Most of us get that.

No problem either with Jesus as Savior, although the fact that he was there with God at the creation is a bit of a stretch for some even though it says as much in Scripture. ~John 1:1,2.

But the business about the Holy Spirit; just who is that? and how do we experience the Spirit as the third person of the Trinity?

Please note that the word for the Holy Spirit in much of Eastern Christianity is "Sancta Sophia". She is the Holy Wisdom from God. I love that imagery. The great church built by Constantine in modern day Istanbul was named for her.

One thing about the word “doctrine” in Anglican/Episcopal theology may be helpful. When we speak of doctrine we are not speaking of a teaching in the didactic sense as if it is something that we merely pour into the believer’s head out of some kind of arbitrary authority.

Rather, we think of doctrine as a “signpost” for the journey. Doctrine is an invitation to consider the experience of God as something we encounter in life as a reality we seek to make sense of.

Elisha, for instance, encountered this amazing prophet Elijah. “Elijah” means literally God is my Yahweh, my very being. God is the Name as revealed to us on the Holy Mountain by Moses. That’s who my God is. Baal conversely is no god at all. In fact the is no other God other than Yahweh. That’s my God. That's what Elijah means. 

“Elisha”, means God is my salvation. Notice the closeness of the name for both prophets, as if Hebrew, by nuance sought to indicate that the two fellow travelers were of much the same spirit. Ah, there it is; the word “spirit”.

In fact, Elisha asks for a double measure of Elijah’s spirit. Alas, that was a difficult task. But then there was this experience of the chariots of Israel and the whirlwind, a very intense experience of a vortex of Godly spirit.

We know from a reading of Genesis, that the breath of God brooded over the waters at creation; ~Genesis 1:1,2. God saw the chaos, the void and the emptiness, and began the process of dividing the light from the darkness, the land from the sea, and then breathing the breath of God into humankind.

The Holy Spirit then has to do with the very act of breathing itself. Anyone who has ever suffered from asthma or pneumonia knows how much of the essence of life breathing is. 

Therefore all practitioners of meditation begin with the act of breathing to quieten the spirit. To listen to the silence. This is not easy for a noisy world. We don’t listen well, particularly to the silence. It is no wonder we, in this part of the 20th and 21st centuries have such difficulty with spirituality. We find it hard to listen, to be quiet “to be still and know that You are God” as the Psalmist says. ~Psalm 46:10

Without the ability to listen, it will be difficult to forgive.
Without the ability to listen, we test our ability to love.
Without the ability to listen, it is impossible to be reconciled.

Our inner conflict, our conflict with others, our political conflict, indeed, much of our warfare comes from the fact that our listening skills in our time are wanting in the extreme. To the contrary our language and our speaking to one another is often strident, rude and disrespectful. How can we learn anything from one another or from God unless we listen to one another’s hearts? 

Jesus came to us in this way; to teach us to listen to the Law and to the Prophets and to his way, his truth, and his life.

On the mountaintop Elijah and Moses appeared and were speaking to one another. What a conversation that must have been! Elijah representing the prophets, Moses representing the Law, and Jesus representing God made flesh and blood together. 

Peter, representing us; said “Let’s make some dwellings, “lean to’s” if you will” not knowing what to say. 

Lets face it, in the Presence of God, we don’t have much to say and need to have the sense to just be quiet. And my friends, we are always in the Presence of God. We don’t have anything to say. Thankfully the Church gives us an approach to the throne of grace in the Word of God and in the Eucharist. God has much to say, but the only way we can hear it, is to listen.

That is why the practitioners of Christians Spirituality begin with the Silence. We begin with the Spirit. We begin with the breath God breathed into us in the very first moments at the creation. 

We discover in our breath and more significantly, God’s breath within us, that we “live and move and have our being.” ~Acts 17:28 

Not only is my spirit and my breath my connection to God, it is also our connection to one another. It is our connection to the eternal. So then, as Moses removed his shoes from his feet at the burning bush, we must do the same with one another at least figuratively, for the ground we all stand on is holy ground.

What a difference it would make to the frantic, noisy, lives so many live, it would make a difference to our politics and our history as well.

Jesus came into the world not to condemn it but that it should be saved by knowing the way to the Father; through the person of Jesus who is the Incarnate Word of God; Love, Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Mercy, Obedience and so on.  God in the flesh and Blood of Jesus taught us the Way and The Truth and the Life. 

I am not saying that it is only through Jesus that there is salvation. I am saying that it is only through the kind of life Life he lived that salvation is even possible. There can be no salvation without Love and Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Obedience, Mercy and Kindness and so on. 

This way of life is a life of Joy and Wonder. So my friends we come to the Feast Day of the Transfiguration; the Last Sunday after the Epiphany. As Jesus was transfigured before their very eyes, so as the Collect of the Day puts it; “may we be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory”.

We begin with our breathing, our listening, and with the Silence of God. This Silence, this listening will most certainly bring us to the heart of God. 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Fr Paul

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