Trinity Sunday – John 16:12-15
“Let us pray to God that we may be free of God.”
Those words come from Meister Eckhart, a German monk, theologian, and mystic who lived in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. He prayed that God would rid him of God. Maybe that should be our prayer on this day, Trinity Sunday. Maybe that’s our best bet on this day when we celebrate the mystery of the three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Sprit, and the one God. Maybe on Trinity Sunday we need to be free of the Trinity.
So today I’m not going to talk about the three and the one. I’m not going to talk about persons, essence, unity and multiplicity, co-eternality, ousia, hypostasis, perichoresis, or all the other stuff that goes along with trinitarian theology. I want us to be free of God.
I am not suggesting that there is no God or that there is nothing to God, and neither is Eckhart. The God Eckhart wants to be free of is the God we try to understand, fit, and contain in our concepts, images, doctrines, and explanations. (Caputo, The Folly of God, 12-13) At best those are pointers, signposts, and guides along the way that are supposed to help us experience God beyond the God of our own constructing. At worst they become dead ends, limitations, and confusing irrelevancies.
“Getting rid of that God does not spell the simple end of God…, but the beginning, the genuine entry or breakthrough into the depths of God (Ibid., 13).” It allows God to be more than we can explain or understand. It gives God a place in the world and in our lives instead of out there somewhere. It opens us to something beyond the horizon of our expectations, beyond what we can imagine, foresee, or consider possible. It offers the possibility of the impossible.
Here’s why I say that. Try to capture, comprehend, explain, or understand the most profound, meaningful, and life-changing experiences and events of your life. They are beyond words, description, and understanding. We can’t explain or make sense of them. They come to us. We respond to them. And we are changed by them. They are more than we can contain, carry, or hold. They are unbearable. Maybe that’s what Jesus is getting at when he says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” Maybe there is something unbearable about God.
When have you experienced the unbearable in your life? What happened? How did it come about? In what ways are you experiencing the unbearable today?
Some of us have experienced the unbearable in the death of a loved one, a diagnosis, a divorce, guilt and regret, or some other circumstance in which our heart was broken and our life was shattered. Words cannot begin to describe what we feel, explain what is happening, or offer consolation. It’s more than we can bear and we don’t know how or if we’ll get through it. When has that happened to you?
For others of us the unbearable is experienced in the birth of a child or grandchild, a dream that is finally realized after years of waiting and working for it, a life of beauty and meaning beyond our imagination, joy that makes us weep, forgiveness that offers a fresh start, a marriage or friendship that just keeps getting better, a love we never thought possible. Words cannot begin to describe what we feel, explain what is happening, or offer enough gratitude. The unbearable is in those circumstances that leave us feeling like it’s just too much, too big, too beautiful. It’s more than we can bear and we never want it to end. When has that happened to you?
For most of us, I suspect, it’s both. We’ve experienced both aspects of the unbearable. The unbearable, in either aspect, in whatever way it comes, unhinges us, pushes us to the edge of our life, and leaves us standing at the opening “into all the truth.” This is not an opening into learning all the truth. It is an opening into doing all the truth. The unbearable calls, invites, solicits, and asks us to do all the truth: to do the truth of forgiveness, hospitality, and justice; to do the truth of peace, mercy, and compassion; to do the truth of faith, hope, and love.
Every time we respond to the call of the unbearable, every time we step into that opening, every time we do all the truth, we give existence to God. We make God present in our lives and in the world.
The unbearable isn’t hard to spot. It’s happening in those times we say things like, “No, this can’t be,” “This is impossible,” I can’t believe this is happening,” “It’s too much,” “I’m overwhelmed,” “I can’t take anymore,” “This is too good to believe,” “Not in my wildest dreams,” “I never imagined or expected this,” “I don’t deserve this,” “I have no words,” “How can this be?”
Have you ever said or thought those things? We probably all have. They are moments when the unbearable is breaking into our lives, shattering the horizon of our expectations, and guiding us into all the truth.
What is unbearable for you today? What is the truth that is calling and waiting to be done by you? And how will you give existence to God in your life and the world?
Several years ago, I had a conversation with the associate pastor of our church (now our pastor) the week before Trinity Sunday. He said, “I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew with this subject. I said, “I hope you have.” We often have laughed about that.
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Thank you, and Amen.
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It is a blessing to know that the unbearable things are the things that manifest God’s presence in our lives. God bless you, Rev.
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I enjoyed this post. I am crrently re-reading Henri Nouwen’s writing about Rublev’s icon “The Holy Trinity” in “Behold the Beauty of the Lord” and wanted to find some other thinking online. Eckhart’s dramatic phrase that you focus on is very powerful! Thank you and best wishes, Michael
Thank you for reading my blog. Noun’s book is a good one and well worth re-reading. And Eckhart’s imagination and insights always challenge me.
God’s peace be with you.