Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 19, 2011. First Sunday after Pentecost. Trinity Sunday

© 2011 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Can you imagine Jesus asking the thief on the next cross to pray this prayer?

Can you imagine Jesus asking the Samaritan woman at the well to pray this prayer?

Would he even have suggested it to savvy Nicodemus?

Would he have asked it of any of his disciples?

“No!” to all of the above.

Would he ask Christians today to pray it? What do you think?

This prayer is designed to promote an institutional decision made almost 400 years into the Christian era, when the doctrine of the Trinity became official for much of Christendom.

I have no problem with the doctrine, and to the extent that I understand it, I believe in it. I grieve that the doctrine has for centuries been a major distraction from the work of ministry which God has assigned to us, work defined in today‘s gospel text, tempered with Saint‘s injunction in the epistle.

It makes good sense to maintain an institution well. Given the huge battles -- whether we like them or not -- that did arise, and still potentially divide us, we Trinitarian Christians have something at stake in the institutional endorsement of the doctrine. I am not ready to go to war with Unitarians, however, nor with other groups for whom the doctrine is merely a nice antique.

I view the Trinity as a handy metaphor for how God manifests God's self in different guises. God will go on doing that whether or not we formalize God’s behavior as an official doctrine.

Note: the authors of this collect would have us "worship the Unity." That's different from worshiping the doctrine itself. They also took care to write “by the confession of a true faith” rather than “by the confession of The True Faith.” For such wiggle room! I am grateful, not for myself, but for those who feel they need it.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Where did you come from? Who were your parents? Who were their parents and who were their parents' parents?...

How did we get here as human beings? How did all living creatures have life? Whence come all inanimate things?

Does the Genesis narrative trump or otherwise negate in any way what science has to say about the world’s origins or the origin of the species thereon?

Many of us asked these questions less inhibitedly when we were children. The author of Genesis gives a set of answer through the creation narrative. Similar narrative proliferated the ancient world. Likely the Israelites first heard this narrative while they were captives in Babylonia and adopted it and adapted it in accord with their own understandings.

Try forgetting this familiar creation narrative and write your own.

Will God be a part of your narrative? Will you give to male human beings the supremacy explicit and implicit in this narrative?

Do you have any changes you would like to see to the human body?

  • An eye in the back of the head, for example?
  • Androgyny for everyone?
  • Any changes to the plumbing?
  • Any more controls, or any reduction of controls, on how the plumbing might be used?
  • Would you design ways to make it easier for surgeons to correct all physical problems when they arise?
  • Would you keep the immune system as it is?


The psalmist proclaims, "I am marvelously made!” Is that true of you? Is that true of every human being? Is it true of every creature?

In Genesis after each major act of creation God looks upon what God has created and proclaims, "It is good."

On making snakes and other animals of prey, did God say, "Good!"?

Did God turn out the lights when She made our private parts? Is She squeamish about such things? Should we be?

The Genesis narrative does not show evil until Adam and Eve sin. Evil becomes their fault, not the fault of the creator. The narrative does not put the full blame on the Adam and Eve, however. It reveals Satan and God both as supernatural. Enter the snake.

Do you believe there is a Satan? As fully, more fully, less fully than you believe there is a God? Genesis takes sides between the two. Do you? On what basis?

Genesis exalts human beings over other creatures: it says that God gives us dominion over them. Scripture does not specify any constraints for that dominion. We have the power to annihilate species, and our rates of doing so have dramatically increased in the last 100 years. In your creation narrative, would you try to constrain human abuse of creation?

In Genesis God commands human beings to be fruitful and multiply. From the second decade of the 21st century, the human beings have obeyed that commandment with a vengeance. In your creation narrative would you encourage prodigal procreation?

Our planet is running out of resources, exponentially within the last 100 years -- fossil fuels being one of the more notable examples, with huge consequences for ecological balance (note well ‘global warming‘). Current discourse touts looking for alternative sources of energy as well as for ways to reduce our dependence on energy; but almost no one has promoted a cheap and 100% effective way forward:

If the human population effected a reduction to just 25% population growth for the next four generations, most of these problems would disappear.

Has heterosexuality run amok?

Given reality on the planet in our times, we should reward heterosexual couples who choose to honor creation by not procreating. We should encourage communal structures, such as universal education, that give to many besides one's parents major roles in nurturing the young.

In meeting strangers, I find they frequently ask, "Do you have children?" "Yes," I sometimes answer. I have been blessed with between 4,500 and 5,000 children in my 44 years as a teacher.

During the time that students are my charge, I typically spend more hours with them, and certainly more "quality time" than their parents. They share with me ideas many would never share at home. They are maturing....

The same might be said of adults to whom the young apprentice themselves. We would reduce birth significantly by encouraging lgbtq people to live openly as lgbtq. At present, in most of the world, we risk far less persecution if we pass ourselves off as heterosexual. Many of us beget and beget before we come to terms with our primary orientation.

Several decades ago China instituted a policy of one child per family. "Professor," one of my brightest students told me when I taught in Beijing in 1983-84, "I believe our policy is still insufficient. It perpetuates our national consumption of far more than the earth can long sustain. I love my country so much that I am committing to having no children, so that all children will have an even better chance at a plentiful life."

Canticle 2

A Song of Praise Benedictus es, Domine

Blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers; *
praised and exalted above all for ever.
Blessed art thou for the Name of thy Majesty; *
praised and exalted above all for ever.
Blessed art thou in the temple of thy holiness; *
praised and exalted above all for ever.
Blessed art thou that beholdest the depths,
and dwellest between the Cherubim; *
praised and exalted above all for ever.
Blessed art thou on the glorious throne of thy kingdom; *
praised and exalted above all for ever.
Blessed art thou in the firmament of heaven; *
praised and exalted above all for ever.
Blessed art thou, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
praised and exalted above all for ever.

In Welcome to Samara, a sermon which I preached during General Convention 1994, I noted that when I fled the Baptist religion to become an Episcopalian, I was not altogether certain that I believed in God. But Episcopalians provided me a prettier way to pray to God. This Canticle would have come to mind then, even as it does now, as one of many important examples. Enjoy its rich cadence of anapests, tripping off the tongue, especially in the repeated

"Praised and exalted above all forever"

Scanned: / v v / v v / v v / v

Almost 50 years after confirmation (10/29/61), I wonder whether God wants all the adoration that I enjoy giving.

I doubt that God is very upset when we lose our faith for stretches of time. God never stops believing in us. God never stops loving all creatures.

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Saint is often much wordier. His brevity here is refreshing, advice aplenty for most of the auspicious church wars:

Agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

When I try to greet my adversaries with a holy kiss, most of them reject the kiss as unholy, alas.

Matthew 28:16-20

The Great Commission we all share as Christians is to make disciples throughout the whole world. We are to baptize the new disciples. We are to teach them to obey every commandment Jesus gave, the first and greatest of which he said it to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and the second, which he said is "like unto it," that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Are we also to teach them to reject Buddhism, Islam, Humanism, Hinduism......?

Does the Great Commission command or implicitly endorse holy crusades of the murderous sort Christians undertook in the Middle Ages? -- or does it endorse America’s current, often murderous crusade to bring its vision of democracy to all nations?

Does the Great Commission endorse confiscation of Arab property to use for new settlements in Israel?

This text, as have many others, has been plundered to support religious intolerance and so-called 'holy' wars.

Contrast Saint's counsel: "Agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. "

See also

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