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Calvary Episcopal ChurchPhoto of Peggy Gunness
Memphis, Tennessee
May 30, 1999
Trinity Sunday

The Trinity as Creative Idea, Creative Energy, Creative Power
The Rev. Margaret B. Gunness

First Reading: Genesis 1:1--2:3

Some twenty years ago, as a part of my early training for ordination, I visited a residential care facility in downtown Boston for people suffering from a rather recently discovered illness called AIDS. Not much was yet known about the illness - how it was transferred, how it progressed, how it could be treated. So fear was a great part of it. And one of the things most feared was isolation, being avoided by others who were afraid of what contact with a person suffering from AIDS might mean. So for me, to go spend some time with the people there who were suffering from various stages of the illness, was unsettling and unforgettable.

The building itself was an old town house which had been restored — each bedroom furnished by the patient's own things, a comfortable "family room" for patients to gather, a cupboard and refrigerator filled with snacks and leftovers, just like home. Every attempt had been made to make it not seem institutional - and they'd done it well.

The nurses' station was sort of hidden away up on the third floor, tucked up under the eaves. And because of this location, there was a very long uninterrupted wall along one side of their meeting place. So to make the room look less stark, they'd made that blank wall into a mural, and on it they'd painted what looked like the back yard of a house in the country. There was a vegetable garden growing, and some flowers, and a tricycle, and then over to one side an old grey weathered fence, speckled with graffiti — Joe loves Jane, Have a happy day, that sort of thing. But the focal point of the graffiti, painted in large letters across the fence, was this: "It is not good that the man should be alone."

God's musing in the Genesis story of creation, "This human being whom I have created in my image should not be alone." Reading that statement in this medical facility committed to fighting a frightening disease as well as its threat of isolation, moved me to tears. And it gave me an insight into God's nature and human nature that I carry with me to this day.

I think those words, "It's not good that the man should live alone," reveal to us a deep truth about God and a deep truth about ourselves. And that truth is this: that neither God or human is whole or complete in isolation. God's wholeness is expressed in the concept of the Trinity — which we are celebrating here today - three persons in dynamic relationship. And in a similar way, our wholeness as well is attained through the same kind of deep communion and interaction with others, the longing in me reaching out to find its echo in the longing in you.

But, let me explain a little more about what I'm trying to say. (And I warn you up front that whenever I'd get like this when our kids were little, they'd call me Miss Pickle. So bear with me if I get too teacherly. But I believe that the concept of the Trinity, rather than being just a dry theological doctrine, actually has the power to open us up to what it really means for us — that we have been created in the image of God.)

Now some of my ideas were stirred up by the writings of Dorothy Sayers, a great theological writer as well as a great mystery writer. In a play of hers called The Zeal of Thy House she wrote this, that "Every (human) act of creation is threefold, an earthly trinity (as it were) to match the heavenly (Trinity)." And then she goes on to talk about the dynamic of this threefold act of human creativity in which we all are intimately involved. So as I try to convey her thoughts to you, I ask you to personalize them and see if what she's describing is something you've experienced yourself. Because basically she is saying that each of us is an active player in God's on-going work of creation.

Now the first thing she did was to take the names of the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — and give them descriptive names instead, which were Creative Idea, Creative Energy and Creative Power. So let's look at them. First of all, she likened God the Father Creator to the essential Creative Idea which is behind every work of art. For example, this Creative Idea would be comparable to the whole theme of a sonata which might come to the mind of a Mozart, or the particular blend of hues and colors that would rise up in the inner eye of a painter. It would be the totality of a poem that takes its shape unbidden in the creative depths of the imagination of a poet. And in like manner, so was the totality of the whole of creation first born in the longing of the heart of God. The first step in the creative act is the Creative Idea — the first person of the triune God.

Second is the Creative Energy which brings the Idea into being. This Energy takes that Idea, or takes the longing in the heart of God, and brings it palpably into the world, making it incarnate and subject to the boundaries of form and time. And what happens is that through this Creative Energy, the longing becomes reality. For example, when we hear a piece of music we can know that it is totally consistent with the Creative Idea which was first born in the heart and mind of the composer. And to take it further, the composer and the music created each remain a part of the other and continue to effect and influence and complete the other. For example, Mozart hears a piece of music he has written and recognizes a wholeness in it which speaks back to him, and so creates a vital, enduring communication between them that was impossible before the music was brought to life. So it is with God/Creator and Jesus/Son. The Word first conceived in the creative longing of the heart of God has became Incarnate, tangible, in the life of the man called Jesus — the two of them inseparable, totally consistent with each other, yet each distinct, though each filled with the essence and the being of the other.

Then, finally, there is the third component of this act of creativity, which Dorothy Sayers calls the Creative Power. (Creative Idea, Creative Energy, Creative Power) This Creative Power is the impact that the Mozart sonata or the great painting or poem has on the soul of the person who receives it, its impact on you and on me. For example, we hear the music or we stand before the painting, and we can feel our very foundations being stirred and enlarged by a new truth that has found expression and entered into our lives and altered us forever. And what's important for us to realize is that this Creative Power — acting in us — has come forth from both the Creative Idea itself and the Creative Energy expressing it, just as the Creative Power of the Holy Spirit has come forth from both God the Father and from Jesus the Son. All three of these — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — the Idea, the Energy that expresses it and the Power born in response — all three of these are dancing together in an exuberant dance that picks us right up and makes us a part of its eternal glory. This is the dynamic of the Trinity. It's the dynamic of God. And it's a movement, an energy that embraces us and makes us a vital part of God's continuing presence and God's continuing creative activity in the world.

All of this because I read on a wall in a residential hospice facility, "It's not right that the human being should live alone." It is not right because God has called us to become active participants in this dynamic which we call by the name of the Trinity. It's not right because God calls us to live as a people who are an integral part of one another and also an integral part of the continuing dynamic, creative activity of God. God does not seem to want to rule the earth in isolated splendor. God wants you and me as helpers. God wants us to join the dance.

Copyright 1999 Calvary Episcopal Church

First Reading: Genesis 2:18-22
Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner." So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them...but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And from the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

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