Homily from service on June 12, 2022 – Second Sunday after Pentecost
Homily preached by The Rev. Dr. Richard Burden
Sermon preached by The Rev. Dr. Richard Burden
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
In the early church, there was no feast to celebrate the Holy Trinity. It took a long time to describe the doctrine of the Trinity, and it wasn’t until about the 14th century that Trinity Sunday was established as the Sunday following Pentecost.
Toward the end of the the century, a woman living in the east of England became ill, and lingered close to death for days… During that time she had a series of visions—revelations shown to her by Jesus. When she recovered, in May of 1373, she began writing them down.
Some time after that she became an anchorite at the nearby church. She lived in a cell there until her death around 1416. For the decades she lived in her cell and she continued revising her accounts of these visions…what she called her “Showings” and by doing so she created what many consider to be the first book known to be written by a woman in English. A classic work which we now know as Revelations of Divine Love, by…well…she has no name in history other than the one given to her because of the church where she lived. Julian of Norwich.
Julian’s 14th century world was obviously completely different from ours…
The 14th century was a period of endless warfare…and pandemics…and violent social unrest…and dramatic changes in the climate…
Maybe it wasn’t so different after all….
In Julian’s time there were people who felt the church wasn’t providing good or compelling answers for all of the things that people were dealing with…the endless warfare…the pandemics…the violent social unrest…the effects of climate change…Not as many as today, but still…
Then as now, we need help dealing with all the things…and so why are we bothering with the doctrine of the Trinity? I mean ’isn’t the doctrine of the Trinity is just some confusing, mysterious, outdated church mumbo-jumbo that has nothing to do with what’s going on right now…?
Maybe…but (like most things) it depends on how you look at it.
One of the truly great theologians of the 20th century, Raimon Panikkar, said, “The world in which we live makes us believe that the visible and rational universe is the only reality.”
But we all know that we are able to see—and even what we can deduce from that—is not all of reality.
Panikkar goes on to say that, “God, the Human, and the World, are not one, nor two, nor three. They are not three things, neither are they one. There is,” he says, “a radical relativity, an irreducible connection between the Source of what is, that which Is, and its very Dynamism; Father, Son, Spirit; Divine, Human, Cosmic; Liberty, Consciousness, Matter; or however we might name this triad that constitutes the Real.” Capital “R” Real. Therefore, Panikkar concludes that, “Reality is Trinitarian.” (p. 66)
Now let that sink in…Reality is Trinitarian. God, Human, Material World…they are not three separate things…neither are they one thing. To describe this trinitarian reality, Panikkar coined one of the most awesome words ever. He called this the Cosmotheandric vision of reality. Isn’t that awesome? Cosmotheandric. It’s a mashup of cosmos (world)—theos (divine)—ander (humanity). He also sometimes refers to it as theo-anthropo-cosmic, but cosmotheandric flows so much better, doesn’t it? Say it with me: cosmotheandric.
Viewed this way, the Trinity is not some outdated church doctrine that is totally divorced from reality…No. The Trinity describes reality because reality is Trinitarian. It is cosmotheadric.
And in the 14th century, Julian of Norwich had a similar intuition. She wrote:
“The high Might of the Trinity is our Father, and the deep Wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother, and the great Love of the Trinity is our Lord: and all this have we in Nature and in the making of our Substance.”
Julian also coined a term to describe this, she referred to this cosmotheandric unity as “oneing,” “The love of God,” she said, “creates in us such a oneing that when it is truly seen, no person can separate themselves from another.” And as Julian was shown that this “oneing” this cosmotheandric reality of the Trinity is revealed everywhere.
There is a well-known icon of Julian holding a hazelnut which becomes the entire world held and surrounded by the wounded hands of Christ.
Julian wrote, “[Christ] showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel-nut in the palm of my hand…I looked thereupon with the eye of my understanding and thought: What may this be? And it was answered: It is all that is made. I marvelled how it might last, for methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasteth, and ever shall last for that God loves it. And so I saw All-thing has the Being by the love of God. In this little thing I saw three properties. God made it. God loves it. God keeps it.”
In this little thing. In every thing, all of the Trinitarian Reality is revealed, because God the Creator made it. God the Christ loves it. God the Spirit keeps and sustains it.
You know how priests often like to answer a question with a question? So if the question is: What does the Trinity have to do with all that we are dealing with? I might answer: What would change for you, if you could see, and know, and proclaim this truth—this reality—that everything has being by the love of God? That in every person, every animal, every tree, every drop of water…these three properties are brilliantly apparent: God made it. God loves it. God sustains it. Every person…from the most admired to the most loathed…has the capacity…the promise…of becoming a cosmotheandric icon of the Whole—created by God, sustained by God, loved by God. What would change if we really knew that? If we began to see and respond to the world in that way? What would change in your life? In how you decide what to do with the time given you? In how you decide how to live in this tragic gap of No Ordinary Time?
Yes, the world is still full of war…and plagues…and violent social unrest…and dramatic changes in the climate…And if you look at it one way, it does certainly look grim…
But if you look at it the way Raimon Panikkar does…or the way Julian did…and recognize that God continues to create and recreate it… continues to love and sustain it…Continues to love and sustain us. If you can look at it that way, you can understand the truth of Julian’s claim that “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Amen,