Offered at St. George’s Episcopal Church, La Canada, CA

rublev_trinity_icon

Isaiah 6:1-8
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17
Psalm 93

Icons are strange things; they act as a window into one’s spiritual soul breathing life into your own individual sacred journey. Icons agree to meet you…as is…just as you are without pretense or judgment. Staring at an icon, one which is prayerfully conceived is like gazing at a lover with all the emotions attached to it. The power of iconography embraces the mysterious communication reaching out, moving beyond one dimension as it has the power to envelop the viewer with soulful communication. Icons sometimes offer us the space to connect with what Thomas Merton called life’s “hidden wholeness” allowing us a chance to rest in what I like to call a “sacred ambiguity.”

I invite you to take a look at the front cover of the bulletin or gaze at the icon on display. In the 1980s theologian Jurgen Moltmann came across this icon: Andrei Rublev’s fifteenth-century creation entitled, The Holy Trinity. Moltmann was so moved by this picture that he created a new theology which he named, The Trinity and the Kingdom.

At first glace, you may not notice anything in particular…it shows three people seated at a table…ok…that’s fine, so now what? This icon has lots to say, and what I find amazing is that the iconographer is speaking a theology way beyond his time. It makes me wonder if God’s hand was at work revealing a spiritual truth, a truth which took 500 years to unravel. Maybe this truth lay hidden, or was lost in our own confusion, much like our friend Nicodemus found in our gospel reading, our mind’s set in one pattern of thinking, unaware of God’s realities.

In the icon we see three angels seated at a table, much like the three angels who appear to Abraham and Sarah found in Genesis. We are shown three figures each distinct in their dress; three persons with their own identity. The one figure wears green, symbolizing new life (the Holy Spirit), the mountain resting in the background, that place where God resides.

Our middle figure, The Christ is found blessing a chalice, resting his hand on top of the table symbolic of Christ’s human and divine natures. The figure on the left, represents God, holding the staff of an eternal shepherd, calm, secure, and being unto itself…the “Being of Beings.”

Now, here’s a question I raised with the Wednesday lectionary group: what do you see in this icon that might reveal a new way to think about the Trinity? Look at the symmetry of the picture….all the figures are equal, one is not greater than the other, each person is connected through a hidden unity. The Trinity displayed in this icon is without a hint hierarchical authority, each person is distinct, and unique, but held together in a quit, strong unity.

Notice the order of the three subjects; the Godhead is not placed in the center, it’s Christ yet the Christ is looking to God on his left. The God figure is not looking at Christ, but to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit’s gaze faces downward with a calm urgency as if the figure has something else in mind, the Sprit with a sense of purpose as if it is waiting to move into action.

Of this icon Jugen Moltmann writes, “Through their tenderly intimate inclination towards one another, the three Persons show the profound unity joining them in which they are one.” Moltmann stresses a social Trinity, not a kingdom, suggesting that it is only in a unity with one another that men and women can arrive at their own truth in a free and loving inclination towards one another.  It’s not really about one person holding power over the other, but the free exchange of mutual affection.

Maybe the icon is revealing something to us in this century, about 500 years after its creation, and like Nicodemus, unaware of God’s revelation, our minds stuck in traditions created by those of good intentions who could not fathom God’s concept of a triune kingdom; a kingdom of equality, sharing, compassion, and loving connectivity. A kingdom founded in mutual affection without the need to hold power over the other….proceeding from one to the other……

We can see signs of this type of equality today. This altar area was one the domain of men, not so anymore; those here who have seen our Presiding Bishop are well aware of this transformation. We are witness to the leveling of the world as the things we do in this land affect other people across the globe and visa versa. We are witness to a world economy linking many people together through both good and bad times. We are witness to the reality that those things which once separated us, God wishes to bring together. This hope is found in the gospel of John who said that God did not send Jesus into the world to condom it, but to save all nations, all people who inhabit this planet so that we might have a right relationship with God.

How does a Trinity founded in mutuality manifest itself…. in the form of three symbols working together as one distinct unit, yet a Being manifesting itself not from the top down, or the inside out, but as an ever changing, revolving pattern of love, wisdom, and action….a divine dance.

In this vision of the Kingdom of God there is no monarchy. Father, Son and Spirit work in tandem as one sacred unity. Each substance emerges as needed to serve each other, and in turn, offering light to humanity. Sometimes the majesty of the Father shines forth in all its glory, but maybe what’s needed is the wisdom of God expressed by Jesus Christ, other times the Holy Spirit calls us into action, or leads us to a new revelation, offering a new awareness of things seen and unseen.

Maybe the best way to see the trinity would be to demonstrate our version of a divine dance. I have asked Caroline and Grace to help me out so that we can show you the power of Rublev’s icon:

Emergent Unity, an indewelling
God, Son and Spirit
Moving as a divine dance
Working as one in freedom
United in love, wisdom and action
The Trinity connected through mutuality.

Imagine a world like this, imagine the possibilities… our world existing like the equality found within this icon… a parallel of this Holy Trinity….as I said, Icons are strange things……..Amen.