Understanding God

Trinity Sunday is just ahead. Often we ( perhaps preachers especially) seem to shy away from that day because – although we might not say it aloud – we tend spontaneously to think of Trinity Sunday as a day on which we are meant to understand God and to express to the rest of the Church our understanding of God.

But I don’t think it is that at all actually. The absolutely vital thing is not to understand God. The absolutely vital thing is to rejoice in the truth that God understands us. God understands you. God understands me. And God loves us anyway. Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that extraordinary? Isn’t that divine? It is!

Just resting in that understanding – that comprehension that might better be described as love – is enough. It gives freedom. It offers the end of fear. And in so doing, oddly enough – or maybe not – it opens the possibility perhaps to actually understand something of God after all! After all, God has seen fit, in astounding generosity to reveal the very life of God to us. It’s just that the light coming off that revelation is so very bright that it is hard to know what we are even seeing.

I begin to think that it takes decades of human life and thousands of mistakes – otherwise known as sins! – to begin to dare to look toward that light with the hope that the eyes of our soul might begin to adjust to the light and begin to see.

Way back in the book of Genesis, in the first chapters, at the beginning of the beginning, God decides to create us in God’s own image and likeness. What an unexpected starting point that is! And it opens the opportunity to believe that when we finally – in all honesty and truth begin to understand ourselves (as individuals and as communities and as a species even a little bit) – we can begin then as well to understand (maybe?) something of who God is. If we dare. If we are willing to sit with the desire to know God, and let it become a quest of ours, not in our spare time, but deep down in our gut as one of our most vital human callings.

Wise people who have lived long before us and followed Christ and listened to the Gospel and felt the Spirit and seen God as Father/Mother alive in the world have sat with that question. It took the Christian Church the first four centuries after the Resurrection to be able to agree on how to speak about who Jesus Christ is. And then it took another century to be able to do something of the same about the Holy Spirit. So then, way back then but only after hundreds of years of the whole Church wondering about these questions together, we came to an agreed way to speak about the Trinity, about God as one God in three Persons. And then almost right away most of us were confused again. But at least we had language to talk about the work of God in the world and the inner life of God as well.

So I am wondering if we look at that Christian understanding in the Creeds of who God is, can we receive some light about who we are and who we are meant to be in God’s eyes? In other words, to return to where I began: can looking toward God’s identity as God has shared it help you and I to see ourselves through God’s eyes – and maybe then to see something of the magnificence of God’s love for us?

Now some paraphrasing or saying things of the faith in my own little way.

Though the outward works of the Trinity are works of all 3 Persons in God, thus sayeth the faith, God the Father is spoken of as Creator. God the Father brings things that were not into being. We are made in this image and likeness. Here then is a fair question: what do we bring into being? What do we – working with the raw materials we are given in life – in some sense of the word ‘create’? Many of you have helped to make new humans. Bravo! There’s a really good example. Maybe in your chosen line of work you have brought about a new way to get something done that needs to be done? Maybe in the kitchen at home, in your own little oven, you have brought to be Toll House cookies or brownies that – in your circle of family and friends at least – are acclaimed as the best of the best? I want you to really to think about this: what do you create in your living? What do you make in your life that reflects in some degree and sense the goodness of creativity of the Creating God?

God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity, the one who took on flesh in the Incarnation and lived a fully human life and died a painful human death, is named as the Savior, as the Redeemer. I could express that in these words: Jesus is the One who will not leave anything or anyone broken behind. He cradles the broken by the side of life’s road – as the Good Samaritan did in one of his best stories – and cares for them with all the tools he has until they are whole and well again. To those blinded, he reveals the sight they have. By the deaf he is heard. He stays with the mute until they find their voice. And he enters the room, or the tomb, of those who have died and he trembles with the fullness of life until they live again. So you and me: where are the places in our lives where we possess a faithfulness and a care profound enough to keep us by the side of the suffering until suffering is over? Where in our hearts is there – at least sometimes in life – the willingness to sit with those in pain as long as they need us, even when we have no idea how bad the pain really is or how to relieve it? When and where are we able to be healers even if we don’t trust ourselves to get it right? We stay simply because the others ones, the broken ones, need us – and after all, we too know what it is to be broken.

And God the Spirit, the 3rd Person, is sometimes so mysterious to us as to be rarely mentioned. But the Creed calls the Spirit ‘the Lord, the Giver of Life.’ The Spirit was there at Creation, active as the wind. And we might say that the Spirit is the One who activates us, who makes things happen that otherwise would not happen; the One who energizes us in every season of our living. That’s an incomplete description, but all three of these are only partial, as they only can be. But again it is worth asking. If those words capture something of the Holy Spirit and you and I are created in the Spirit’s image, where do we bring energy? Where do we breathe new life? Or to put it in terms of Jesus’ description of the Spirit in the Gospel of John’s sharing of the Last Supper: where do you and I remind our friends, our family and total strangers of the truths of Jesus? Where do we act as Paraclete – as comforter, counselor, advocate, friend to others – without end, with indefatigable energy? This may in some sense be the hardest question. Maybe we can only answer this one late in life. Maybe we will only know when we stand ourselves face to face, heart to heart, with God revealed and loving us forever.

How am I one who brings new things to be? How am I one who never leaves the broken lying on the ground alone? How am I one who infuses new energy into human life when it has become tired and seems unable to go on?

Considering these questions this Sunday may be a start. But carrying these questions with us on the weekdays between the Sundays from year to year may provide the Divine key to our finally being revealed as genuinely human beings. Only then might we finally understand what God sees in us and why this triune God loves us all with such mad faithful unending abandon. God understands us. And that is, as a place to begin, a beautiful thing.

June 1

Almost 90 degrees today here at Worcester. The day reached and surpassed 90 in many parts of the state. But, with low humidity, thank God. When it’s 90 with anything but low humidity I start climbing up on pieces of furniture and trash barrels and half-grown trees looking for something high enough to jump from for relief. To divert my attention I mean.

Hurricane season begins today as well. This is meteorologists way of telling the rest of us: ‘you know that Mother Nature can and will come at you with something sometime. Well it’s most likely right now.’

In the midst of all that, I do admit an old and established fondness for June. This is the month summer vacation started for us as school kids. This was the month Mom and Dad were married. We were aware of that anniversary each year as the numbers grew larger. This is the month I was born, albeit when June had only about 12 hours more to count down. And this was the month during which my classmates and I were ordained to serve as priests. On June 11, 1983.

The anniversaries of that moment now have their share of bigger and bigger numbers too. With 40 years gone since that morning, with so much movement and change over the years, and yet so much fundamentally the same, there comes a time when there’s much to reflect on. That time is opening. Maybe I’ll begin putting that down in words this June.

June. Two etymologies of the word both go back to youth and vitality. When it comes to serving the church in this world, when it comes to ministry in what has been often a wounded and self-wounded church over these last decades, where do you turn to find vitality, freshness? To find a church that is still and always young?

I’m going to sleep on that. Right now in fact. .

May Day


Your light rises.

Your choir of birds sing.

Your green growth stretches toward the blue.

Your stillness fills.

Your people come together to call on you.

It is [more than] enough.

I abide.

Barbara Harris Center | Greenfield NH | 5.11.23



I wrote these words on this date 10 years ago at the village of Knock, Mayo, Ireland. I’m unsure 120 months later what moved me to make the assertion, but I hold it true still:

I say to you. Never more do anything because you are told it must be done. Even if the teller be one whom you rightly esteem. Even if the deed be steeped in venerable tradition. Do anything you do (and say all you say) because consideration, prayer, and the depths of conscience have convinced you this is right to do or to say. To act for any lesser reason is to be less than fully true to the child of God you are, and to the God whose child you are. Word.


My Mom, standing by Galway Bay at Salthill 10 years ago at dawn this morning. I’ve been glad since that I took this photo. I can see her strength, determination, and joy in beginning the new day. Suaimhneas síoraí mo mháthair daor.

The Public Good

Arizona has chosen its first Democratic Governor since 2006, defeating an election-denier of smooth tongue. This news is welcome on the morning of the day a certain Florida resident (not the last?) apparently intends to announce for the presidency, reportedly over the objections of many advisors. One thing you have to say about him: he’s consistent.

On the brink?

Missiles identified as made in Russia fell on Nato-member Poland today as Russia retaliated the Ukrainian celebration at the liberation of the city of Kherson.

Depending on ongoing investigation and Nato meetings on these events to take place tomorrow, this could be a moment of dangerous escalation in the conflict.

This can happen because humanity has never come to effective terms with the nature of violence and the terror of war.

As disciples of Christ, let us pray tonight.

Let us pray.

Almighty God our heavenly Father, guide the nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among
them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

~ the Book of Common Prayer