In April I had the opportunity of a life time – I was able to attended Trinity: The Heart of Creation put on by The Center for Action and Contemplation. Some of you may have seen my update on Instagram and Facebook about meeting Richard Rohr (I cried. A lot.). The weekend was incredible- I took over 50 pages of notes and was moved to tears countless times. It was a perfect blend of academic pursuit and spiritual quest. Below is a very short and incomprehensive list of what resonated with me. I will return to many of these topics in future posts to flesh out the ideas and add in some of my personal thoughts. But for now, treat this as a little preview or an overview of the weekend in no particular order.
1. Might as well start off where I am most comfortable: “In the beginning” Scripture’s first representation of God is feminine. Genesis 1:2 “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the waters.” The hebrew word used here for ‘Spirit’ is ruah – a feminine noun. Additionally, the word used for ‘hovered’ is rachaph, is used again in Deuteronomy 32:11 to describe God as a mother eagle tending to the young in her nest. So together we have this gorgeous image of a feminine spirit hovering like a mother eagle over the waters of the earth. It is out of this feminine spirit that God then goes on to create the light, sky, earth, sun, and moon. And as a crescendo- in the most feminine of feminine acts- God creates life. And by extension I believe creation itself is a feminine incarnation of God (Romans 8:22).
2. The Atheism process. I’m going to call this: “A Holy Atheism”. There are points in everyone’s dance where they must deny God, this is especially true for those of us brought up in church. We must deny the god we were taught, in order to seek a God that names the truth of our soul. Unfortunately, many people stop at the first part, they do not continue to search. Moving through atheism is admitting that the god you thought was true does not exist. And that is okay. God is so much more.
3. Centering Prayer practice. If you’ve never tried this, please look it up. This is a practice open to people of all faiths or no faith. Do not be thrown off by the word “prayer” there is no speaking. Cynthia Bourgeault led us in this practice and is known for this type of work. She is brilliant and lovely, and was a joy to met. I suggest this resource if you’re interested in learning more. In practice this resembles more meditation than prayer and was truly a centering and focusing experience.
4. Jesus’ first words outline his purpose and message to us. This message was not to REPENT, as we have often heard, but to CHANGE our MINDS. Mark 1:15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” The original greek word used is Metanoeite which is better translated as “to change one’s mind”, but is often mistranslated as “repent.” Obviously this has ill-informed many arm-chair theologians into thinking that Jesus came to force us into repentance (and not a change of mindset). Jesus is literally asking us to CHANGE our minds- to think differently about God- to consider this Good News.
5. I am Good. You are Good. God creates good and perfect things, and even though we live in a sinful system and society we are good because we are made in God’s image. So much more on this later as it is hard to delineate my issues with Calvinism down to one bullet point on a list.
6. Trinity. The namesake of the conference is perhaps the most layered and difficult piece of this, and yet it is the most obvious. Though as Paul Young said “It is often the obviosities with which we struggle the most.” Our Christian tradition, at least in the West, has been largely influenced by the Pagan notion of Zeus, a God- far away on a cloud, all alone. A God of Oneness. A static monarch separate from us, and “up there”. Though we recognized Trinity, we really don’t know what to do with it and so we usually just ignore it. When we embrace Trinity we see that the Divine is a constant relationship, a community of love and service. And this is a relationship we’ve been invited to engage in. This is something I will be coming back to over and over again because the implications of this is mind- blowing.
7. God not only loves- but RESPECTS humanity. God treats us with dignity.
8. Millennials are reforming tradition and faith, not running away from it. We have a “bull-shit” meter which is finely tuned and we’re not afraid to call BS when we see. The elders of our traditions, at least at this conference were so very optimistic about our influence in the future of the tradition. So keep it up people. Our voices are being heard.
9. The real sin in the story of Adam and Eve, has nothing to do with a piece of fruit. The larger theme in this story is humankind’s capacity to turn away from God. Please hear me, this isn’t me pointing the finger at men as opposed to women (though expect a post about how incorrect interpretations of “Eve’s sin” has justified patriarchy for thousands of years) rather I want to highlight that a cursory reading of this scripture misses the point. We see this pattern repeated again and again- the Jewish people asking for kings to rule over them, the Levitical priesthood, and perhaps the most meaningful was seen in humankind’s crucifixion of God. The moral of the story is that we consistently turn away from God, but God will take any road and any means necessary to find us.
10. This is kind of an add-on to #9. I believe that the cross is not some sort of cosmic rebalancing by violent God who needed a blood sacrifice. Instead, as I see it, it is our human capacity to kill LOVE and GOODNESS- to kill GOD. To turn away, once again, from complete love. And yet, Christ took this evil and transformed it into life. The Cross represents the mystery of how evil is turned into good. How death is turned into life. To boil it down into a “bridge” that connects us with an absent monarch-like God misses the point. We never have to be victimized by evil again. You better believe I’m coming back to this one.