Pas de trois
Trinity Sunday 22 May 2016 Year C
I am not sure I knew, or if I did I had long ago forgotten, that the first atomic bomb explosion was code named Trinity. I was curious why that name was picked, given that we view the Trinity as a creative force and the atomic bomb was its polar opposite.
"The origin of the code name Trinity for the test site is also interest-ing, but the true source is unknown. One popular account attrib-utes the name to J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific head of the Manhattan Project. According to this version, the well read Oppen-heimer based the name Trinity on the fourteenth Holy Sonnet by John Donne, a 16th century English poet and sermon writer. The sonnet started, "Batter my heart, three-personed God." Another version of the name's origin comes from University of New Mexico historian Ferenc M. Szasz. In his 1984 book, The Day the Sun Rose Twice, Szasz quotes Robert W. Henderson head of the Engineering Group in the Explosives Division of the Manhattan Project. Hen-derson told Szasz that the name Trinity came from Major W. A. (Lex) Stevens. According to Henderson, he and Stevens were at the test site discussing the best way to haul Jumbo (see below) the thirty miles from the closest railway siding to the test site. "A de-vout Roman Catholic, Stevens observed that the railroad siding was called 'Pope's Siding.' He [then] remarked that the Pope had special access to the Trinity, and that the scientists would need all the help they could get to move the 214 ton Jumbo to its proper spot."" COPYRIGHT © 1995-2005 GREGORY WALKER (TRINATOMIC AT EARTHLINK DOT NET), CREATOR OF TRINITY ATOMIC WEB SITE.
Maybe people of faith thought it represented the power of theChristian God, maybe it was someone’s warped sense of humor. I have had a rough time getting that thought out of my head: Trinity as life; Trinity as death. I don’t use the term sacrilegious often, but I think that calling the first atomic bomb test Trinity meets my criteria of mak-ing profane that which is sacred.
Instead of stealing a phrase in order, perhaps, to justify the creation of destruction, I suggest we look at the Trinity. It is ultimately something not explainable, despite the foundational nature of the Trinity to our faith. We can say the Trinity is “like” a Celtic knot, a three leaf clover, or, for you mathematicians out there, an equilateral triangle. I even saw one representation showing two bearded men with Big Bird between them and the caption, “not just two dudes and a bird.” That one was a bit over the top for me. Maybe there is a bit of truth and understanding to be had in the metaphor, but what does it matter if we use some sort of physical image or the sometimes mind boggling language of the Nicene Creed? The collect I chose for today gives a beautiful image of what I see in the Trinity: a call and response. God as maker of all creation, we as re-sponsible for that creation; Jesus as the divine made human, we as humanity responding, and the Spirit proclaiming the glory of the God-head to us and our calling to praise and worship. In the prayer of confession, we used today there is another Trinitarian image: that of mutuality, equality, and unity in diversity. I cannot draw a picture that captures those qualities; perhaps the intertwined Celtic knot does it the best, but to me that is exactly what the Godhead is. The Trinity does not represent those qualities; it IS those qualities. So where do we go with this (let’s face it) very difficult if not impossible to explain foundation of our faith? I think the readings for today all have something to say about the Trinity and our relation to it. Both the reading from Proverbs, which book on the whole contains a lot of canned music and sexist language, and that from the Psalm look at the glory of creation. Proverbs is a glorious trib-ute to Wisdom, both as an attribute of the Trinity from the time of the creating of the world, and as a voice in us and for us, for all humanity. Lady Wisdom, calling us to see the goodness of creation. Lady Wisdom can be seen all around if we look: in the eyes of parents caring for their children, teachers making sure all their students are learning, those advocating for justice and fairness in the courtroom, those who work for a strong public health system or you and me when we do our work in the world with caring. Wisdom calls us to dance with her when we watch a sunset or see a rainbow. Wisdom is there for us now and has always been there. She is there for us as all humanity and for each one of us as individuals. If our chief reason for existence is to celebrate creation and the God-head what could be a better exclamation of that than the psalm? Mar-vel in the role given to human beings and to the incredible work of cre-ation itself!! In Romans Paul, of course, talks of the saving action of the second part of the Trinity: Jesus the Christ. Paul is very concerned that we un-derstand that grace and salvation came through this person and that God’s love has been poured on to us in the form of the Holy Spirit. Se-rious stuff, yet Paul is ecstatic and joyous. So there we have it: theology 101, the Trinity made easy. But it is not quite so easy. Wonderful, marvelous, awesome, yes, yes, and yes but easy to understand and explain, no. This is what John is saying to us today. The reading is deceptively short. There are only four verses and five short sentences. Ultimately the one word that shines out in John and perhaps in all the readings is “unselfish.” This means we don’t read John and think, “what’s in it for me?” Yes, you come here and I come here to this place on this day be pardoned and renewed but we don’t do it out of selfishness. We do it because we are part of a community. The crea-tor, the redeemer, and the sustainer are the perfect model of an un-selfish and totally giving kind of love that I don’t think exists in any oth-er religion. This has to be hard for us; it is for me. I think often that what we do is choose my church like we do a grocery store: is this where I can get the best deal and is it convenient? The United States was built around several premises, one of which was the idea of the individual as more important than the group. Given the historical op-pression in Europe that drove so many to these shores, it is not surpris-ing nor is it intrinsically wrong. But it is not the way of the Cross; it is not the model that the Trinity gives us. We are being shown the way to God.
I have heard the term “pas de deux” or “step of two” which is a term in ballet for a duet. The dance highlights the individual and the pair, with a dance that is both individual and united. But there is also a “pas de trois” which is a ballet dance between three people. It consists of five parts: The Entrée (the opening number for the 3 dancers, usually preceded by a short introduction) Variation (or solo) for the 1st dancer Variation for the 2nd dancer Variation for the 3rd dancer the Coda (a finale usually set to music of a quick tempo in which the dancers bring the piece to a spectacular finish) (Source: Wikipedia)
Maybe at the end of the day this is the image I like the best: The Trinity as a dance that requires three persons, each with an essential part and without which the dance could not exist. Maybe what we need to do is think of ourselves as dancers in the world: sometimes dancing for shear joy, sometimes dancing in our work in the world. Sometimes we dance alone, but we also must dance with others, even with flat feet and no sense of rhythm and even if we sometimes step on a toe or have our toes stepped on. At the end of the day the Trinity is telling us what that old Shaker hymn “Lord of the Dance” tells us: Dance, dance wherever you may be, For I am the Lord of the Dance said he.