Aloha Friday Message, May 8, 2009

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Screen Savers and Life Savers

This past Sunday I was thinking about the Trinity and how we often depict it using a triangle, one side for each Person of the Godhead. I wondered what was in the middle. If the three lines represent Father, Son, and Spirit, then what is in the space they enclose? My first guess was Love, because God is Love, but somehow that seemed too static and too (ah-HA!) two-dimensional.

What if we thought of the Trinity as something three-dimensional – like a Tetrahedron? Then each face of the tetrahedron could represent one person of the … Hold it. The tetrahedron has FOUR faces, Mr. Mathless! OK. No problem, the fourth side is going to represent … Love? No, because if the triangle’s space represented love, then the tetrahedron’s volume must be the representation of Love. But, Love could be the foundation of the Trinity – be the fourth side – and then the other three faces would be the three Persons. That would sort of make sense.

However, that just didn’t seem to satisfy me. I started thinking about that screen saver in Windows® and how you can set it to a shape based on a tetrahedron. It morphs through hundreds of variations of color and shape – all of them tetrahedrons – and then I realized maybe that’s how the Trinity works, too.

Tetrahedron simple line drawing

Which side is the base?

It is somewhat helpful to imagine the Trinity as a triangle, but we know the Godhead is more dynamic than that. There are three distinct persons, all right, but we mere mortals still don’t get it; hence, the Mystery of the Trinity. So thinking about Love being the foundation of the tetrahedron, and remembering how that 3-D tetrahedron changes … it is pretty hard to tell which side is the foundation. Which way is UP? Is this tetrahedron resting on one point or sitting on one side? What would it look like if we made it dynamic – that is made it a 3-D moving shape? There is a very interesting mathematical representation of that idea. Use this link to see it: http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/klein.html This is a really cool visual!!

So we can get some other ideas about the Trinity, about the Universe, and about our role in all of that by looking at a screensaver image and watching it “change.” It appears to change, but it’s really always the same thing: A tetrahedron. No matter how we see or understand God, God is always God-in-Three-Persons.

Speaking of screen savers, do you know why we have them? (Some of you are saying, “Now what?”) Well, screen savers do just that – they save your screen from getting burned by static images. If you’ve ever looked at an old Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) that has been used to constantly display a data table (like the payment screen at Wal-Mart or Costco or on the gas pump), you might recall that after a while, the lines in the table are “burned” into the phosphors in the screen. Because Screen Savers keep something moving on your screen all the time, the likelihood of an image getting burned into the screen is very, very low. The same goes for a static image of the Trinity. Getting that “burned” into your screen – the image processor in your mind – makes it harder to see the dynamic power of the Godhead.

And you know what else? I think maybe we get to be part of that Image, too, because we are made in the Image of God. Do you think maybe we move in the same way His tetrahedron moves? Might we even move within His Tetrahedron? Consider John 17:20-23 — 20 “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. 22 And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.”

In The Cloud of Unknowing the writer urges us to ONE (“one” as a verb) with God by pursuing God through the “naked intent” and “blind love” of being immersed in the presence of his Presence. “One-ing” is like a screen saver for the soul. It keeps you form getting one image of God burned into your heart by making infinite infinitesimal changes in your perceptions of the Trinity. Finally, one day, you stop doing that in your temporal life because you transcend that life and continue your contemplation of the Trinity in person and eternally.

In this, we see that God’s plan for us is to know Him by being in Him as He is in us. His screen saver is our Life Saver, (I’m not thinking of the candy-with-a-hole), and our lives are eternally saved when he “tosses” us the chance to be surrounded by Him in a sea of troubles and sin.

The lifesaver became popular after the Titanic went down. It is in the shape of a torus like this one on the left. The torus like the one on the right has also been used to represent the fullness of the Godhead. The significant thing to remember about a torus is that it is also rotational and dynamic. Keeping our hearts and minds fixed on a static, unchanging, inflexible understanding of the Trinity leads to burn-out. Yet it is important, very important, to remember that just as a tetrahedron is always a tetrahedron or a torus is always a torus, God is, was, and always will be God. That He chooses to be in us and welcomes us to be in Him – that is the entry-way to “one-ing,” both temporally and eternally. That is something to contemplate! No matter how we understand Him/Them the complexity of the Trinity is its simplicity as well. No matter how much or how little of it we understand, it is always part of us and we are always part of it. Shazzam!! However you perceive Him to be, God is always the same, always, faithful, always loving, always saving, always ONE.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever — at your service.

Keep praying for JC, OK? Progress is being made. Ask for a list of intentions – people requesting prayers – and find another aspect of one-ing!

chick

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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