The Wisdom of Creation, Part One – Oceans
Excerpt: Jesus’ teaching on the Gennesaret Sea is not just a metaphor for how the Kingdom of God will manifest itself. That teachable moment has important significance for this particular time of ecological destruction, because it shows us that the very illustration that Jesus uses – the basic, natural and life-giving phenomenon of fish thriving in a healthy aquatic ecosystem – that very process is under threat of annihilation. This is a troubling, but accurate reframing of the Gennesaret fishing expedition for today’s world. Admittedly, it will be difficult for a congregation to hear.
Reflection on Isaiah 6:1-8, by John Gibbs, PhD
As we discussed for Cycle A, Trinity Sunday, there is no full-fledged developed doctrine of the Trinity within Scripture. What we see in biblical literature are, rather, the seeds of the later developed ideas about the interrelations between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Earliest Christians spoke of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on the bases of their experiences of God as Creator, Redeemer, and Reconciler or Sustainer. We may say, then, that biblical thought about God uses an incipient or “practical” Trinitarian language rather than a “systematic” or philosophical/theological language. [See, for example, R. Mehl’s outline of N.T. talk about God in the article “God” within J.-J. von Allmen, A Companion to the Bible (NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 1958), pp. 146-51.]
As a consequence of the incipient nature of biblical references to the “persons” of the Trinity, as they were later denominated, subsequent theological discussions about the Trinity have ranged far and wide, all the way from excluding this doctrine from any central importance in theology (a position difficult to support on biblical grounds) to, on the other hand, making this doctrine the centerpiece of one’s theology. Karl Barth may be foremost among those who have done the latter during the last century. For an excellent short article about his Trinitarian theology, see Cynthia M. Campbell, “Trinity,” within Donald K. McKim (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith (Louisville: WJKP, 1992), pp. 374-77.
The difficulties of the doctrine of the Trinity for laity, not to mention clergy (!), have led some folk to treat it with silence, especially within preaching. Before doing that, however, we might well recall what happened to the adolescent Carl Jung when he was in his father’s communicants’ class, his father being a Protestant pastor. Carl read ahead in their textbook, and awaited eagerly the forthcoming discussion about the Trinity. But when his father led the class to that chapter, his father remarked that the doctrine of the Trinity was very complex, and that he could not make anything of it himself. So he skipped over that chapter. The young Carl claims that his disaffection with the Church began at that moment.
What, then, do we find about the Trinity in the texts for this day?
Isaiah 6:1-8 predates any Trinitarian language, of course, as it describes God’s call of Isaiah to be a prophet. Isaiah sharply contrasts his own “uncleanness” with the majestic “holiness” of God. One wonders what the anthropologist Mary Douglas may have made of this particular contrast between purity and uncleanness, and let us know if you have found her treatment of this text. In any case, the prophet strongly emphasized that his calling came to him and was not something he himself achieved. As if “touched” by a live hot coal, his life was transformed from uncleanness and from being “lost” so that he could speak for God to the people of his time (6:6-8).
However “Other” than himself God is, then, Isaiah was “touched” by the divine presence. That touching images a closer connection between humanity and God than even Michelangelo envisioned in his famous Sistine Chapel ceiling panel depicting Adam’s hand reaching out to God, and God’s hand reaching out to “Adam,” but without their hands actually touching. Yet, Isaiah emphasizes no less the difference between holy God whose “glory” fills the whole earth and, on the other hand, unclean man who is fully dependent on this “high and lofty” God mediating (through a seraph’s hot coal) the divine presence into himself.
Isaiah’s God is God the Creator, whose glory fills the whole creation, but who also reaches out to the peoples for their “healing” (6:10).
Redeeming Grace, by Keith Innes
The drama of judgment and salvation is played out in a world that witnesses to God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3). At the close of Isaiah 6:13 the recuperative power of nature seems to symbolise the wonder of God’s redeeming grace for broken humanity. In the Kingdom of God human work on earth brings true prosperity when undertaken at the Lord’s direction – and this applies to the work’s spiritual and physical modes (Luke 5:1-11).