In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Good morning everyone! How wonderful it is to be back here with you at Church of the Transfiguration! It’s been awhile!
And I know that as you drank your morning coffee, you were contemplating the sacred mysteries of the Trinity, being that today is Trinity Sunday.
But hey, did you know that the number three is a sacred number? Trinities & sacred threes were actually around long before Christianity. In fact, Trinities & sacred three’s go back to ancient cultures & prehistoric religions! It’s true!
Much like how ancient people celebrated winter solstice before the holiday was absorbed by Christianity & became Christmas, (celebrated three days after winter solstice by the way), the Trinity / sacred threes have been around a very long time!
So, what is it about the number “3”?
Notice the number three is everywhere! Just look at this weekend, it’s a 3 day weekend, it’s Trinity Sunday, & in Isaiah’s scripture reading for today we have Seraphs flying around singing “Holy, Holy, Holy”!
And although the number 3 is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, we see patterns of the number 3 in many places. Examples? In Genesis there are the 3 Patriarchs; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. And the story of Abraham & Sarah being visited by 3 men who were really 3 angels. This story is depicted in the famous Russian icon “Troitza” (Trinity). And let’s not forget the story of Jonah, who spent 3 days in the belly of a whale. And, we see the number 3 is also the number of the Resurrection, where Jesus rose on the 3rd day.
Trinities & sacred threes not only exist in religion, but many cultures, in the arts, music, mythology, and yes, even in mathematics & the sciences!
Can you think of any?
Celtic art – Celtic art has many designs based on three. spiral
Greek mythology – 3 Furies, the 3 Fates, and 3 main gods; Zeus (land), Hades (underworld), & Poseidon (the sea).
Eastern religions – Hinduism has the Trimurti; Brahma the creator, Vishnu the sustainer, and Shiva the destroyer, the three top gods that keep the universe going thru endless cycles of life, death & rebirth.
In health, wellness & spirituality – “body, mind & spirit”! mindbodyspirit
The Sciences – 3 dimensions of space, 3 states of matter; solid, liquid & gas, 3 types of electrical charges; positive, negative & neutral, and atoms have 3 particles, the proton, electron & neutron! And DNA is one of the 3 major macromolecules necessary for life!
Math – 3 sides to a triangle, the most stable of geometric shapes. Number 3 is big in Cartoon image of Pi symbolthe Golden Ratio, the Fibonacci sequence, exponential power of 3, cubed. Pi is 3.14.
Storytelling – The 3 Musketeers, the 3 Little Pigs…3 Blind Mice, Three Billy goats Gruff, The Good, the Bad & the Ugly!
Time – perception of time is described in threes as well, yesterday, today, tomorrow. Beginning, middle, end. Birth, life, death.
Symbolically – 3 is a sacred number in many ancient rTriple moon goddesseligions. Symbolically it is similar to the number 7, which means wholeness, completeness. 3 is considered a “perfect” number, the unifier of dualities!
Ancient religions – Rule of Three, also known as the law of return. It basically states that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, whether it be positive or negative, it will come back to you threefold. Three is a sacred number in many religions. Triple Moon Goddess, maiden, mother, crone.
Music – There are triplets, 3 beats per one beat. Western music tends to be very 4/4 tripletswith a straight ahead beat & rhythm. But in many other cultures, many rhythms are based on three, such as the triplet. It gives a very “circular” feel.
And Nikola Tesla, the genius inventor who designed the alternating current (AC) electrical system said “If you want to know the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”20603-Nikola-Tesla-Quote-If-you-want-to-find-the-secrets-of-the-universe.jpg
As we can see, the concept of a Trinity & the triadic nature of the divine & sacred threes have been part of our psyche for thousands of years!
Are all these things about the number 3 just a coincidence? It does makes you wonder!!
One really interesting take on the Trinity / sacred number 3 this is from Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault. She explores this deeply in her book The Holy Trinity & the Law of Three; Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity. She observes that in our modern day Western world we tend to think & view things dualistically in “twos”, such as in opposites, not so much in “threes”.
Can you think of a few dualistic thinking examples?
“Good vs. evil”, “light / darkness, “two sides to every story”, “this, or that”, “yes or no”, “you are with us or against us”, “democrat or republican”, “liberal / conservative”, etc.
There is no middle ground in dualistic thinking, and there tends to be no movement, no flow forward. It’s just “this, or that”! And that is that!!
Thus, dualistic thinking can be very stagnating & very divisive, not only politically but also spiritually. It can lead to feeling stuck in a spiritual dead-zone. In fact, if you have been feeling spiritually “stuck” lately, you are not alone!
But just look what happens when we integrate a third perspective into the picture…
A third force (or idea, or entity, or person) can help eliminate being stuck in the gridlock of dualistic “either-or” thinking. It can lead to something totally new! Synthesis! Thus, three is a unifier of dualities! It is much more holistic (whole).
Viewed from the Law of Three, the Trinity in essence is about process. Flow. Growth. Awakening. Transformation.
Being that I have been a musician, I tend to think of threes as a triplet, like a circle in time. Musical triplets bring a circular flowing rhythm & groove to music. Like a galloping horse, it has a lot of wonderful energy & feels circular or cyclical, but at the same time feels like it moves us forward!
The Gospel story for today is a great example of the difference between thinking dualistically (in 2’s) and holistically (in 3’s).
Much like our mainstream modern western world, Nicodemus displays dualistic thinking, very literal & linear. He doesn’t understand Jesus’ teaching on how anyone can be “born again” when they are older. Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus on the other hand thinks much more in metaphors & more holistically..in three’s. Not at all black and white or “either / or”. He tells Nicodemus, “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit… You must be born from above. The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
What is Jesus talking about? He is talking about spiritual awakening!
So, if you have been feeling stuck spiritually, try thinking, praying & visualizing in different ways. I know, easier said than done. Let go & let the Spirit flow. The wind blows where it will. Don’t try to control it. Let it flow!
If your image of the Trinity is a triangle, try praying & meditating on it as a circle of light instead. You may be amazed where it takes you!
Let us pray…
Almighty and everlaTroitsasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen!
[NOTE: The above was a sermon given at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration,Mesa, AZ May 27, 2018 by the Rev. Laura Adelia]