January 27, 2021

Pic & Poem of the Week: May 22, 2016

Pic & Poem of the Week
May 22, 2016 (Holy Trinity)

For your pleasure and contemplation, I will begin posting an original photograph and a corresponding poem each week on Sundays. May these offerings help lead you to a deeper place of rest on the Lord’s Day.

Click on the picture for a larger image.

• • •

Three Church Doors

Three Church Doors

Trinity Sunday
by Malcolm Guite

In the Beginning, not in time or space,
But in the quick before both space and time,
In Life, in Love, in co-inherent Grace,
In three in one and one in three, in rhyme,
In music, in the whole creation story,
In His own image, His imagination,
The Triune Poet makes us for His glory,
And makes us each the other’s inspiration.
He calls us out of darkness, chaos, chance,
To improvise a music of our own,
To sing the chord that calls us to the dance,
Three notes resounding from a single tone,
To sing the End in whom we all begin;
Our God beyond, beside us and within.

From Sounding the Seasons: Seventy sonnets for Christian year


  1. Christiane says

    Trinity Sunday is a good celebration of the Church’s victory over many strange heresies that tried to creep into the early Church concerning ‘who Christ was’ and ‘the nature of the Holy Trinity’. The Athanasian Creed outlines the Church’s Trinitarian doctrines among Catholics, the Orthodox, and many mainline Protestant Churches. The Athanasian teachings on the Holy Trinity likely won’t be received among fundamentalist Churches who preach the ‘Eternal Subordination of the Son’, a doctrine which they developed to shore up the ‘submission’ of women in patriarchy . . . a teaching that has a documented downside of abuse which has been exposed over at Wartburg Watch, where patriarchy is only a part of the problem with neo-Cal Churches that have ‘contracts’ members must sign, a strict ‘discipline’ program, and rather harsh treatment of any and all who dissent from the ‘authority’ of the leaders.

    Malcolm Guite is my favorite modern Anglican poet. He’s actually a priest/poet. I am a fan of his beautiful writings on the Sarum Antiphons of Advent season. He looks a bit like one of the Hobbits, but that just makes him even more engaging.

    I just posted a poem of Malcolm Guite over at Wartburg Watch where the Deebs work so hard to expose the abuses of shepherds who have lost their way. Malcolm’s poem conveys the hope found in Christ for the renewal of the many shepherds who have gone astray:

    “When so much shepherding has gone so wrong,
    So many pastors hopelessly astray,
    The weak so often preyed on by the strong,
    So many bruised and broken on the way,
    The very name of shepherd seems besmeared,
    The fold and flock themselves are torn in half,
    The lambs we left to face all we have feared
    Are caught between the wasters and the wolf.

    Good Shepherd now Your flock has need of You,
    One finds the fold and ninety-nine are lost
    Out in the darkness and the icy dew,
    And no one knows how long this night will last.
    Restore us; call us back to You by name,
    And by Your life laid down, redeem our shame.”
    (Malcolm Guite)

  2. Ronald Avra says

    Malcolm does appear to have a real talent for poetry.

  3. “In the Beginning, not in time or space…” Hold it right there. Not only do I guess our view of timelessness is severely askance due to a paucity of experience but so also is our view of spacelessness. Without time there is no space. No one will ever crowd our space in eternity because we will own no space. There will not be gaps. We will not ask for room. “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…” I think that will come as a surprise when we get over there, in there, out of here. At the very least, space will have a different texture as everything will be here; now. Love, unifying being, will fill all in all. All dressed up and no place to go as every place is here. Then again, maybe we will be traveling all over the place. How the heck could I know? I suppose that if movement of some sort exists it would happen without any fond farewells as there would be no separation of spirit. Who knows? Anyway, let the symphony begin. Come Lord Jesus. Just musing.

  4. Steve Newell says

    On Trinity Sunday, we recited the Athanasian Creed. I was thinking about how complex this, of all the creeds, is and what it is teaching us about the nature of the Holy Trinity. Then I thought about how many churches have taken a minimalist approach to their stated doctrine. Sigh!

    • Robert F says

      The Athanasian Creed so abstract, and its anathema at the end requires a doctrinal avowal of clause after clause of impenetrable theological propositions that even the most erudite theologian could not possibly understand — I doubt the authors of the Creed understood them, or that they even can be understood. The doctrine of the Trinity is meaningful to me, and it is meaningful in the Church’s centuries long confession of faith; but to tie salvation to holding an absolutely correct understanding of this doctrine, as the Creed does, is to impose an onerous and unmanageable burden on Christians. God knows how many sleepless night have been endured down through the centuries by conscientious Christians trying to make sure they had an adequate grasp of the Creeds requirement. I’m glad the Creed is falling into disuse; what a relief.

      • Robert F says

        The Athanasian Creed has been dropped from the most recent worship book of the ELCA: ELW: Evangelical Lutheran Worship, and though retained in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer 1979, is never used by many Episcopal congregations. The desire on the part of these churches and others is not to excise the doctrine of the Trinity because of a fundamentalist deficiency of catholiticy in their respective denominations, but a rejection of cursing those who do not or cannot understand the doctrine as set forth in the Creed.

    • Robert F says

      But the doctrine as a poetic attempt to express the identity of God as a community of love, both inwardly and outwardly directed, that I embrace fully. Just don’t attach it to threats about losing eternal salvation as a result of not holding to a list of supposedly absolutely correct beliefs; that’s the work of the devil, if I may put it in strong language.

  5. Robert F says

    Divine and human
    mystery — rainy city
    street, busy sidewalk.

    • Christiane says

      Hi ROBERT,

      for them what finds the doctrinal study of the great mysteries of the faith (such as the Trinity) too complex, there are people out there who would rather seek God’s Presence in the simple things OR, in this case, the magnificence of creation itself. Enjoy:

      ““I didn’t need to understand the hypostatic unity of the Trinity; I just needed to turn my life over to whoever came up with redwood trees.” (Annie Lamott)

  6. Robert F says

    Beautiful poem, and beautiful original photo.

  7. “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. . . . He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think . . . . Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully . . . . This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.”

    If I thought this was indeed true, the depth of despair it would plunge me into is just unthinkable. If you don’t know what it is talking about when it tells you there are certain intellectual propositions in the so called catholic faith you must believe to avoid being tormented eternally in hell, look up the Athanasian Creed and read it for yourself. If you still don’t really understand it, that makes two of us and possibly more. If I was being tortured to make me recite this abomination, I would hope I could hold out, and if not I would offer Jesus my abject apology.

    And five hundred years ago I likely would have been tortured over this. I would say “thank Martin” this is not so today, but this creed is part and parcel of the Lutheran faith as well as the Anglican. You have to head east to find it questioned and repudiated. If I was asked to point to an example of how religious authority uses fear and intimidation and exploitation of ignorance to control and enslave people, this would be a prime document. That it most likely was not composed by Athanasius is irrelevant.

    I would be happy to just let sleeping dogs lie and not offend you folks who hold this intellectual belief and are comfortable with it. It’s really no skin off my nose. But I think about a new student of the Bible and Christianity, especially young people, running across this for the first time and being totally defenseless because everyone else seems to agree with it and no one dissents. This creed is about as far as you can get from what Jesus taught, and if it is the high point of what the church has taught in two thousand years, that is something to think about hard and at length. I dissent from all it represents, and I wouldn’t even stand out of respect for the congregation if I forgetfully attended a liturgical church where it was recited on Trinity Sunday.

    • Robert F says

      I understand that you don’t accept the doctrine of the Trinity, Charles, and I have no intention of trying to argue you into it. But let it be understood: The threats made in the Athanasian Creed are no necessary part of the doctrine of the Trinity. I can reject the Creed and its threat, but still hold to the doctrine, and that’s what I do. Remember that, as repudiated as the Creed may be in the East, the doctrine of the Trinity is held in the highest esteem there.

      • >>I understand that you don’t accept the doctrine of the Trinity . . .

        No, Robert, if you think that I do not relate to God Most High as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you do NOT understand. It is obvious all thruout the Gospels and Acts that God appears as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that these were taught by Jesus as expanded concepts of previous vague hints and glimpses. I can testify that indeed they work as aspects of relating to God. That is a far cry from teaching the concept of God as Trinity in Greek philosophical terms that are only understandable in abstract intellectual ideas that have no common agreement if you push people to say what they really think. The one place where Jesus is quoted as mouthing a Trinitarian formula in the so called Great Commission of Matthew 28, which sets my BS detector ringing off the wall. Many respectable academics regard this as a later interpolation by the church, not just Bart Erhman.

        The more I read of church history, the more I abhor the underhanded and often violent means that were used to railroad the Nicene Creed into law. That was then, this is now. And now I am astounded at the number of people, many of whom I greatly respect, who are still pushing the concept of Trinity as delineated in the Nicene Creed as absolute and necessary truth. This gives me great pause. I regard Augustine as having done more damage to the church than any other single individual and mostly pay him no nevermind, but when Richard Rohr speaks of the dance of the Trinity as necessary to understanding how God works, this carries a lot of weight with me. But my BS detector is still going off. We aren’t going to be tested on this when we leave our bodies behind, like confirmands reciting the memorized shorter catechism, trust me.

        It is not the concepts of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that I object to, it is the requirement that this belief as specified in the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds be adhered to as a loyalty oath and password to gain entrance to church communion and heaven. I don’t understand what all those words mean and I don’t think anyone else does either. They are the supreme example of what Christian Smith speaks of as Christian concepts that everyone uses as if they were commonly understood but no one can explain what they mean in commonly agreed terms, other than mouthing religious platitudes.

        I am in full agreement with the Buddhists here, and I hope you will back me up in this. Many people regard the Buddhists as atheists because they do not give God a place in their beliefs and teachings. In actuality what the Buddha taught was that Deity was simply not explainable or describable in words, being beyond our limited time and space perceptions, and so there was no point in speaking of Deity. That did not mean that Deity was not the underpinning of all that is, seen and unseen. I would regard the Athanasian Creed as the most flagrant example of disregarding this wisdom as we have come up with yet. It is a vile piece of work.

        • Robert F says

          I now understand what you’re saying, Charles. Thanks for the clarification. I personally hold out for the position that in Christian faith God is revealed to be threefold not only in the modes God reveals Godself to us, but also in God’s inner relations; but I agree with you that this understanding should not be positioned as a loyalty test of belonging for being considered Christian.

          Buddhist/Buddha has nothing to say for or against the existence of God, or gods; only that belief in God, or gods, does not lead to nirvana, or liberation from attachment, but rather to further attachment, and the suffering caused by attachment.

          • >> . . . revealed to be threefold not only in the modes God reveals Godself to us . . .

            Ah yes, the heresy of modalism, which has always struck me as entirely reasonable and a good description of what is. Maybe they will put us both in the same cell. I not only agree that God can be perceived as interacting with us in a three-fold manner, I believe there is also a seven-fold way of seeing, and if you consider it valid that the Presence of God has incarnated in humanity at large, a seven billion-fold way.

            As to the idea that God is dancing with himself, mebbe so, mebbe not, I have no personal knowledge and don’t see how it affects my life and growth one way or another. Possibly some day I will join the considerable group of advanced students holding to that funny idea with the funny Greek name I can never remember. Am I going to have to learn Koine Greek to ask God about it some day? Perhaps Mule will be around to act as interpreter.

  8. Rick Ro. says

    Love the pic and poem concept, CM. Looking forward to seeing what you bring us!

  9. Clay Clarkson says

    Hi Malcolm! It’s great to see you here on IM. Good fit! Love the image. Hope to see you later this summer.

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