Dear St. Luke’s Community,

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday. As I mentioned last weekend, it has been said that it is likely impossible to talk for more than a few minutes about the Trinity without uttering some sort of heresy. I suspect that’s true. It is most certainly true if we adhere to the following definition of heresy from the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy:

heresy–a belief or teaching considered unacceptable by a religious group.

If we apply this definition it is little wonder that Christians down through the ages have cried ‘heresy’ to those who have the temerity to announce the just possibly God is doing a new thing. Before we get to wrapped up in the heresies (and heretics) of the Christian Church after establishment under the Emperor Constantine in the 4th Century, it may be worthwhile to examine the Scriptural record (both Hebrew and Christian Testaments) and see that ‘heresy’ (as defined above) is a common trait among many whom have become for us examples of faithful living.

Nearly all of the prophets, beginning with Moses, got into trouble (at least in part) for challenging the religious establishment’s understanding of who God is and what God does, who God likes and how those who don’t behave are going to upset things. There are many others, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, Obadiah, Nathan, David, Jonathan, and of course Jesus. Each of them, in one way or another, were the heretics of their day.

In Christian history the Common of Saints is littered with those who, in their day, were accused of heresy only to be vindicated as the conversation about the nature of God pushed beyond its present limits to widen the understanding of God’s nature, character and attitude to the entire Creation that is God’s Magnum Opus. Whether proved (?) forever beyond the reach of orthodoxy (that is right belief) or not, each of those who utter heresy (in the best scenario) help bring clarity to the discernment of the Body of Christ about what the authentic nature of God is as we can understand and experience it at any given time. The ancient heresies of the Church weren’t useless. They, each in their own way, help to bring to clarity the expression of God’s nature by the faithful. Vindication, for some, was/is a long time in coming.

There is no little bit of anxiety about being ‘right’ about God’s nature even in our day. In many ways, nothing much ever changes. While the conversations are important, they primary importance has to do with our faithful living and is not a threat to the authentic nature of God. The reality is that God is as God is whether or not our descriptions, understandings or pronouncements are accurate. The moving toward God is always a process, never a completed action.

So I suspect it is not only preachers who stray into heretical waters when daring to talk about the Living God, it is all of us who dare to wonder about God’s nature. To be called a heretic (at least potentially) is a small price to pay for coming to any kind of depth of experience and understanding about the Divine Nature that gives life and breath to everything in heaven and on earth. I hope you’ll join me in daring to be wrong in daring to approach God. To my way of thinking it’s not only worth it, but one of the risks that faith requires.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we want to be reckless and challenges the accepted and time-tested understandings and experiences of God’s nature. For example, I’m not suggesting that we challenge the reality of God’s nature as a loving and nurturing Creator, I’m simply saying that for us to push on the accepted boundaries of God’s goodness and what it means for the life of the world is part of the theological project. I’m not interested in doing reckless and bad theology, but I’m not interested in ‘safe’ theology either. To push to the edge of understanding is the pioneering spirit that has led God’s people into the presence of the Divine throughout the ages. I, for one, am not sure we should harden the edges. In fact, someone told me recently, that most of really good spiritual growth entails softening our edges while strengthening our center.

If our center remains on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I suspect that we’ll survive our theological wanderings and the Good Shepherd will stop at nothing to bring us back to our heart’s true home.

Peace and Good,

The Rev. Warren Earl Hicks, Rector
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
921 Pleasant St.
Worcester, MA 01602
508-756-1990 (Office)
508-756-8277 (Fax)

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