Calvin the Destroyer

Here we are again—the Trinity! This week is Trinity Sunday. Just a few months ago during lent, we talked about the Mystery of the Trinity. The basic gist of the sermon was that the doctrine of the Trinity wasn’t the important part, and having an orthodox understanding of the Trinity isn’t the point. The point of the Trinity is that we cannot understand God without relationship. God is interrelated and sets the example for us of how to be in community.


What is perhaps slightly amusing about all of this is the fact that the Trinity may in fact be one of the doctrines of the church that has caused the most division within the body of Christ. For example, the Great schism between Western and Eastern Christianity that happened in 1054 had many of its roots in a disagreement about whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son or just from the Father. To us, that doesn’t sound like a particularly important distinction, but believe me when I say that wars were fought over this! The city of Constantinople was destroyed by Western Crusader armies over this!


Perhaps just as awful, our forbearer of the Presbyterian faith John Calvin was so strict on his Trinitarian Doctrine that he had Michael Servetus burned at the stake for having a non-Trinitarian understanding of God. As brutal as that sounds, there are some redeeming elements of Calvin’s…ahem…enthusiasm for the Trinity.


Calvin was very thoughtful about the Spirit, and frankly, he was quite creative and even contemplative—I know, not what we usually think of as Calvin. Perhaps most beautifully, is John Calvin’s Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Calvin actually thought we had 6 senses, the usual ones (Sight, hearing, tasting, feeling, smelling), plus one very special one THE SENSUS DIVINITATUS! (Doesn’t it sound like a spell from Harry Potter? Don’t worry, it won’t turn you into a Newt) Anyway, Calvin thought that one way the Spirit works through us is via this Sensus Divinitatus—our sense of the Divine. The idea is that we actually have a special ability to discern where God’s Spirit is at work in the world, especially when it comes to the reading of scripture. Calvin was adamant that the scripture isn’t actually the Word of God until the Spirit activated our Sensus Divinitatus and opened us up to what the Word of God had to say to us. That is part of the reason we always pray a prayer of Illumination before reading scripture—we are calling on the Holy Spirit to flip the switch on our Sesnsus Divinitatus. What’s more, since each of us unique snowflakes has that special sense, the Spirit might activate it in slightly different ways for each of us.


Thinking of the Spirit in this way, and thinking of Christ sending the Spirit to us in this way, has some profound implications for us. It is not only in the reading of scripture that the Spirit helps us to interpret the world, but in ALL things. Of course, like any other skill or ability, it takes times patience and practice to hone. Only through prayer do we sharpen this sense so that we are better able to see God at work in our midst.


This week, the passage for Trinity Sunday focuses on God and/or Christ (depending on whether you are an Eastern or Western Christian) sending the Holy Spirit, and the great meaning that we can find in the world by listening to the Spirit and connecting with God in Christ. In other words, we are talking about honing our Sensus Divinitatus’s (Sensei Divinitatae?). See you Sunday.




This week I wanted to reflect a bit upon…manure. Yeah, you read that right. Manure. Over the last two weeks, a number of your Covenant Kin have been hard at work reviving the community garden. As a consequence, I have been hauling bags of manure that are supposedly “Odorless.” Let me tell you, my car and my clothing over the last few weeks can attest to the fact that there is no such thing as odorless manure! However, all this is to get at the idea of soil.


I have never been a great gardener, so it has been very fun getting to learn from people who are great gardeners about how to make the soil in these beds bring life. When we first started digging in to the old soil that hadn’t been cared for in about 3 years, it was parched, covered in weeds, and fairly colorless. However, as manure was added, and the soil was tilled, suddenly, once dry and dead garden beds started becoming rich with color and the potential of life.


All of this reminded me of Pentecost last year, talking about the power of a single breath and Ezekiel and the Valley of the Dry Bones. It got me to thinking about how God took this lifeless valley and breathed new life into it. Even more so, it got me to thinking of the second creation story in Genesis. God takes the Adamah, the top soil, and breathes new life into it. It is by the Ruach Elohim, the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit, that we come to turn soil—manure and dust—into human life.


Last night at the Bible Study, we got hung up on a part of the scripture passage for this week. In John 14:14-15, Jesus says something along the lines of, “Whatever you ask for in my name, I will do it.” Of course, that got us to debating about prayer, and how come some prayers go unanswered—supposedly, it says here in John that Christ will answer any prayer made in his name. So what gives? I kind of wonder whether the answer isn’t…manure! Often times, those intercessory prayers we make seek to make things easier for us, to deny suffering, to alleviate pain and hurting. All of those things can be easily filed into the category of manure. If we pay close attention to that Genesis passage, I think we come to find that the recipe for life is dust (us), Manure—so that we get rich soil, and the Breath of God. I know it is not the answer most of us want to hear, but I kinda think that sometimes prayers go unanswered because we need that manure to actually bring about real life. Either that, or I just want to justify the way my clothes have been smelling after a week of hauling manure for the church garden. See you Sunday!