my pottery wheel

“I Still Have Many Things to Say to You”
Rev. Karla Jean Miller
Trinity Sunday   May 22, 2016

About ten years ago, as I was migrating  my way from my ordination in the Presbyterian Church to the United Church of Christ, I found myself only partially employed.  I decided that I needed to either go back to school to be certified in something besides God, so that I could make a fuller living.  I considered getting my certification in elementary education, or finishing a masters degree in Marriage and Family Counseling.  Both of these were fine ideas, seemingly fitting for the set of gifts and skills I had professionally.  But then it came to me—the most happiest, the most ME I had felt outside of being a pastor was in a pottery studio.  Yes! I would get my certification in sculpture and ceramics, because you know, THAT was practical.  Somehow, I convinced Liz that this was a perfectly sane and lucrative idea, and I enrolled into the program.

I had thrown pots before.  But only for fun, and not for a grade.  And the program was to prepare me to become a production potter, that I might work in one of the many potteries in North Carolina, or start my own.  This meant that I needed to gain my chops fast, in the first semester.  We had to throw 30 cylinders, 40 mugs, 40 bowls, several sets of nexting bowls, 20 vases, a gagillion plates, and then finally by the end of the semester, make a couple of teapots, and other vessels.  It was intense and messy.

The key to throwing a stable, strong pot is to get the lump of clay centered on the wheel before you pull up the walls.  The act of centering requires not only skill, but artistry and intuitiveness.   It requires physical acuity, too, for the shape of your body—knees to elbows, elbows to hands, hands to fingers on the lump of clay—all of these angles need to form triangles.  If your body is centered in a triangle, the strength of that form will translate through your muscles and encounter with the clay that will center it.


The triangle, my friends, is the most stable, strong form geometrically.  Ask an engineer or a builder about the physics of that, but it’s true.  I know it from my experience as a potter that the only way that clay is going to get centered is if I get centered in my body and in the angles of my limbs.  It’s the way it works.  And eventually, those triangles with the clay help beautiful pots and bowls and vessels to come forth—out of a lump of mud.

It is no wonder, to me, then, that the early Christians tried to make sense out of the relationship of God to Godself  as a triangle, a balanced trinity. Jesus always referred to God, and the promise of the advocate, the Holy Spirit.  Traditionally, the church has referred to the Trinity as  God the Father/Mother, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  The way to understand this God-head is not so much of a doctrine (although there is a lot to read about that!) but as a way grasping at interdependent relationship of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  Neither is exclusive of the other, each is connected, and yet distinct.  It’s a strong and stable relationship, like that of a Triangle.   One in three, Three in One.

Like centering a lump of clay on a spinning wheel, it’s not always easy to describe with words, but you know it is working by feeling or sensing.  Throughout the ages, scholars have enjoyed flirting with the Trinity.

In the first millenium, John of Damascus was influential in developing the doctrine of the perichoresis nature of God.  The greek περί (peri, “around”) + χορεύω (khoreuō, “dance”), or “dance around”.   He he relationship between the three members of the Trinity was an eternal ‘holy dance’ of each member around the other two. (Wiktionary)

St. Bernard of Claivaux in the 12th century used the image of a kiss to describe the relationship of the Trinity:“If, as is properly understood, the Father is he who kisses, the Son he who is kissed, then it cannot be wrong to see in the kiss the Holy Spirit, for he is the imperturbable peace of the Father and the Son, their unshakable bond, their undivided love, their indivisible unity.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux, in Sermon 8, Sermons on the Song of Songs [11]Together, the Kisser and the Kissed  breathe forth the Holy Spirit.

The 13th century Roman mystic, Meister Eckhart talked about the indwelling relationship of God as this:  “When the Father laughs at the Son and the Son laughs back at the Father, that laughter gives pleasure, that pleasure gives joy, that joy gives love, and that is the Holy Spirit.”

The late 20th century student KJ Miller, in her divinity school studies where she learned about the perichoretic nature of God—that great dance had an epiphany one evening in an upper west harlem jazz club while sipping an adult beverage listening to live music.  As the pianist, double bassist and drummer played with each other, riffing on each other, taking turns in and out of the melody and enhancing the solos of the others, she realized, The Triune God is the BEST JAZZ TRIO ever!  United, distinct, fully engaged in relationship, working, playing, creating and  dancing together.

I have seen in other places where people make a list of images for the Triune God, outside of the traditional:

Father, Son, Holy Spirit

There is:

Mother, Maiden, Crone

Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer

Lover, Beloved, Love

God the Unknown, God the Known, God the Worker of Miracles

Heighth, Width, Depth…

I am curious about your ideas….

But in the end, what is the point of  thinking about something so ephemeral? Dr. Lucy Lind Hogan would argue that, “The Holy Trinity is about relationship and indwelling. It is about collaboration and the self-communication of God. The Trinity is about the mutuality of God within the God-head… And it is about our mutuality with each other, guiding, speaking, and declaring to one another the glory of God, Father/Creator, Jesus/Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is our way of life made possible by God.”

Which is another way saying that we are called into being in relationship with one another—and the world.   And I love the sentence in the John passage, where Jesus is saying all of his farewells and promises to the disciples and says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you can’t bear them, yet.  There is more to learn, there is more growth to be had, but when they are ready.  And when they are, the Holy Spirit will come and teach them.  How much more true is this for us??

As we seek to be in holy Trinity of relationship—with God, with each other, and the world, we don’t have all of the answers, but we need to be dependent on the Spirit of God, and dependent on each other, because we know that most often, the Spirit speaks to us through others around us. but, a community that is still discovering, still listening, still growing, still offering space for questions and idead and truth, especially as we continue to move and live in a world that is changing around us.

Thanks be to God, we have the strength and balance of a Triangle God, and thanks be to God, we have the strength of one another.

Let us pray…