Harrowing Of Hell
June 2, 2024

Collusion with God

The Rev. Doyt L. Conn, Jr.

To watch the sermon click here.

Last week we celebrated the feast of the Holy Trinity. I introduced us to the concept of holons (H-O-L-O-N-S): these are things that are both a whole and a part simultaneously. God is the primary, if not the perfect, example of this.

The word Trinity literally means three parts in one; God as whole, and God as parts. We know them as Father and Son and Holy Spirit acting in perfect concert with the will and desire of the whole.

We are holons as well; full and complete, in and of ourselves, in our body; but also, part of other things like family, church, workplace, institution, nations…But unlike God, as parts we are not always perfectly aligned with the wholes we are part of; like the guy I preached about last Sunday who threw the plastic bottle in the ditch. We habitually see the world from our particular perspective, rarely taking the time to imagine that what we are doing actually impacts a greater whole.

We fail to see that we are part of the quaternity. You heard me… the quaternity. That is like the Trinity, plus one. Quatra = four, and nity = unity. Quaternity is the perfect unity of four, which is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit + one.

Let me explain the quaternity by sticking with our theme of things found in ditches that I started last week. Today that’s going to be Schmidt beer cans.

But before I get there, I want to share with you where this idea of quaternity comes from. Quaternity is a mystical concept that gained some renown through the writings of Meister Eckhart, an early 13th-century German Dominican theologian, priest, and mystic. Eckhart emphasized the idea of the “fourfold” or “quaternity” as the definition of the ideal relationship that exists between the Trinity and a human soul.

Now this quaternity exists whether we own it or not. Because we are souls, we exist actively in the life of God. But existing in the life of God and participating intentionally in the life of God are not the same thing. We are all in the life of God by virtue of being alive. The question is: are we participating with intentionality, or accidentally? Are we seeking alignment between the part we play and the whole that is God or are we living as if our perspective is the primary perspective?

Fortunately, God’s involved either way. Think of it like this: the Trinity is like the corporate executives at Schmidt beer. Is that helpful? Or do you need me to explain?

Back in Rochester, MN in the mid-1970s I was part of an elite cadre of collectors who wandered the ditches of Mayowood Road between the Minnesota Bible College and Bamber Valley Elementary School in search of beer cans, particularly Schmidt beer cans. You may remember Schmidt beer: “The brew that grew the great northwest.” You can almost taste it.

Anyway, what made the Schmidt beer cans of particular interest to aficionados like me were the wonderful scenes of life in the great Midwest etched on their exterior. There were muskies, mallards, pheasants, honkers, and deer. There were horses drawn plows, and dogs herding sheep, and even families out for a Saturday afternoon snowmobile ride.

This was real art, especially to a 4th grader who had empty cans of Schmidt beer stacked in his bedroom (after rinsing them out,Mom’s orders). It was a sign of social status. Only in retrospect does it occur to me how many people were drinking Schmidt beer as they were driving down Mayowood Road. Probably not such a great place for 4th graders to be.

Nonetheless, I was a holon at work, part of a whole, unintentionally guided by the invisible hand of the Schmidt beer titans from their corner offices in Philadelphia. The art they put on these beer cans made a market for collectors seeking their own status, and who also, along the way, became a part of the beautification effort along the roads of southeastern Minnesota.

God works a little bit like that. We are part of the quaternity, whether we recognize it or not. But when we do recognize this status as co-creators with God, good stuff can happen.

(8:45AM only)

We see it today in the decision made by Vivi, Madeleine, Miles, Matias, Clara, Gracie and Fisher. They are taking ownership of the part that they play in this church. And they’re taking ownership of the part they play as co-creators in God’s creation. They’re saying yes to their own spiritual journeys, and committing to walk with you all as partners in this Christian lifestyle. They’re doing so by understanding the deep transformative reality that is at work in this worship service, and particularly around the sacred meal of the Holy Eucharist, the meal that feeds our souls. And so today we acknowledge them as new leaders and spiritual friends that share with us in the joy  of shining God’s blessing upon all the world. 

(11:00 only)

I’ll give you an example – Kate Wesch. I hope you read the announcement that she is going to be joining us as Parochial Vicar at Epiphany beginning August 1st. Her husband Joel has returned to his career with the Seattle Fire Department, and her kids are well lined up academically and athletically to return to Seattle. So, Kate is moving out here, and we are the blessed recipients of her leadership and talent… once again.

So, the Holy Spirit was working to situate Joel, and their two sons, in Seattle and Kate had a plan as well, that then shifted. God had something different in mind, and as things shifted, Kate perceived this (and I perceived this) that there was a different calling. And so together we jumped into action to collude with God, me in my quaternity, Kate in her quaternity patched together as a quilt of collusion with the Holy Trinity, to ensure that she landed right here at Epiphany.


We find a good example today in the Gospel of Mark of how this collusion works where Jesus embodies perfect part alignment the whole that is God. It is important to note, that I introduce concepts like holons and quaternity, because they give us reinforcing insight to the reality that God is the ultimate and final whole, and that every single part fits with God-a quilt of God’s wonderful, entangled creation. And because every single part has a place with God, then everyone is included… which is the message made by Jesus in the temple today.

It is the Sabbath and Jesus encounters a man with a withered hand. The culture at the time of Jesus within the Jewish community was that a person who had a physical deformity was to be set outside the regular routine of cultural privilege and pattern, because they believed that deformity was an outward sign of God’s disapproval.

But since all parts are part of the whole, made for quaternity, designed to fit beautifully and perfectly with God…then it is predictable that Jesus would include the man with the withered hand in the life of the synagogue; not as a way of correcting a divine error, but as rebellion against a bad human idea.

Inclusion can be risky, however, when it challenges bad human ideas which is why Jesus ended up on the cross. And yet, as he took that walk to Golgotha his words were: “Not my will be done, but thy will be done.” Those are the words of the quaternity. “Not my will, but thy will.” Those are the words where the part recognizes the whole. “Not my will, but thy will.”  That is the mantra for life lived in recognition of being one soul + the Trinity. That is my life.  That is your life.

“Not my will, but thy will,” are words that give us pause to wonder what God is doing, and what part we play for the benefit of the whole. Like Jesus in the Temple. Like a beer can aficionado. Like Vivi, Madeleine, Miles, Matias, Clara, Gracie and Fisher. Like Kate Wesch.

And I’ll leave you with this: We are souls made to link to the Trinity, holons, a part of the whole; one + Father+ Son+ Holy Spirit to be as quaternity entangled joyfully in God’s most interesting destiny.