You will need:
- A strip cut from a bed sheet, approximately 8 to 10 inches wide and the whole length of the sheet. Make it into a loop, but put in three half twists, then sew the ends together using several independent attachment points so that if you the cut down the length of the loop the stitching wouldn’t come undone.
- Wax crayon
- Some chidren
How big is God?
Isaiah wondered how to express his experience of God – when he wrote about his vision of God he said that the hem of God’s robe filled the whole temple. When we look up at the roof of the church, and when we look down at the hem of our own clothes we can get just a glimpse of what Isaiah felt.
But God is bigger than that. God is bigger than we can possibly imagine.
Mathematicians have a word for anything that is impossibly big: infinity. They even have a symbol for it – it looks like an 8 on its side. We can make it with this big loop of fabric that I’ve brought.
Like a circle, you can trace it round and round with your finger – and it never stops, it has no ending. Even if we think of the biggest number we can, it’s always possible to add one to it to make it bigger – infinity is different because we can’t count to it, it’s just impossibly big.
God is infinite – bigger than any number could possibly be, and bigger and more awesome than we can ever really get our minds around, and we can’t ever get to describing God completely, because if we think we have, we’d find that it actually wasn’t God we were describing after all, but something less than God.
Now, there’s something that I haven’t told you about this loop of cloth. It’s actually not a normal loop of cloth, and to prove it, I’d like you to work out how many sides it has. We all know that a piece of cloth has two sides, but this one’s a big different. You can check by drawing a crayon line all the way along one side of the cloth.
Of course, what you find when you try it, is that when you’ve drawn the line and got back to where you started, you’re on the wrong side of the fabric! By the time you get back to the beginning of your line, you’ve actually drawn on both ‘sides’ of the fabric – because in fact, a mobius strip is a loop with a twist in it, so it only has one ‘side’! You can find out more about mobius strips generally on wikipedia, if you want to try them at home.
Some things are just hard to get your head round! People get very worried about how God can be both three and one, but we can see just from a cut up bed sheet (yes, that’s what this is made of!) that a piece of fabric can have both two sides and one side at the same time….
Now, this big loop is actually a really special kind of mobius strip. It has not just one twist in it, but three. And a mobius strip with three twists has some special things about it. I’m going to cut along the middle of the strip, all the way round the loop, and we’ll see what happens.
Do you think we’ll end up with two loops? Let’s see!
Actually, what you’ll see is that we end up with one loop, with a knot in it! But there’s more we can do with it. I’m going to try something, and while I do, I’d like the children to take the micophone round the congregation and ask people for their suggestions of how we can understand the Trinity – we’ll have all heard lots of them before in sermons!
Some of the suggestions might include:
- Shamrock leaf (clover leaf)
- Water, ice, steam
- Sun, light, heat
- Jaffa cake(!)
None of these is quite right – they all reduce God to something we can understand and get hold of – none of them really gets to the heart of the mystery of the Trinity – how could they?
And now I’ve finished arranging this new loop, we can see another one of these illustrations of the Trinity – a mobius strip with three half-twists actually cuts up into a perfect interwoven trefoil!
Yes, this does probably deserve a round of applause(!) but to be honest, it’s a clever trick and a quirk of maths. It doesn’t really tell us much more about the nature of God than a shamrock leaf or a jaffa cake.
We can use the same loop to make a tick to remind us that God is good:
Or we can use it to make a heart to remind us of God’s love:
But most of all, we can do this: we can actually get into this loop – there’s room for every child here inside the loop – there is always room within God for all of us, and this is the most important thing about God that we can ever know! We might even find that once we’re all inside the loop we actually find we suddenly want to hug each other – love can happen more easily when we’re in the heart of God.
In this simple bit of fabric we’ve found some things that are pretty mind bending, that might help us get why God is a bit mind-bending, but we’ve also found out some of the things that really do matter most about God, and about us and God.