The new rector of the large Episcopal congregation climbed the steps into the pulpit and began his sermon, “Earlier this week I had lunch with your previous rector. During the lunch he asked me who was preaching today on Trinity Sunday. I told him that I was preaching. He responded, ‘You wimp!’ The reason he said this was because usually rectors make their associates or assistants preach on Trinity Sunday!”
This Sunday is the First Sunday after Pentecost, AKA: Trinity Sunday. Theologians, and indeed most preachers, seem to often end up making the concept of the Holy Trinity difficult to understand or communicate. They use words like, “Triune God,” and “Modalism,” and a number of other terms that probably don’t come up in conversation all that often, if ever.
The way I see it there are two really important factors that go into an understanding of what the Trinity is all about. The first is that the Trinity is about relationship and conversation. The three members of the Trinity (God the Creator, Jesus the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier) are in constant relationship with one another and in conversation with one another. The goal of all three members of the Trinity is to be in relationship with the creation, in love. And, indeed if you look at your relationship with God I bet that at some moments you feel a closer relationship to the Creator-nature of God, or the Redeemer-nature of God, or the Sanctifier-nature of God. We wonder in awe at pictures of the universe or feel the overwhelming joy when a son or daughter is born and our eyes lock onto theirs for the very first time. During the Sunday service where we confess our sins and are absolved many have said they feel a sense of forgiveness that can be described like an exhale of a deeply held breath. Or perhaps we feel the nature of the Sanctifier when we feel so blessed by God for those who love us deeply and truly, and for those we love in return.
Other religions consider personal enlightenment as the desired end result or highest possible aspiration where quiet meditation and concentrated clarity of thought are the ultimate achievement. And while there is value to this perhaps, the pathway and the end destination to that place of enlightenment are both often a rather solitary activity and result. Christians on the other hand cannot be Christians in solitude. We are a religion of community and of conversation. The members of the Holy Trinity are not solitary, trapped in isolation. But rather, they are always in motion and in conversation with one another much as three best friends who have known one another for decades behave when they are together. Sometimes they talk all together at once, other times one or the other is the dominant voice in the conversation while the other two are actively listening, present.
The second of the two factors that goes into understanding the Trinity is that the difficulty we may have in understanding the ins and outs, the relationship and activity of the three members of the Trinity is a very good thing. Why is it that we view our lack of comprehension of the Trinity as a bad thing? Why do we assume that we will, in our earthly human form, with our limited capacity to understand God, EVER truly fathom what God is all about? I like the idea that there are parts of God that are just plain old, mysterious, and difficult for me to get my mind around. God is mysterious and that is what keeps us contemplating, trying to be in relationship with, marveling at, and even getting frustrated by the unknowableness of God. How much would we worship a God we fully knew? How quickly would humanity reject a God that we felt we had all figured out and move on to something else? I love that God reveals God’s self to us in bits and pieces and that we continue to think and wonder about God.
And guess what? God wonders about us too.
This wondering and contemplation we have about God–with our prayers and our worship, and our thanksgivings and moments of sheer awe at the work of each of the three persons of God–we show God that we are in relationship with God. That is all God wants, to be in relationship with all of creation…creating, redeeming and sanctifying us all in love.