Thursday, May 19, 2016

Reflections on Trinity Sunday, Year C


A two-dimensional representation of the Trinity, whose reality exceeds all that we can possibly imagine.
Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5
by Andres Hernandez, 1886
 Trinity Sunday is a tough one, as Christians everywhere celebrate a doctrine that defines us while at the same time it serves to confound us. You see, we embrace heartily the understanding that when we worship, we worship one God. There is no other, and there is also not a pantheon of gods to embrace. One God, who creates, redeems and sustains all things for all time...before, during and after the existence of this universe in all its wonder. That is, as marketing people might opine, something we can all get behind. Well and good.

Now however, it begins to get a little more complex. You see, God is One; but then we experience God in (surprise) what turns out to be three persons. The God of the Hebrew scriptures is one God, and supreme above the other gods of the nations to the point that the others are all "idols," or things fashioned by people to whom they bow down to worship. God is one, God is true and not false. God IS.

...and then comes Jesus. Several times in prophecy, God promises a deliverer, and even that this deliverer will be called "son of God." Jesus arrives in his time, and people experience him as he proclaims the time of God's favor as Messiah, the Christ. Peter the Apostle is one of the first to confess it, that Jesus is more than anointed: He is the Son of God, the One coming into the world.

Hallelujah.

But then, Jesus speaks of God on high as being his Father...more specifically, his "Abba," an intimate term implying a profound and primary relationship between parent and child. Primary, yes...in that Jesus himself speaks about how he and the Father are one. Not two, but one...and that by extension through his relationship with those who follow him, we are also being drawn into that union (but more on that in a bit.)

Ok...So now we hear God's own testimony that the Father and Son, while distinct in persona are one in being. How does the Holy Spirit play a role in the being of God? That person is the one coming, whom Jesus as he ascends into heaven promises to us as advocate, and guide. Jesus goes to the Father in order that the Father and he might send the Spirit. The last big challenge (well, one of them) in our exploration...God cannot partition God's self, and so God is one being in three persons. God is Father. God is Son. God is Holy Spirit. But God is One.

I know this is tough, and that you might be feeling like your brain looks like the Hernandez rendering of the Trinity above. It is a brain-tangling, mind-splitting thing to ponder. And it should be.

You see, while creation, freedom and finitude are ours, the perspective to stand and perceive God as God is really does exceed what our minds can fathom. Like a person being shown a cube who can only see in two dimensions sees a square, we are asking our minds to wrap up around that IS while not necessarily being FOR our finite, three dimensionally bound minds.

I console myself with the surety that while me holding onto to a full comprehension of God is a bit excessive as an expectation, I can feel blessed that by God's grace I have the opportunity to experience God as present, real and involved in my daily walk. I may not understand how God can be Father, Son and Holy Spirit all at once and yet distinct, but I can rejoice and give thanks as I experience God in three persons all around me in my life, active and involved.

We don't make a case for the Trinity because that is how we think God is. We struggle to come to terms with the Trinity because that is how God reveals God's being to us, in scripture, experience and through history.

Time for some Advil...and some more pondering.....

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