Trinity 2010 – year C

There have been hundreds – maybe thousands of books

written trying to explain the Doctrine of the Trinity.

Three-in-One – Father-Son -Spirit –

that ancient formula that seems to bring both comfort and confusion to the church.

Comfort, because it is part of the “formula” we use in worship –

a pattern that links us with our past

and offers us a glimpse into the complex nature of that mystery of mysteries,

the character of God.

Confusion, because in our battle with language,

to make our ideas clear and accessible,

there have been generations of effort put into ‘re-naming’ the persons of the Trinity .

The most recent of these books is a bit of popular fiction called “The Shack”,

written in 2007 by Wm P Young

It is the story of a man who suffers an horrific loss,

and in his journey to come to terms with that loss,

he comes face to face to face with the Trinity.

I won’t spoil the ending for you – in case you might want to read it.

And although the author may have hoped he was being provocative

by portraying Father-Son-Spirit in an unorthodox manner,

I have to tell you that I found nothing unsettling about his image of God

as a gregarious, compassionate, African-American, Grandmother.

What did strike me as strange

was the lengths to which Young goes

to convince the books main character that this representation of God –

three persons who are really one being – is just as it ought to be.

Sometimes we try to hard to convince – and that is one of the places this book fails.

When making arguments to convince ourselves (or others) of the validity of our ideas

I’m beginning to think that less is more.

If we are overwhelmed by evidence, as the saying goes –

we are often left powerless to experience the truth of the matter.

An explanation of the Trinity – with countless Scriptural confirmations

and references to historical theologians

would leave most of us breathless and, quite frankly, uninterested.

What convinces us is experience, plainly stated.

Paul’s writing is often complex and convoluted –

and it is complicated by the fact that his style was so often imitated,

scholars cannot seem to agree on what exactly he wrote.

Occasionally, Paul (and his imitators) bring us the bare goods.

Therefore, 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.

This is one of those rare times

when the word “therefore” actually brings us to the end of a thought in Romans.

And without laying it on too thick, Paul (?) has declared himself a Trinitarian theologian.

One experience of God – justification by faith –

has shown him three elements of the Divine nature:

Christ, the portal of grace –

God the source of grace

the Spirit, the ‘catalyst’ of grace.

Paul does not try to tell us how this works, only that it works.

Simple is good, because God remains infinitely complex.

We each have our own, unique experiences of the bounty and beauty of God

we have been blessed, consoled and challenged

by God’s power, Christ’s purity, the Spirit’s purpose –

yet there remain thousands of ways to describe these three characters.

Does that make nonsense of the Trinity,

or does it merely remind us that neither our experiences,

our languages, nor even our imaginations,

are big enough to contain the whole of what God is…

The whole of God’s nature –

God’s goodness, mercy and truth

stretch beyond our descriptive capacity.

We choose to use broad strokes – to identify recurring themes:

the compassion of God, our parent,

the companionship of Christ, our brother,

the creativity of the Spirit, our inspiration –

knowing none of these things are adequate,

but certain that together they might help us

accept the mystery

that is ours to worship – ours to praise – ours to share.

Amen

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