June 11, 2017

Trinity Sunday Year A

The disciples met Jesus up on a Galilean mountain and it was a joyful reunion.  Then Jesus gave them marching orders to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit—some of the most familiar verses in the entire New Testament—what we’ve come to call The Great Commission. And Matthew includes three little words that make it all make sense, to me anyway: “But some doubted.”

Today is Trinity Sunday, the one Sunday of the entire church year when we talk about a doctrine of the church. God is three persons, but one God? And some doubted.

We believe in a three-in-one God, but the word “trinity” does not occur anywhere in scripture, and while there are texts that hint at some kind of Trinitarian doctrine, there’s nothing in all of scripture that defines this.

It was a guy named Tertullian, an early leader of the church, who actually invented the word “trinity” and the formula we’ve come to understand as our best bet for explaining: three persons, one substance.

But before we all agreed on a Christian doctrine of the Trinity, the church had to argue.  And argue and argue and argue, for over a hundred years, to even be able to articulate anything even resembling a unified doctrine?

After Tertullian made his big pronouncement about the Trinity, everybody got confused.  Nobody could decide what status to assign Jesus and the Holy Spirit . . . who came first and who was made out of what.

From 325 to 451 the church had four ecumenical councils where all the Bishops of the church got together to argue about the Trinity and other things, similar to what the Episcopal Church does every three years with our General Convention, but back then there was only one universal church. Our Nicene Creed came out of a couple of these councils

But we don’t have a nice way of explaining everything, something we can print up in a brochure and pass out for easy reference. In fact, we’ve spent all this time trying to define God using a metaphor—the Trinity—that helps a little but certainly doesn’t give us any easy answers.

So it’s a good thing we get a clue for how to live with the tension of trying to explain something that is, in essence, a mystery, in our Hebrew lesson today.  When we open the very first chapter of Genesis and read the story of creation, we find out that we are created in the image of God.

“God said, ‘Let us make (humans) in our image, after our likeness.

On Trinity Sunday it’s not our job to explain the essence of God, a mystery if ever there was one.  Instead, it’s our job to learn the essence of the one in whose image we are created, and then live with brave abandon into the essence of who we’re meant to be. And who we’re meant to be, according to the picture of God we can see, what we call “the Trinity,” is a people whose basic character is defined by relationship.

The very essence of the Trinity is that God is expressed to us in relationship with God’s self, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And has called us into that very same relationship.

God is a divine being, holy beyond our understanding. And, we also know God to be intimately human, who has walked a mile in our shoes, who knows the pain of being human, in the person of Jesus, who has felt the frustration of grief  and brokenness.

And, we also know God as breath and Spirit of life, blowing into our world and into our lives, offering us possibilities we could never have imagined and sparking new life and energy when the brokenness of our world begins to weigh us down.

And with all these expressions of God, we understand the truth that Augustine articulated: There is only one God.  Creator, redeemer, sustainer, a God who relates to our world in many different ways and at the same time is, in essence, the very embodiment of loving relationship.

Characteristics that seem in conflict instead exist in creative community, divine presence, three in one, offering us the challenge of taking all the beautiful parts of who we are as diverse and multi-faceted expressions of God’s creation, somehow recognizing the very essence of God imprinted on each one of us and living with courage into the kind of community God models for us.  That is, living out the image of God, in which each one of us, different as we are, was lovingly made.

Each one of us is created with the image of God indelibly imprinted on our  souls, so that, in some miraculous and inexplicable way, the diverse expressions of God that are you and me all come together to illustrate the mystery, to live together in community as we do our best to display for the world all the possibilities that the divine imprint on all of us could mean.

Just think: if we started to live into the mystery of the trinity, then it might just be possible for us to look at each other and see, not all the differences about how we look or speak or see the world, but rather an intricate relationship, a curious community, created in the image of God and living out the possibility for unity, even in our diversity.  And some doubted.

And so it is with the mysterious God we worship—diverse and unified all at once, illustrating for you and me the possibility of unity even in diversity, of different experiences fusing together to create a beautiful mosaic of God’s possibilities for the world.  It’s a curious community we’re called to embody, but the miracle of the church is that we are invited into the essence of the divine relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. We embody that relationship on earth. We are God’s representatives. That’s why we are called to be a peculiar people

“Let us make humans in our image.”

Today, on Trinity Sunday, we are invited to live boldly into the dream of the Trinity, the dream of everything we can be together, empowered by God’s Spirit as we follow Jesus into this divine relationship whose essence is love.