Three Men I Admire the Most — Father, Son and Holy Ghost

19 05 2008

Anytime I start to write about the Trinity, I generally wind up taking old notes and updating them from the texts instead of starting from scratch. I am reminded of the story where St Augustine comes across a boy on the beach putting water from the ocean into a hole. When Auggie tries to explain the futility of trying to pour the ocean into a hole, the boy, who is actually an angel in disguise, says “and neither can you, Augustine, hope to wrap your little mind around something as big as the Trinity”

In my own small attempt to talk about the Trinity, I figure I would follow Jesus’ example of talking about the Kingdom of God. He says a lot about what it’s like but never really says what it is, probably because in part that our minds are too puny to grasp such a concept and its meaning. But here goes …..

I really enjoy ensemble singing. There’s something special that really happens when a small group of people sing a song in three, four and sometimes 6 part harmony. Of course you have the melody or tune of the song which sticks with you long after the song ends. Then there is the bass line which grounds the whole piece and guides the singers through the different chord progressions. Finally, we have the upper and lower harmonies which serve to flesh out the piece. When I sang in a Southern Gospel quartet a few years ago, people would remark how distinct and different our voices sounded during our solos, but when we sang together, the music took on a life of its own. We experienced a sense of communion among the four of us, a connection. We were no longer four singers, but a quartet. Ensemble singing is one of the rare ways we can catch a glimpse of what the Trinity is like.

Trinity Sunday is a curious day in the church calendar as it is the one day where we celebrate a doctrine. Think about it. We don’t have “Atonement Sunday” or “Justification Sunday.” Even the most Calvinist among us, I am sure, do not have “The Sunday of the Elect.”

The doctrine of the Trinity is unique to Christianity when compared to the world’s faiths. In this doctrine, we seek to describe the nature of God himself. We have the God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. They are all God, one not being any more or less God than the other, yet they’re not three Gods, but one God. They are not even three different modes of God. Even more curiously, it is not mentioned in the Bible, but we hear echoes of it right from the beginning … our reading from Genesis says “The Spirit of God moved across the face of the waters … And God said, ‘Let Us make humankind in our own image.” By paraphrasing bits and pieces from Scripture, we can say that the fullness of God is known in three persons — Father, Son and Spirit.

The Father is the source of everything, and everything is created by the Son, who reveals and points to the Father. In turn, the Father through the Son gives the Spirit, who allows us to experience God in the present.

Or if we continue in the refrain of Genesis about how spoke Creation into existence, we could say that the Father is the thought, the Son is the words that are spoken and the Spirit is the breath which propels the words and carries the thought.

Other examples from Scripture hint at the relationships of Father, Son, and Spirit. From last year’s lesson in the book of Romans, we find that God bestows his perfect peace on those who are justified (made righteous) by faith. God’s peace becomes a reality for us through Christ, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit is the means we can experience and know peace. Jesus, in the farewell discourses of the Gospel of John, says that he prays that the Father will send the Holy Spirit to be with his disciples forever. This is not a message for only the disciples of that day, but it is Jesus’ prayer for those that come after them … for the entire Church. Jesus prays the Holy Spirit teaches and guides us closer to Truth and reminds us of what Jesus taught.

So what is the Good News in the doctrine of the Trinity? Who cares about high-falootin’ theology? What difference does it make to us? Well, I think it makes quite a bit of difference! By describing God as Trinity … One God in Three Persons … we can more clearly know the love of God and get a better glimpse into the story of Redemption. Our faith comes from God and has its source in the love of God. To borrow from good St Auggie again, the Father is the lover, the Son is the beloved, and the Spirit is the love itself that flows between the two.

So then, perhaps, one way to get a glimpse into the awesome wonder and majesty of what it means to know God as Trinity is not to focus on their natures or their roles, but to look at their relationships. After all, our faith is a relational one, not based on rules or philosophies, but on the reality of God giving himself to us and reconciling himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ. We are to love one another as God has loved us, giving of ourselves, our time, our talents, our resources to each other.

We can know through Scripture and through our Traditions that the persons of the Trinity love and glorify each other. The greatest commandments given by Jesus which summed up all the Law and the Prophets were grounded in love: Love God, Love your neighbor as yourself, and finally Love one another. I do not refer to a warm, fuzzy, sentimental kind of love, but the love that abides and enables and empowers us to work and rest in the desire for the good of another person. When we are living out the laws of love, we are getting a more concrete vision of the Trinity which is better than any dissertation or poetry. Trinity is God in community and communion with Himself. This idea, this gift of community and communion is meant to be reflected in our families, our churches, our schools and even at work. John Chrysostom writes:

The most perfect rule of Christianity, its exact definition, its highest summit, is this: to seek what is for the benefit of all … I cannot believe it is possible for man to be saved unless he labours for the salvation of his neighbor.

When we are living, singing, dancing or working as Trinity, as community and communion, we do not lose ourselves or our personhood in the giving and working for each other. We can be something greater than what each of us could do on our own. Just like the members of an ensemble, a quartet or a small choir, we’re different voices, different parts … but we’re all singing the same song.

Amen.

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6 responses

19 05 2008
RFSJ

RB,

Either I was channeling you or vice-versa!

Bob

20 05 2008
Doorman-Priest

I am still thinking about this. I love a sermon with challenge.

BTW: You can now fly Leeds to N.Y. (or the other way, obviously) on Jet2 from November. Check it out!

20 05 2008
Anthony

Anything which does not promote a hierarchy is all well and good with me!

27 05 2008
FranIAm

I have read this several times now and all I can say is – thank you.

2 08 2008
Todd

A beautiful reflection, thank you.

Why, Anthony, would anyone have a blanket objection to “a hierarchy.” To do so, is to rebel against the very creation God has made. That there is a hierarchy in nature is manifest. That the relationships between the different beings within that hierarchy are to be ruled by love is certainly less manifest, but is revealed in the loving communal nature of the Trinity.

12 05 2009
Philip Edwards

Hi,

What and If?
May 12, 2009 by Philip Edwards | Edit

Quickly:

Wondering why the Mother Creator is not mention in any religion. Then? The Roman Catholic and the Holy Trinity…Father, Son and the Holy Ghost…Holy Ghost…Holy Ghost, then becomes the Mother, Father and the Son…Good, Better, Best.

How many, and so long ago, have made this same conclusion…WOW?

And Amen?

Thanks,

Phil Edwards
(pmespeak.com)

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