Scripture Passage: John [15:26-16:1-11] 12-15
12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
So, now that we’ve been showered with wind and fire, the next thing is to affirm the Trinity, the three in one. We do it every year. And we talk about it A LOT. Our Trinitarian faith depicts not only our understanding of God but also our understanding of ourselves. So, everyone, raise your hand if you’d like to explain what it means…anyone?….anyone out there? Yeah, that’s the problem. What does it MEAN?
I think we all do the Trinity a disservice. We make the mistake of sort of picking which higher power team with whom we choose to associate. And God/Father/Creator becomes a sort of deist, kicking the world off but somehow removed after that. And Jesus/Son/Redeemer gets pulled down to our own personal version of who God should be, a Savior not of the world but just of us (just of me, like Shelli’s version of Jesus is all I need), of OUR sins and OUR redemption. And then that Holy Spirit/Sustainer character is designated as beyond us, something to which we should possibly aspire (in an acceptable and moderate way, of course) but something that is not us. None of this is right. The image of the Trinity cannot be separated or pitted against one another because it’s all the same.
For several years, I co-lead an Interfaith Scripture Study with a Rabbi from the Temple down the street. With both Jewish and Christian participants, we would study various Scriptures and share in both our diverse and common understandings of them. As time permits, we would often end the study sessions with either an “Ask the Christians” question or an “Ask the Jews” question. (It was our own version of a sometimes very dangerous Jeopardy session) One day during the “Ask the Christians” episode, I got the always-dreaded question: “Explain the Trinity to us and tell us how it is not polytheistic, how it is not a depiction of three Gods.” Truthfully, I remember my feeling of sheer panic. To me, trying to “define” the Trinity was almost anathema because it would sound limiting and shallow and perhaps even fall into the “my God is bigger than your God” misunderstanding. But not bothering to attempt to explain its meaning is not giving it enough credit either. So I took a deep breath and dove in:
“Well, in the beginning was God. God created everything that was and everything that is and laid out a vision for what it would become. But we didn’t really get it. So God tried and tried again to explain it. God sent us Abraham and Moses and Judges and Kings and Prophets. But we still didn’t get it. God wove a vision of what Creation was meant to be and what we were meant to be as God’s children through poetry and songs and beautiful writings of wisdom. But we still didn’t get it.
“So,” God thought, “there is only one thing left to do. I’ll show you. I’ll show you the way to who I am and who I desire you to be. I will walk with you.” So God came, Emmanuel, God-with-us, and was born just like we were with controversy and labor pains and all those very human conceptions of what life is. Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, was the Incarnation of a universal truth, a universal path, the embodiment of the way to God and the vision that God holds for all of Creation. But we still didn’t get it. We fought and we argued and we held on to our own human-contrived understandings of who God is. And it didn’t make sense to us. This image of God did not fit into our carefully-constructed boxes that we had so painstakingly laid out. And so, as we humans have done so many times before and so many times since, we destroyed that which got in the way of our understanding and made our lives difficult to maintain. There…it was finished…we could go back to the way it was before.
But God loves us too much to allow us to lose our way. And so God promised to be with us forever. Because now you have seen me; now you know what it is I intended; now you know the way. And so I will always be with you, always inside of you, always surrounding you, always ahead of you, and always behind you. There will always be a part of me in you. Come, follow me..this way.
As you celebrate the Trinity this Sunday, remember that there is a piece of God just for you and there is always more of God beyond anything that you can even imagine. The image of the Trinity, both separate and one, in concert and in harmony, depicts both, pulling it in to our understanding and then taking our understanding beyond.
God creates us, Jesus leads us, and the Spirit shows us ways that are not always in the book. (Joan Chittister, from “In Search of Belief”)
Grace and Peace,