Trinity Sunday – June 12, 2022
So, today is Trinity Sunday, when we celebrate the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the three and one. Trinity Sunday asks us to embrace an idea, a theological abstraction, a doctrine. The Trinity is Christianity’s most unique, defining, incomprehensible and awesome mystery. It is the revelation of who our Creator God is – an infinite Being existing in eternity as three co-equal, infinite Persons, consubstantial yet distinct. Clear as mud, right?
Franciscan priest and theologian Richard Rohr argues that caring about the Trinity requires orienting ourselves in a new way: “Don’t start with the One and try to make it into Three,” he writes in his book, The Divine Dance. “Start with the Three and see that this is the deepest nature of the One.”
Start with the Three and see that this is the deepest nature of the One. What might it look like to follow Rohr’s advice? Rev. Debi Thomas has some thoughts on that.
God would be seen as dynamic. If God is triune, he does not exist in some dormant state. Rather, God’s self is fluid. God moves. Or to use Richard Rohr’s language again: God flows, and God is flow. God dances, and God is dance. We worship a God who is always on the move, always spilling over, always organic, always a surprise.
Next, God is seen as diverse. If God exists in three persons, then each person has his (or her) own way of embodying and expressing goodness, beauty, love, and righteousness. As Rohr puts it, the Trinity affirms that there is an intrinsic plurality to goodness. “Goodness isn’t sameness,” he writes in The Divine Dance. “Goodness, to be goodness, needs contrast and tension, not perfect uniformity.” If God can incarnate goodness through contrast and tension, then it’s worth asking why we can’t. Or won’t. Why do we fear difference so much when difference lies at the very heart of God’s nature?
God is also seen as communal. God values relationship, God is community. If God is interactive at God’s very heart—if intimacy, connection and communion are part of the three-in-one, then God is relationship if Three is the deepest nature of the One. It’s only in relationship that we will experience God’s fullness.
We’ll also see that God is hospitable. In the 15th century, Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev created “The Hospitality of Abraham,” also known as “The Trinity,” one of the most well known and beloved icons in Christendom. In it, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (depicted as the three angels who appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre), sit around a table, sharing food and drink. Their faces are nearly identical, but they’re dressed in different colors. The Father wears gold, the Son blue, and the Spirit green. The Father gazes at the Son. The Son gazes back at the Father, but gestures towards the Spirit. The Spirit gazes at the Father, but points toward the Son with one hand, and opens up the circle with the other, making room for others to join the sacred meal. As a whole, the icon exudes adoration and intimacy — clearly, the three persons around the table respect and enjoy each other. But it also exudes openness. There is space at the table for the viewer of the icon. For me. For us. As if to say, the point of the great Three-in-One is not exclusivity — God is not a middle school clique — God is radical hospitality. The point of the Three is always to add one more, to extend the invitation, to make the holy table more expansive and more welcoming.
And finally, we’ll see that God is love. The Trinity at its heart is an expression of deep, unfaltering, and life-giving love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The relationship between the persons of the Godhead is not a relationship of domination, power-mongering, manipulation, or jealousy. It is a relationship of unselfish, sacrificial love. Debi asks us these questions: if God’s very being is grounded in love, and we are created in God’s image, then who are we? What are we? Are we, like the Triune God whose imprint we bear, creatures motivated by love? If we are not, then what are we doing with our lives? What does our piety amount to?
Why should we care about the three-in-one? We should care because we are children of the Trinity. The children of a mysterious, fluid, diverse, communal, hospitable, and loving God who wants to guide us into the whole truth of who God is and who we are. We should care because the mystery of the Trinity has the power to transform our hearts, leading us towards coherence and dynamism, unity and diversity. This week and always, may our lives reflect the truth and beauty of the Triune God.
I close with the familiar part of the hymn, St. Patrick’s Breastplate. It was found in an ancient Dublin hymnal and this excerpt features one of the many stages of the hymn where those chanting the prayer bind themselves to the hope of the God who was in Christ. A version is in our own 1982 Hymnal, hymn #370.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.