Monday, June 10, 2019

Looking Ahead to June 16, 2019 -- Trinity Sunday

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
  • Psalm 8 (VU p.732)
  • John 16:12-15
The Sermon title is Three? One? God?

Early Thoughts: How do we understand God? To me that is what lies at the core of the doctrine of the Trinity.  How do we understand who God is and how God is active in the world?

The early church had a conundrum, one that reached a peak soon after Constantine legitimized Christianity. Growing out of Judaism they were very clear that there was One God. Jesus preached and taught about this one God. Monotheism was a non-negotiable. But...

At the same time there was a very clear understanding that in the life and teaching and ministry of Jesus the original disciples had seen God. In the Resurrected Christ there was a clear link between God and the man Jesus of Nazareth.  How could this be reconciled? Was Jesus God? But did that make two Gods? Then there was the Holy Spirit, present throughout Scripture but spectacularly a part of the story of the Early Church and Pentecost. How did all these things add up to one God?

After many highly acrimonious debates traditional Trinitarian doctrine came about. The church found a way to affirm that Jesus, the Word made Flesh was, at the same time, fully human and fully divine. The Church described the three parts of the Trinity as fully co-equal, none was over or below another.

ANd few of us have fully understood it since. In part because it tries to marry Jewish and Platonic philosophy. In part because it is a very metaphysical discussion. And in large part because any way to try and describe the Trinity using metaphor or analogy eventually leads into some form of heresy:

 In all of its faith statements the United Church of Canada has confessed itself to be Trinitarian. But if we are honest many people within the church struggle with the doctrine.  Some because it makes little logical sense. Some because of the male-centered traditional language. Some because only three expressions of the nature or work of God seems very limiting. Some because of the anthropomorphic imagery. But we still look to the Trinity to try and help us understand how the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob is at work in and revealed in Jesus Christ. It is a part of our DNA.

Over the years many have tried to find other formulae to use to describe the Trinity: Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer; Lover, Beloved, Love; Papa, Junior, Spook...  All fall short (as I would argue Father Son and Holy Spirit does as well). They all fall short because we have no words that can fully capture our understanding of who God is and how God acts in the world.

And so I leave you with these words from A Song of Faith (2006):
God is Holy Mystery,
beyond complete knowledge,
above perfect description.
 With the Church through the ages,
we speak of God as one and triune:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We also speak of God as
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer
God, Christ, and Spirit
Mother, Friend, and Comforter
Source of Life, Living Word, and Bond of Love,
and in other ways that speak faithfully of
the One on whom our hearts rely,
the fully shared life at the heart of the universe.

We witness to Holy Mystery that is Wholly Love...

How do you try and describes the God "who has created and is creating; who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new; who works in us and others by the Spirit" (A New Creed)?

3-in-1 and 1-in-3, God be with you.

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