11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
Reflection May 27,2018
"Understand the Trinity?" by Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
This coming Sunday we celebrate Trinity Sunday. The Trinity is, of course, a great mystery. A question: Is the word “Trinity” mentioned anywhere in Scripture? No, it is not. But we do have the famous reference in Matthew 28: 19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” a clear reference to what we describe as the Holy Trinity of God.
Of course it would be very hard for any of us to actually describe the Trinity. There have been many attempts over the centuries. Our fourth century Christian brother, Augustine of Hippo (present day Algeria), certainly tried to comprehend the Trinity in his many writings on the subject.
But there is a story that serves as a caution regarding Augustine’s attempt. The story goes like this…Augustine was walking on the beach contemplating the mystery of the Trinity. Then he saw a boy in front of him who had dug a hole in the sand and was going out to the sea again and again and bringing some water to pour into the hole.
Augustine asked him, “What are you doing?” “I’m going to pour the entire ocean into this hole.” “That is impossible, the whole ocean will not fit into the hole you have made” said Augustine. The boy replied, “And you cannot fit the Trinity into your tiny…brain.” The story concludes by saying that the boy vanished as Augustine had been talking to an angel.
We must be cautioned when it comes to comprehending the Trinity of God. Augustine spoke of the Trinity in terms of love. He said in all love relationships there must be three participants: there is the Lover, the Beloved and the Love existing between the two. This seems to me a reasonable approach to the mystery of the Trinity. God the Father is the Lover. Jesus Christ is the Beloved and the Holy Spirit is the Love existing between Father and Son.
Yet the reality of the Trinity seems somewhat lost in some dimensions of contemporary Christianity. A recent survey of 72 top-selling Christian songs discovered that not one of them referred explicitly to the Trinity. But when we lose sight of the Trinity – we may well lose sight of who we are in Christ Jesus and in the ongoing work of the Trinity.
If someone asked me - does God need our worship? I’d respond: does the Sahara need more sand? If someone asked me – does God need our worship? I’d respond: does the ocean need more salt? In other words, the answer is “no” – God does not need our worship. But we need to worship God because in the process of worship we allow God special access to our hearts and souls. In the process of worship we grant God permission to do with us what the Trinity of God wishes to do with us.
We need to be clear what it is we do on Sunday mornings. We do not come to church to make God feel better about God. The Almighty does not have self-esteem issues. We worship because we’re created to worship the One Who Made Us.
We gather together to marvel at how God has worked among us in the past. We gather together to rejoice in how God is working among us now. We gather together to hear and believe how God is working to heal everything and everyone. We gather together to let God move within us and among us – forming us – remaking us – into wholeness – into holiness. We worship in order to align ourselves with God in the healing of ourselves and the healing of our wounded and weary world.
The Spirit of the Living God is first and foremost a Spirit of truth. As Jesus proclaims: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13) Not just some of the truth. Not even most of the truth. The Holy Spirit will guide us into all the truth. What might this mean to us today in our truth-challenged world?
This means that every time we discover a new truth – God’s Holy Spirit is at work. Read this telling passage from the great Scottish Biblical scholar, William Barclay, in his commentary on John’s Gospel: “…there is no end to God’s revelation. One of the mistakes we sometimes make is to identify God’s revelation solely with the Bible. That would be to say that since AD 120, when the (last) book in the New Testament was written, God has ceased to speak. But God’s Spirit is always active; he is always revealing himself…he is not a God who spoke up to AD 120 and is now silent. He is still revealing his truth to us.”
Is not God still revealing truth to us? As Barclay continues: “When a poet delivers a great message in words which defy time, that is inspiration…A great musician is inspired…When a scientist discovers something which will help make life better for everyone…when someone discovers a new treatment which will bring life and hope to suffering humanity, that is a revelation from God. All truth is God’s truth, and the revelation of all truth is the work of the Holy Spirit.”
I will end this reflection with something telling from the theologian Catherine Mowry LaCugna’s brilliant book, God For Us: The Trinity and Christian Life: “The mystery of existence is the mystery and the commingling of persons, human and divine, in a common life, within a common household…God the Father gives birth to the Son, (and) breathes forth the Spirit…Living from others and for others is the path of glory in which we and God exist together.”
We share the same household with God! And how does this household function? Again from LaCugna: “God’s household is administered by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, who rules through justice, peace, charity, love, joy, moderation, kindness, generosity, freedom, compassion, reconciliation, holiness, humility, wisdom (and) truthfulness…”
God is always working within and among us. Let us never forget this Trinitarian truth. Let us always, together, worship in Spirit and in Truth. We live in and through the Holy Trinity of God!