Last week I was talking to one of my colleagues about yet another of the delightful posts he had written describing the theological musings/pronouncements of his four year old son, Isaac. Something to do with the Holy Spirit, I believe. It made sense given that Pentecost had just happened. I jokingly asked Eric what Isaac might have to say about the Trinity, to which he replied – whatever it is, I’m sure it would lead you into preaching heresy. Wikipedia lists 16 heresies about the Trinity in an article “List of Heresies in the Catholic Church.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_heresies_in_the_Catholic_Church
It’s a great list and there is something quite delightful about looking at all the ways the teachers and theologians of the early church sought to make sense of God and the ways God manifested God’s self to the worldly.
It took several hundred years for the early church to agree on an understanding of God in three persons – blessed Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – whose unity and distinctness we proclaim each week in our Nicene Creed. But church teachings don’t necessarily provide clarity and even Augustine said understanding the Trinity was beyond him.
So rather than try and explain what the Trinity is (as I would surely lapse into some heresy), let me offer some thoughts on what’s the point? What difference does it make that we believe in a triune God,
For me, the whole point of the Trinity is that God’s love is too big, too immense, even, to be described as the love of a single person, but is more like the loved shared among a community, a love shared so deeply that it can’t be contained but spills out from the Trinity into the whole world and into our lives. Medieval theologian Richard of St Victor, describes it like this – for God to be good, God can be one. For God to be loving, God has to be two, because love is always a relationship of giving and receiving. And for God to be joy-filled and happy, God has to be three. And that shared joy and happiness of the three spills out into all the cosmos and invites us in. (Richard Rohr, The Foundation of Community, May 5, 2020, https://cac.org/the-foundation-of-community-2020-05-05/)
As I read Richard of Victor, what kept coming into my mind were images of flash mobs. Stay with me here. One of my great pleasures is to scan YouTube for the best of flash mobs. Whether singers, orchestras, dancers, I take immense joy in watching a solitary artist begin a performance, to be joined by another, and then a third. I recently watched a flash of Beethoven’s, “Ode to Joy,” set in Nuremberg. (Germans seem to love a flash mob). A young girl starts out playing the opening lines on a recorder to then be joined by a man playing a bass, soon joined by a cellist. While it’s just beautiful with the three of them, others soon join in – violins, and French horns, trumpets, timpani, choir, the crowd singing and dancing along in time. Parents bouncing babies, old people swinging to the music, the orchestra,the choir,and the crowd soon all united as one in what becomes pure joy.
And while not a perfect metaphor, (no metaphor for the Trinity is perfect), the flash mob reminds me that God is three-in-one in order always to add one more – and that’s us, all of us, an infinite “plus one” through which God’s love is made complete in relationship with all of God’s children. the profound love of God that draws us into relationship with God, with each other, and with the whole of creation and the cosmos. And it’s an open invitation – No RSVP required, no capacity limits – we are invited at our lowest moments and at our saddest, in our most joyful times, at our worst and best. Whether we feel clumsy, out of sync, or out of tune, the Trinity welcomes us to the dance.
And as I reflected on this notion of Trinity, I came to three insights that I believe have implications for who we are called to be as people of faith.
- It’s not all about me. To fully participate in this dance of the Trinity, the Triune God, I need to let go of my self-absorption, my desire to see things only through my own lens. The Trinity is not self referential but other referential. The Trinity is not consumed by its own life and relationships but is forever seeking to expand its circle.
- The Trinity is an invitation to relationship with God in three persons – God as Father and Mother, Creator; God as Redeemer, beloved, friend; God as Spirit, sustainer, advocate, guide. Whether we are seeking guidance, comfort, strength, courage, forgiveness – the Triune God invites us into deeper relationship
- The Trinity is an invitation to relationship with one another, to deep love and joy. No one needs to be on the sidelines – we are all invited in, and we must make room for others. When we truly love, when our joy is overflowing, we invite new people into the dance.
Friends, we know how to dance (and how I long for an All Saints dance party), we know how to be in relationship with God and each other, we know how to welcome others into the dance.
And on this Trinity Sunday, may we enter more deeply into this dance with our Triune God – singing the praises of the three: Creator, Spirit, and Son.