Trinity Sunday! Every preacher’s nightmare. How do I make sense of the Doctrine of the Trinity?
Understanding God as three in one is a central platform of Christianity. And it is really difficult to grasp. And we get it wrong a lot. it is so hard to keep the balance between Threeness and unity.
I suspect a significant number of us really believe in 3 Gods. The way some Christians talk about the three persons of the Trinity has no sense of unity about it at all. For them the separateness of the three persons reigns supreme. And others in reality believe in one God and loose the Threeness. To say that God is one expressed in three modes (like water, ice and steam) is not Trinitarian either.
God is one and God is three “persons”. The three persons of the Trinity each have their own work or mission. Only The Son was incarnate, lived among us and died on the Cross. Only God the Father is the source of all being. Only the Spirit enlivens and empowers us today to join in the ongoing mission of God. But in each we see the other two. For each person of the Trinity is of one being, co-eternal.
How can any of this make sense? In many ways it doesn’t, which in part is the point. God is fundamentally a mystery. Beyond our comprehension, beyond our control. We will never fully grasp the Trinity. It will hold us in god’s mystery. When we think we have mastered the Trinity – I suspect you have got lost and made an understandable image of God. But you are no longer worshipping the Triune God.
So why bother? Because both Paul and John in today’s readings state that our theology shapes our lifestyle. Who we understand God to be shapes how we respond to God in our everyday lives. Some theologians have suggested that rather than get hung up on the mechanics of how the Trinity works, it is better to focus our attention on the nature of the relationship between the persons of the Trinity. What words then might we use to describe this relationship? What does Jesus teach us about the nature of the relationship? How does this help us read scripture and live our lives?