Thursday, May 31, 2012

Where did this come from?

Our texts for this first Sunday after Pentecost--widely known as Trinity Sunday--are Isaiah 6:1-8 and John 3:1-17, which can be read here.

Trinity Sunday presents a problem for the preacher who likes to preach from biblical texts (which I really hope is most of us): that is, the word "Trinity" appears nowhere in the scripture. This core doctrine of Christian faith is hinted at in closing glimpses of New Testament writings--such as in Paul's blessing to the Corinthians,
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you" (2 Cor 13:13) and in Jesus' final blessing to his disciples, "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" (Matthew 28:19), but nowhere is there a scripture passage that "explains" this idea that God is somehow many and one, in three persons yet one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Creator Christ and Holy Ghost. The word "Trinity" didn't come into use in the Church until around 170 AD, and didn't claim its place of importance in the Christian worldview and theology until the first Council of Nicea in 325.

So why devote a Sunday to considering the Trinity? Well, because the Trinity may not be anywhere particular in scripture, but these expressions of who God is are everywhere in the New Testament--and even in the Old. Story after story tells us that we do not have a handle on the fullness of God, not by any stretch--not even now that we have this well-defined doctrine of God's three-in-oneness. In Isaiah we get a glimpse of a God who is mighty and above all, yet with a pervasive spirit and a desire to work through human bodies as an incarnated presence. Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus in John 3 brings us further into the diverse yet unified mystery of God, speaking of water and Spirit and Creation and a Son, of relationships of love and new life.

Where, in our passages for this Sunday, are you led more fully into the mystery of who God is? How might we open ourselves to encountering God in all of God's mind-blowing fullness? And how might such encounter change us? All of these are questions we'll consider together on this Trinity Sunday.

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