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  • Writer's pictureFather Nicholas Lang

Trinity Sunday

A senior citizen drove his brand new Mini convertible out of the dealership. Taking off down the road, he floored it to 80 mph, enjoying the wind blowing through what little hair he had left." Amazing," he thought as he flew down I-95, pushing the pedal even closer to the floor.

Then he looked in his rearview mirror and saw the police car behind him, blue lights flashing and siren blaring. He floored it to 100 mph, then 110, then 120. Suddenly he thought, "What am I doing? I'm too old for this," and pulled over to await the Trooper's arrival.

Pulling in behind him, the Trooper walked up to the car, looked at the old guy, looked at his watch and said, "Sir, my shift ends in 30 minutes. It’s July fourth weekend. Today is Friday and I’m off till Tuesday. If you can give me a reason for speeding that I've never heard before, I'll let you go."

The old man paused, then said, "Years ago, my wife ran off with a State Trooper. I thought you were bringing her back." The trooper tipped his hat and said, "You have a good day, Sir.”

Some truths we’re asked to believe are a huge challenge. We celebrate one of those things today—the Holy Trinity. The greatest theologians the Church has produced have struggled for centuries to explain the mystery of the Trinity—a doctrine of the faith that teaches that there are three distinct persons in one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It took them more than 400 years to sort that all out.

Martin Luther once said, “To try to deny the Trinity endangers one’s salvation; to try to comprehend the Trinity endangers one’s sanity! And British author and theologian, Dorothy Sayers, once used these words that parody the Athanasian Creed in the script of a play: “The Father is incomprehensible. The Son is incomprehensible. The Holy Spirit is incomprehensible. The whole thing is incomprehensible!”

There is one thing about the Trinity that should make sense to us or at least make this doctrine a little more fathomable: the Trinity is a metaphor for relationship—a relationship of deep love between these three persons— and God created us to be in relationship with one another and with God, to live always in relation to a community and to work for the well-being of others. The doctrine of the Trinity then becomes a core belief about God’s life with us and our life with each other: God in us, we in God, all of us in each other.

What is a challenge for many is the reality that the formulation of Trinitarian doctrine is the work of a male-dominated church and culture. We even refer to the authors of the Creed as “the Fathers of the Church,” so our theology comes from the minds and wills of those who were in power at the time and, although we believe that the essence of the decisions they made in the great ecumenical councils of the church was inspired by God the Holy Spirit, we can still in good faith challenge some of the finer points and keep the culture and time in which it all happened in perspective, especially the attribution of male gender for the two persons of the Trinity who did not assume human form as did Jesus.

The Trinity is and always has been mystery. Like the cockamamie story that old guy told the trooper, we either believe or we don’t. Maybe we just tip our hat and let the theologians wrestle with it. Perhaps the larger question is does God really live in that narrow place where everything is either black or white and we have all the answers about everything?

Or does God prefer to hang out in the kind of place that fosters growth, renewal, and surprise and where we can view everything in brilliant living color? Beyond that, what does one dare to say about the Trinity that has not already been argued, theologized, wondered, and preached for centuries?

The rector of St. John’s in Battle Creek, Tennessee was wont to announce to his assistant clergy that he would always preach on Trinity Sunday, because if there was to be any heresy preached at St. John’s, it would come from him. I hope I have passed the heresy litmus test well, at least, for today!

The only mention of the Trinity in today’s scripture passages is the very short Gospel in which Jesus gives what is called the “Great Commission.” This is the Disciples “marching orders” but it is also a clear directive to the entire church: Make followers of, gather in ALL peoples; not just a few, not just the elite, not just the smartest or the wealthiest but all peoples—no exceptions noted.

And we are to do that in the name of the Trinity which is a mystery just as God is mystery. And that’s OK. We don’t have to prove it. But more important than that, it is all about complete and embracing Love that reaches out to gather into it each and every one of us. What more do we need to know?

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