TRINITY: WORSHIP, NOT ARITHMETIC
Rev. from 6/6/82 & Our Church Times 5/29/83 & 5/21/89 pp.3-4; Liv.Church 6/6/82 (GEDanie1s)
I begin with two stories, one about a man and one about a woman. In a certain church, there was a man who attended only one time a year. That was not too unusual, for a good number of people attend only once or twice a year, on Christmas and/ or Easter. But this man was different. Over a period of years, it was noted that he came only on Trinity Sunday. Finally one of the Vestry could stand it no longer, and he approached the visitor and said, "I have noted that you attend here only on Trinity Sunday, and I cannot imagine why you have chosen this particular day for your only visit to our church each year." "Oh, that's easy to explain," said the man. "I like to attend church on Trinity Sunday so that I can hear the Rector get all tangled up trying to explain the Trinity."
The other story is about a lady who was always the first to shake hands with the Rector at the door after the service. But on this particular Sunday she was last in line, and thought she should explain herself. "You see," she said, "there was a stranger in church today, and he asked me something about the Trinity, and it took me a moment or two to explain it to him."
Well, I hope not to get all tangled up like the Rector in the first story, and I hope to avoid oversimplifying, as the lady in the second story may have done.
I. Perhaps the first thing that ought to be said is this: when you try to explain or think about the Trinity as three Persons in one God, don't get out your arithmetic book; get out your Bible and your Prayer Book. The belief in one God in three Persons is not a matter of arithmetic, but a matter of worship. We worship the God Whom we experience, a God Who goes out of Himself to reveal Himself, to communicate Himself to us especially in Jesus Christ, and One Who creates within us a response to His disclosure of Himself through the secret work of the Holy Spirit. So we worship the God Who reveals Himself, as God above us, God with us, and God within us - God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - all these as one and the self-same God at work in various ways that are related one to another.
II. In human love, you catch a vision of the beloved from time to time, a vision of the inner core, the person in his or her beauty and essence - so with the Trinity, we catch a vision from time to time of what God is in God's innermost nature. But it is not given to us to live in constant awareness of our visions, any more in love than in religion. Sometimes friends and lovers can drive us up the wall, and St.Theresa of Avila is reported to have expressed the same idea to God: "Lord, no wonder You have so few friends - You treat them so badly." But the visions are what keep us going, in love and in worship. The Vision is what inspires us joyfully to seek and to do God's will, in whatever context we may be living.
Now, what I am trying to say is that Trinity Sunday is a day of vision, a vision of the nature of God. We begin with the fact of experience" that it was and is through Jesus Christ that Human beings can come closer to God. And the vision is this: if it is through relationship with Jesus Christ that people can come to God, then there must be relationships within the very nature of God, for God, as a God of Truth, is of course going to reveal the truth about Himself, about God's self.
We have some dim awareness of this in our lives, when a person is at the same time a father, a husband and a son; or a mother, a wife and a daughter, yet still one and the same person. Or when an idea is first thought about, then written down, then received and understood. What the Trinity tries to say is that there are personal relationships within the very nature of God - so that as personal relationships are worked out among ourselves, these can be a reflection of the very nature of God, and can bring us closer to God. For example, you can experience forgiveness between yourself and another person, and at the same time you find yourself feeling closer to God.
Or in the contemporary Anglican/Episcopal Church, as our disagreements are worked out, we may all expect to find ourselves in a richer relationship with one another and with God.
Today's Scripture readings have some things to say about the nature of God, and there is lots more in the Bible, and many more choices of words The Trinity is a summary of the experience of worship as worked out in the first few Christian centuries. The Creeds, the Baptism formula, and many other words about the Trinity, stand for God's word to us, and not our arithmetic. So when you think about the Trinity, or try to explain it, put away the arithmetic book and get out your Bible and Prayer Book, and continue worshipping and praying.