“3×1=1 is a formula for the Trinity”
Sermon, June 16, 2019 by Rev Gloria Christian
3×1=1 is a formula for the Trinity. How can it be? Christians have always been taught that this is so. It is very easy for me to understand if I think of it as a love story between God who is love and Jesus who is God’s lovechild and the Holy Spirit within whom is loves power. The Trinity is about a love relationship that we get to enter-into by the Holy spirit.
My favourite story for Trinity Sunday is a story of three priests and a lay brother who welcomes pilgrims at a monastery. The story unfolds by revealing how the gentle monk and gatekeeper, Gregorio, chooses which priest to send on a pilgrimage seeking inspiration and nurture. As pilgrims come and are welcomed, we discover that each of the three priests seems to embody one of the persons of the Trinity. Robert Wilhelm tells the story of “The Lesser Monastery on Mount Athos”. This is a beautiful story that illuminates the idea that one can enter-into the heart of God through any of the “faces” of the Trinity. Three priests and a lay brother are the only inhabitants of the monastery in Greece. Yet it is known for the quality of spiritual guidance a pilgrim receives within its walls. Listening to the oral telling can be a meditation and prayer experience for our soul if we ever go to Greece for a retreat. We can be any-one of the faces of the trinity; God, a creator, a child of God and love’s power in the world.
The doctrine of the Trinity is a human construct illuminating our understanding of the three “faces” of God we encounter in the New Testament God the Creator, Jesus, Son of God and the Holy Spirit. There are numerous theological explanations and constructions of the Trinity. Personally, my image of the Trinity is a circle of light rather than the triangle image of doctrinal history. It comes from my own theological imagining that these three “faces” of God that generate the Love that makes up the very fabric of the universe and all creation. The circle of light is always flowing with Love between Creator, Christ and Spirit. And overflowing into all creation. We can enter the circle at any point, through any of the “persons”, to be held in this Love. It is a never-ending flow of communal Love that creates, redeems and sustains ALL. I think that trying to explain a mystery of the faith is a bit like trying to explain how electricity works or why a plane can fly or a boat can sail even though both are heavy and should not be able to go in the air or the water without falling or sinking. There are just some concepts of the faith that are inexplicable. They just are.
The idea of the Holy Trinity is a bit like that. Some like to think about God the Father, as an old man in a big chair and he has a long white beard and white hair and he is very stern. You cannot get anything past him. Then, Jesus is a young man with long brown hair and a brown beard, and he is very pleasant, and kind looking and smiles a lot. The Holy Spirit is right there with them, but she is a bird, a white bird, hovering in the air above the other two. Sunlight shines on all of them and they sit, stand, and fly always as they look over humans and the mess they are making of the world, wanting to do something about it but not able to because of the free-will they granted everyone at creation. If your idea of the Trinity is a bit like this, then it is because we have all been shaped by the paintings that artists made of religious figures during the Medieval period or afterwards. Religious art and, also, religious media that followed in the age of technology has made many of us think about God in humanistic ways. We have made God in our own image, in other words. One might really think that God is only one being, the Holy Spirit, of which all three persons are a part, actively involved in the lives of humans on, a daily basis. Jesus taught his followers that the Spirit would come to be an Advocate, a Comforter, a Guide, to assist all who would call on God to find healing, hope, and help in their time of need. I think that Jesus is already here, not sitting on a cloud waiting for the cue from the Heavenly Father to come to earth to bring about some cataclysmic era that needs to happen. I think that Jesus came already in the form of the Holy Spirit on that day of Pentecost and all of those things that Peter preached about happening in the universe happened as the Spirit brought energy and a divine spark where it was needed for humans. The Holy Spirit is involved in the daily lives of human beings who ask for divine intervention. The Spirit is the Spirit of Truth whose mission it is to remind us of all that Jesus said and taught while he was a human being on earth. The Spirit is meant to bring peace to persons who need peace in their lives in the midst, of distress. The Spirit is present to everyone, everywhere on earth all at once taking the place of Jesus who was bound to a human body, as we are, so that we can all find help in our time of need, even if it is in the middle of the night in China or in the lunch hour in New York City or here in Sicamous. God is an ever-present help in the time of need.
So, the idea of the Trinity is bound up in the working of the Holy Spirit, bringing to our lives what we need to live and learn and grow and help one another on our paths of life. The Spirit is a mystery, not to be understood but to be trusted to show us the love of the Father and Son when we need it most. So perhaps a trinitarian community bears witness to the peace of God in Christ and responds to the needs of the neighbour. God doesn’t need our good works, our neighbours do. When we turn our eyes outward and extend the peace of God that allows us to transform suffering – into endurance, character, and hope because we experienced God’s love, then the Spirit of Christ is surely present.
Think of the Trinity as a love story in which we can enter. As this is Father’s Day, Father’s who love like Jesus might enter-into the Trinity. Think of the Trinity as a circle of light that shines in the darkness of suffering. In this circle of light love’s power is ever-present. Welcome the Holy Spirit, Holy Mystery into your lives so that life can be richer and filled with healing. Amen.