Monday, May 31, 2010

So How Do You Explain the Trinity?

I heard a preacher suggest that there is no way to explain the Trinity and that it is foolishness to try to do so.  He mocked those who attempt to explain it and suggested that those who might desire to follow this foolish path might need to fold up the copy of the Athanasian Creed in the bulletin and keep it in their wallets and desks at work -- just in case they want to explain the incomprehensible to someone.

All in all it was a rather strange sermon until the Pastor likened the way we know people.  We know folks not by eulogies of their lives but by the stories told over coffee and tuna salad sandwiches after the funeral.  We know people not by facts but by stories.  Here was a golden opportunity and the preacher missed the set up.

The truth is that we know the Trinity in the same way -- less by dogmatic statements than by what the Trinity does.  We know the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by their actions and not by some academic thesis.  We know God by what He has done, by the words of His self-disclosure and by the actions that reveal Him to us.  We know the Trinity by the Word through which all things came to be, by the Word incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, by the Word crucified and risen for us and our salvation, and by the Word who promised the Spirit to bring to remembrance all the words that the Word had revealed.

We would do well on Trinity Sunday to spend less time saying what the persons of the Trinity are not and more time by what the Trinity does--- and this is a good thing.  For God has not revealed Himself through doctrinal statements but through His actions and His Word.  From the Word speaking in creation, to the Spirit hovering over the face of the deep, to the creation of a people from a man and woman to old to bear children, to the raising up of a promise first made in Eden where life was lost and then kept alive by prophetic utterance from one generation to another, to the census and journey to Bethlehem and the angels' song that brought shepherds to see, to the life so holy lived, to the life so willingly surrendered, to the life triumphant over death and the grave, to the Spirit come as tongues of fire and voices speaking the one language of salvation in Jesus Christ... yes stories but stories that continue to speak, act, issue and keep the promise of salvation and life...

The Trinity is not completely incomprehensible... only incomprehensible apart from His Word and Spirit and the actions and words of His self-disclosure...

1 comment:

Sue said...

My brother, a Lutheran pastor, while visiting our home church for our mother's birthday several years ago, at her request was the preacher than Sunday. Because our pastor came down with laryngitis, he ended up doing the whole service,including the children's message. It was Trinity Sunday. He set out 3 small bowls. He cracked an egg, separated the white from the yolk, placed them in 2 of the bowls, and the shell in the third. He then asked the children which was the egg (which of course brought out all kinds of interesting responses). He used this illustration to explain the Trinity. I think even the adults in the congregation were enlightened by his talk. The children certainly learned something that day.