Trinity Wisdom for Today

Scriptures: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Romans 5:1-5; I John 5:7-8; John 16:12-15

Bulletin-TL 06-16-2019 YC Trinity

Let us pray:

God of Three in One, give us inspiration for our minds, discipleship for our hands, and hearts full of love, that we would be led by your Holy Spirit into the world on your behalf. As you lead us, may this meditation stir in us a faithful response. Amen.

Three years ago when we observed Trinity Sunday, I had just finished reading Phyllis Tickle’s Age of the Spirit[1], and was patiently waiting for Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance: The Trinity and your Transformation.[2] Three years later and lots of required reading, research, and writing in other areas for my doctoral studies, found me this week picking up Rohr’s book again. My bookmark from 2016 was still stuck in the book about 1/3 of the way through, but I went ahead and started over. Why? I have changed. Not completely, of course, but in the course of my own personal growth, transformation, and applied spiritual journeying, I am in a different space than I was before.

A brief review of my sermon three years ago reveals an attempt on my part to tease out interesting aspects of the historical substance, disagreements, and mystery of our Three-in-One God. I referred to 1 John, chapter 5, verses 7-8, a mysterious fourth century scribal addition not found in the earliest Greek manuscripts. This addition is the closest the Bible comes to an interpretation of a triumvirate Godhead – yet never coins the term “Trinity.” It reads,

“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” (KJV)

That was then. This is now. What has changed in me that draws me to re-read Rohr’s book again? Some of my study has brought to light the changing dynamics of faith at today’s crossroads, some of the inner work we were challenged with has illuminated areas for me to work on in leadership and spirit; both of which also relate to relationships and their power in our lives. Relationships that echo something of God’s Trinitarian nature.

All three aspects of our Three-in-One God have always been intertwined in the scriptures, despite the fact that the term, Trinity, didn’t appear until centuries after the early church fathers and mothers contemplated deeply God’s multifaceted nature. Today’s passage from Proverbs is one of the most potent illuminating early Judaism’s understanding of the presence of the Holy Spirit, here identified as “wisdom” or Sophia in Greek, present with God at Creation itself.

Our Epistle reading for today includes all three aspects as Paul writes,

“1Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Our brief text from the gospel of John gives us a teaching from Jesus regarding what happens post-Pentecost, illuminating the strong connection between Jesus, God (whom Jesus calls Father), and the Spirit of truth:

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-25)

A summary of the historical – and ongoing – dialog about the nature of the Trinity is put succinctly by commentator Philip Turner:

“No matter how one comes down in this debate, for all Christians there is a Trinitarian structure that defines both the prayer and the proclamation of the church. Nevertheless, one must still address the question of how the three persons denoted by this structure are related one to another. In the centuries after the writing of the New Testament, different answers were given to this question by the Eastern and Western churches. The Western church held that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, while the Eastern church insisted that the Spirit proceeds from the Father only. The Western version seeks to make clear that the Son gives the Spirit to the church. The Eastern version, in order to make clear that there is but one God, insists that both the Son and the Spirit issue from God the Father, but in different ways. The Father begets the Son, but the Spirit proceeds from the Father.”[3]

Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell, on the other hand, focus more on something else. What is it about the Trinity that ties the whole mystery all together into One triumvirate Godhead? They would answer, relationship. Described as a three-way self-emptying love, this Trinitarian relationship is mysterious, enigmatic, and yet gripping. Why? God’s mystery rests in mutuality.

What if we turned humanity on its head for just a minute. What if we really are made in God’s image? What if we were to examine ourselves in light of mutuality? Could it be from the very beginning, we have been made to live in community, too? Community would mean, of course, that we would have community practices, community characteristics, and of course community conflicts when we want our own way and cannot see beyond ourselves to the greater good.

I wonder, if I could transform myself just a bit more, perhaps I could be more in tune with how God made me to be. If I could turn the relational mystery of Trinity into an applied spiritual practice, I wonder if I could echo John O’Donohue’s poem:

I would love to live

Like a river flows,

Carried by the surprise

Of its own unfolding.[4]

“Like a river flows…;” this Trinity, this made-in-God’s-image-that-we-are; What a beautiful mystery! I pray, God, help me to be – help all of us to be: Love flowing in, love flowing out, and love flowing between. May all glory be unto the One who lived, who died, and who rose again for us; even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

Questions for Reflection

Trinity Sunday is not so much a day for explanations as it is a day for reflection on the majesty and mystery of the fullness of God: God as Creator, Lawgiver, the One who performs mighty acts; God as Messiah and Lord, Savior, Liberator, known to us in Jesus Christ; God as Holy Spirit, Wind and Flame, Advocate, Comforter. How does thinking of God in this Trinitarian way inform, even increase, your understanding of God? Do you experience God, or relate more easily to God, in one of the three “Persons” of God more than the other two? What causes you to relate to God more closely in this way?

Household Prayer: Morning

Creator God, I wake this morning to the beauty of the world as though it were the first morning of creation. As the light of the sun rises on all that you have made, I pray that my spirit may rise also. Help me to be ready to greet you however and in whomever you make yourself known to me today. Help me to pause in moments of this day to glimpse the beauty you have made, offered as gift and sign of your abiding presence. I entrust myself and those I love to you this day, knowing that you promise to be with us always. In your holy, triune name I pray. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

O God, my Advocate and Comforter, I rest in you. The evening falls and the darkness does not overcome me, for you are my light. You are the Light of the world. I bring to you the passing cares of this day, and the deeper cares of my life and those I love. Breathe peace on all that stirs in me and whirls around me. Breathe peace into every troubled place and person this night. Shine on us, in us, and through us. I know that when I awake, I will still be with you, Holy One who is Source, Word, and Wisdom. Amen.

 

[1] Phyllis Tickle and Jon M. Sweeney, The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy Is Shaping the Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014).

[2] Richard Rohr, Mike Morrell, and William Paul Young, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2016).

[3] Philip Turner, “Theological Perspective, John 16:12-15” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[4] John O’Donohue,”Fluent,” Conamara Blues (New York: Cliff Street Books, 2001), 23.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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