I’m just going to acknowledge this now, in case anyone has not figured it out yet. It is TRINITY SUNDAY!! I’m not calling it a positive or negative day, just a day that preachers everywhere generally detest.
I’m going to start off with what one meme on Facebook suggested about preaching on this day—punt, and show the congregation pictures of kittens instead. So, here is one!
Another choice would have been, if he were here, to have 2 ½ year old Moses, son of Shelly Fayette and Aaron Scott, recite poetry about the plight of Dad’s tough day. (I heard it last night, and it seemed a better use of our time than this.)
But since these both are not really workable solutions, I’ll go ahead and try to talk about the Trinity.
Facts (or definitions, at least) about the Trinity, which is a Christian doctrine, by the way:
- God is one God, but three coeternal consubstantial persons—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit—as "one God in three Divine Persons". The three Persons are distinct, yet are one "substance, essence or nature".
- While the developed doctrine of the Trinity is not explicit in the books that constitute the New Testament, the New Testament possesses a "triadic" understanding of God and contains a number of Trinitarian formulas. The doctrine of the Trinity was first formulated among the early Christians and fathers of the Church as early Christians attempted to understand the relationship between Jesus and God in their scriptural documents and prior traditions.
- The concept of the trinity has been argued for centuries. Before the Nicene Creed was formulated, the heads of the church asserted Christ's deity and spoke of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit", even though their language is not that of the traditional doctrine as formalized in the fourth century. Trinitarians view these as elements of the codified doctrine. An early Trinitarian formula appears towards the end of the first century, where Clement of Rome rhetorically asks in his epistle as to why corruption exists among some in the Christian community; "Do we not have one God, and one Christ, and one gracious Spirit that has been poured out upon us, and one calling in Christ?"
- Ignatius of Antioch provides early support for the Trinity around 110, exhorting obedience to "Christ, and to the Father, and to the Spirit". Justin Martyr (AD 100–c. 165) also writes, "in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit". The first of the early church fathers to be recorded using the word "Trinity" was Theophilus of Antioch writing in the late 2nd century. He defines the Trinity as God, His Word (Logos) and His Wisdom (Sophia) in the context of a discussion of the first three days of creation, following the early Christian practice of identifying the Holy Spirit as the Wisdom of God.
- Although there is much debate as to whether the beliefs of the Apostles were merely articulated and explained in the Trinitarian Creeds, or were corrupted and replaced with new beliefs, all scholars recognize that the Creeds themselves were created in reaction to disagreements over the nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These controversies took some centuries to be resolved.
- In 325, the First Council of Nicaea adopted the Nicene Creed which described Christ as "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father", and the "Holy Ghost" as the one by which was incarnate... of the Virgin Mary".
- Baptism is generally conferred with the Trinitarian formula, "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". Matthew 28:19 may be taken to indicate that baptism was associated with this formula from the earliest decades of the Church's existence. Other Trinitarian formulas found in the New Testament include in 2 Corinthians 13:13, 1 Corinthians 12:4–6, Ephesians 4:4–6, 1 Peter 1:2 and Revelation 1:4–5.
- The ancient Nicene theologians argued that everything the Trinity does is done by Father, Son, and Spirit working in unity with one will. The three persons of the Trinity always work inseparably, for their work is always the work of the one God. The Son's will cannot be different from the Father's because it is the Father's. They have but one will as they have but one being. Otherwise they would not be one God. The traditional theory of "appropriation" consists in attributing certain names, qualities, or operations to one of the Persons of the Trinity, not, however, to the exclusion of the others, but in preference to the others.
So, there is my theological doctrinal offering about what is the Trinity.
At our Bible study on Wednesday, I remember us talking about three things more than anything else:
- Corby’s relational understanding of the Trinity by using herself as an example—she is the wife of Kevin, the mother of Jeff, and her own person/being. (Help me, Corby if I messed this up!)
- Who do we pray to—God (no distinction), or the Father, or Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit?
- Both Mary and Gretchen said that at some crucial point in their lives they had felt a “weight” coming down on their shoulders that they believe might have been the Holy Spirit. I myself about 30 years ago, in a study class about the Gifts of the Spirit, expressed a real desire to be able to speak in tongues. Several people prayed over me, and in less than a minute I received my answer—I got real weak and fell over on the floor, was helped up, and several observed that I was “Slain in the Spirit”. Sorry, no speaking in tongues for me!
Frankly, what does this Trinity theology all mean, and does it really matter in the grand scheme of God’s grace and Christ’s call to us—to love God and to love one another? Do we HAVE to somehow believe in something which we probably cannot understand fully anyway? Don’t we have more important things to do with our faith and lives than to ponder and decide who God is?
My response to all of this takes me back to our trip to Costa Rica this past week, and how that affected my way of thinking about my faith and my actions going forward in life. There is a direct relationship (I think!) between what one believes (their faith) and their actions/their way of operating in their daily lives. I found Costa Rica—its physical attributes, its people, its culture, and its belief system to be an interesting study.
The #1 thing I found in the people and their mindset was their obvious caring for one another and anyone else who comes to their country. It was like nothing I had experienced before. Due to my health issues I was obviously a person in need of help as I tried to move around with my trekking poles and in/out of transportation. There was no shortage of people (young and old) who asked me if I needed help and offered to do so, many times daily. I also found the people to be kind and thoughtful and sharing of what they were doing and how their day was, and the like. I saw mostly smiles and good vibes from everyone there, as they tend to call it—”Pura Vida”, which can mean anything from a simple friendly greeting, to a fond farewell, to how is your day going. “Pure Life” in a literal translation. It reflects the peoples’ philosophy of life, denoting a simple life, free of stress, a positive, relaxed feeling.
I felt like there was something there among these people and culture that we here in the US badly miss and need--to care for one another and share our resources wisely to make life better for all. Not this “everyone for themselves”, step over each other for the next $, I’ll do whatever it takes to get what is mine mantra. Costa Ricans could teach us a lot about how to look at the world in a much more Christ-like way.