In case you didn’t know, today is Trinity Sunday, which is a day often handed to deacons and deacon interns to preach because it is one of those tricky topics to preach on. So, what is the doctrine of the trinity? Well to figure that out I started with the prayer book and discovered that the Catechism describes the Trinity as the three Persons of God, but I don’t find that all that helpful in our quest to understand it because that is merely a definition. My next stop was various commentaries on scripture and that is where I found that in Greek the word Persona, which is the origins of our word for person, means the face through which you speak, so when we refer to the three persons of God, it might be helpful to think that we are referring to the three faces through which God speaks.
The three persons of the trinity are God the father or the creator, who is omnipotent or all powerful; there is God the son or the redeemer, who walked among us as Jesus; and there is God the Holy Spirit or the sustainer, who resides within us and guides us. Church doctrine dictates that all three persons of the God head are fully separate and fully God and that all three are in fact one God. If you are thoroughly confused as to how anything can be separate while it is also not separate, you are not alone. The reason the church has landed on the doctrine of the trinity is because it is the only explanation that we have come up with that comes close to explaining the many ways we have experienced God throughout human history. We could spend our entire lives trying to understand the doctrine of the trinity and never do so and if we did do that, we would be completely missing the point of our faith, which is to be in a loving relationship with God, through which we can be faithful stewards of creation.
Rather than thinking of God as three persons, I invite you to think of God through the lens of the original Greek meaning and think about how each of God’s faces is present in our lives. God the creator is the easiest to experience because we can see it, hear it, smell it, feel it, and even taste it. From the depths of the oceans to the highest point of the Himalayas everything in nature should remind us of the awesomeness of God because only God could create things that cause such wonder, amazement, and fear all at the same time.
God the redeemer, or Jesus, is the face through which God attempted to establish a deeper connection with humanity. The entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures describes the struggle of God to connect with the people. In Exodus God speaks directly to Moses and provides explicit laws in the form of the ten commandments. With Abraham God creates a new covenant which is meant to formalize the relationship between God and the people. Later God sends prophet after prophet to warn the people that they are not leading God centered lives, but still many of us turn our backs to God. Ultimately God makes the decision to come personally in order to speak to us directly through words and actions. The life of Jesus is a road map of how to be in relationship with God. The people of the first century had the advantage of being able to directly experience Jesus as the face of God, they were able to see his actions and hear his message directly, and still they struggled. We can only experience the life of Jesus secondhand because we can only read about it and when we do read about it, we often do so in small doses and out of context, which makes it that much more difficult to understand.
God the sustainer, or the Holy Spirit, is the face through which God is always fully present to us and, to me, is the one that provides the deepest connection to God. The Hebrew scriptures speak of the Spirit of God, but in Judaism it refers more to the divine force and influence of God meaning it is the force behind the will of God, so the Spirit of God does not act as a driving force on its own. In our tradition the Holy Spirit is a constant presence among us, it is a driving force behind our interaction with both creation and God. Our sense of morality, compassion, and love is rooted in the presence of the Holy Spirit and our connection with God.
Our relationship to the Trinity is quite personal and that is the way it is meant to be. For many people God seems to be a source of comfort and the thing that they look to when they need guidance; for some people God is a thing to be feared because scripture appears to be filled with God’s wrath; and for others God simply is. Whether or not we understand the doctrine of the trinity is irrelevant, the only thing that matters is that we acknowledge the presence of God in our lives and actively seek to accomplish the mission God has given us, namely to love God and to love our neighbors. This mission was originally handed down by God the Creator through the ten commandments; God then attempted to reinforce this message through the prophets, who were charged with pointing out to God’s people that they were straying from the plan. As this did not work, God became incarnate in Jesus and both told and showed us how to follow through with our mission. In addition, Jesus took away the one thing we consistently feared and that was the wrath of God, which ultimately resulted in death. Through his death and resurrection Jesus showed us that death is no longer on the table, so we don’t need to worry about doing the wrong thing and then being punished for it. When Jesus was baptized the Holy Spirit descended upon him, which is the basis of our belief that the Holy Spirit resides within us and assists us in carrying out our mission of Love. As humans we are capable of love, however when left to our own devices we will choose self-interests over our neighbor most of the time. We could argue that, like God, we have multiple faces. We have the faces we use when we are with our family and friends; we have the faces we use in public; we have the faces we use at school, at work, and at church. How we interact with people reflects our relationship with God. When we are short with people; when we ask how people are and then walk away before they have a chance to respond; when we focus on how others actions affect us and not wonder why they may be acting the way they are; when we insist that our needs are more important than the needs of others, then we are not reflecting the love of God which the Holy Spirit is continually urging us to share.
A part of being in relationship with God is thanking God the creator for everything they have provided; studying scripture, with the Holy Spirit as our guide, so that we can understand the teachings of Jesus; and then, also with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, implementing what we learn from our study of scripture in our lives. Nowhere in scripture does it say greet your neighbor and then ignore their response; nowhere does it say be short with people; nowhere does it say put your own needs ahead others; nowhere does it say blame others for how we are feeling. God projects nothing but love, and by God’s grace we can do the same; but first we must be willing to say no to anger, say no to jealousy, say no to greed, say no to fear; and say no to our egos. God is always present to us, God is always speaking to us, God is always guiding us, but how often are we present to God? How often do we speak to God? How often to we allow God to guide us? God’s love and guidance is not limited to Sunday, Sunday is just the day we choose to gather for fellowship. God is always ready and willing to love and guide us, we just need to be ready and willing to accept it and stop thinking that we need to be in control. My challenge to all of us this week is let go. When we feel ourselves getting stressed or angry or jealous, when we feel the need to be in control, take a breath, pray for God to give you the grace to move passed your emotions and see what happens.