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Trinity Sunday

“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen, yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?” (John 3:11-12, NRSVue)

 The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most challenging concepts to teach in the Christian faith. We teach that there is one God in three persons, but not three beings, for God is, was, and always has been one God. We refer to the three persons as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Others prefer viewing God in less anthropomorphic terms as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, focusing on the actions of the one God. We can envision the “three-ness” of the Trinity; however, we struggle to explain “how” three can be one.

Throughout church history, theologians have tried to explain the nature of the Trinity, and often, their attempts have led to charges of heresy. Others, like Arius (256-336 .D.), abandoned the idea of the Trinity, asserting that Jesus was not “co-eternal” with the Father. Instead, Arius believed God created Jesus as his surrogate to come into our world. Arius’ position grew in popularity, so in 324 A.D., the Roman emperor Constantine convened a church council to address the controversy in Nicaea (modern-day Turkey). Out of that meeting and a subsequent council in 381 A.D., the council attendees developed the Nicene Creed to clarify that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are co-eternal and co-existent as one God. We will use the Nicene Creed in our worship this Sunday as we observe Trinity Sunday to affirm our faith in the Triune God.

How can we believe something that we can’t explain? We can only accept the doctrine of the Trinity through faith—through believing—because we cannot prove the theological paradox that we serve one God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can only accept it as a matter of faith.

St. Augustine (354-430 AD), one of the greatest thinkers of early Christianity, was walking along the beach one day, probably around 415 AD. Taking a break from writing his treatise on the Trinity, the magnificent theologian couldn’t get his mind around this great mystery.  He noticed a little boy digging a hole in the sand and then running to the ocean, filling up his hands with seawater, running back to the hole, and emptying the water into the hole.  Augustine watched as the child went back and forth several times. Finally, he asked the boy, “What are you doing?”  The boy said, “Trying to fill that hole with the ocean.” And Augustine said, “You’ll never fit the ocean in that hole.”  And the boy said, “Neither will you be able to fit the Trinity into your mind.” And then the little boy mysteriously disappeared. I’ll leave any conclusions about who the boy was to your imagination.

The point is that we see evidence of God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer as we interact with God, with creation, with each other, and with scripture. It’s unexplainable, but that doesn’t make it untrue. When I pray, I speak to God as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, and sometimes, I structure my prayers to address each one individually in the same prayer, believing that God, in whatever expression I address him, hears my prayers. I don’t get hung up on the paradox of the Trinity. Just because I can’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s untrue.

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and if you’re in town or have guests visiting for the holiday, we hope to see you in church. This weekend is a great time to invite your friends and neighbors to join us in worship and then go home together and cook a good meal for them. See you Sunday!

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