June 16, 2019
+ When all is said and done, at the end of the day, I can say this about myself:
I am actually fairly orthodox in most of what I believe. I don’t say that pridefully. I’m not bragging. I’m just saying…
Yes, I know. I’m pretty liberal. At least socially.
But theologically, I’m pretty cut and dry. It would be hard to find a major heresy in most of my thinking.
OK. Yes, I’m a universalist. I do believe that, eventually, we will all be together with Christ in heaven. I really do believe that. I do not believe in an eternal hell.
But the rest of it is pretty much straightforward.
I believe Jesus is the unique and divine Son of God.
I believe he’s the Word of God Incarnate.
I believe in the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection.
I believe prayer does make a difference in this world.
I believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist.
And let’s not get into my view of Mary and the saints.
And then, there’s the Trinity.
Every time I try to explain it, I find myself nudging over into some kind of heresy. Was that Modalist in my definition? Or am I guilty of Partialism?
I don’t want you to think I’m a heretic or anything. I don’t want any heresy charges brought against me. So, you know what? I’m not even going to attempt it today. After all, I’m just a priest. I’m not a theologian, nor have I ever claimed to be one.
Most of us, let’s face it, don’t give the doctrine of the Trinity a lot of thought. Like you, I really don’t lost a lot of sleep over it. I approach this Sunday and this doctrine of the Holy Trinity as I approach any similar situation, like Christmas or Easter or, as we celebrated last Sunday, the Holy Spirit and Pentecost.
It’s a mystery. And I love the mystery of our faith. And let me tell you, there is nothing more mysterious than the Trinity.
God as Three-in-One—God as Father or Parent or Creator, God as Son or Redeemer and God as Spirit or Sanctifier.
I know, I know. It’s difficult to wrap our minds around this concept of God.
The questions we priests regularly get is: how can God be three and yet one? How can we, in all honesty, say that we believe in one God when we worship God as three?
Certainly our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters ask that very important question of us: Aren’t you simply talking about three gods?
(We’re not, by the way—just to be clear about that)
My answer is: I don’t know.
But I believe. I don’t know what it is, but I believe in it.
Whole Church councils have debated the issue of the Trinity throughout history. The Church actually has split at times over its interpretation of what exactly this Trinity is.
We can debate it all we want this morning. We can talk what is orthodox or right-thinking about the Trinity all we want.
But the fact remains that unless we have experienced God in a real and somewhat personal way, none of this talk to the Trinity is really going to matter, ultimately. There is the key to everything this Sunday is about. We can go on and on about theology and philosophy and all manner of thoughts about God, but ultimately what matters is how we interact with our God.
How is our relationship with God and with each other deepened and made more real by this one God? That’s what Jesus tells us again and again.
Just love God.
In scripture we don’t find people worrying too much about whether they are committing a heresy or not in trying to describe God.
What do we find in scripture? We find a constant striving toward a more personal and closer relationship with God. This is our primary responsibility: our relationship with God.
How can all this talk about God—how can this thinking about God—then deepen our relationship with God?
Our goal is not to understand God: we will never understand God. God is not some Rubik’s Cube or a puzzle that has to be solved. Our goal is to know God. In our hearts. Passionately.
Our goal is to love God.
Our goal is to try to experience God as God wishes to be experienced by us.
Because God does know us.
God does love us.
And, more likely than not, we have actually experienced our God in more than one way more than once in our lives.
I personally have experienced the Trinity—or rather, I should say, I have experienced God in a tri-personal kind of way (I don’t know what heresy that might be, but I really don’t care)
I personally have experienced as a loving and caring parent, especially when I think about those times when I have felt marginalized by people or the Church or society or by friends and colleagues.
I have also known Jesus as my redeemer—as One who, in Jesus, has come to me where I am, as Jesus who suffered in a body and who, in turn, knows my suffering because this One also has suffered as well. And this One has promised that I too can be, like Jesus, a child of this God who is my—and our—Parent. I have been able to take comfort in the fact that God is not some distant deity who could not comprehend what I have gone through in my life and in this limited, mortal body. In Jesus, God knows what it was to be limited by our bodies. There is something wonderful and holy in that realization.
And I have known the healing and renewal of the Spirit of God of my life.
If that’s the Trinity—and certainly that’s the Trinity I have experienced in my life—then, it’s wonderful!
If all we do is ponder and argue and debate God and God’s nature, we’ve already thrown in the towel. And we are defeating the work of God. But if we simply love God and strive to experience God through prayer and worship and contemplation, that is our best bet.
No matter what the theologians argue about, no matter what those supposedly learned teachers proclaim, ultimately, our understanding of God needs to be based on our own experience to some extent.
Yes, God is beyond our understanding. Yes, God is mysterious and amazing and incredible. But God does not have to be a frustrating aspect of our church and our faith. Our experience of God should rather widen and expand our faith life and our understanding and experience of God and, in turn, of each other.
So, today, as we ponder God—as we consider how God has worked in our lives in many ways— and who God is in our lives, let us remember how amazing God is in the ways God is revealed to us. God cannot be limited or quantified or reduced.
God can only be experienced.
God can only be shared with others as we share love with each other.
When we do that—when we live out and share our loving God with others—then we are joining with the amazing and mysterious work of God who is here with us, loving us with a love deeper than any love we have ever known before.