Sunday, June 11, 2017, Holy Trinity Year A The Rev. Anne Abdy Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
I don’t claim to be a theologian and I never will claim to be a theologian. In fact, while in one of my theology classes I accidentally blurted out, “I hate this class” to the horror of my classmates after I had raised my hand to ask a question and the professor called on me. Talk about awkward! While I recognize as a priest I need to be familiar with the concepts of Christology (the study of Christ), Eschatology (the doctrine of last things or end times), or Predestination to name a few topics studied by theologians, I relate to all things firmly planted in the earth. Trinity Sunday is all about theology and the persons of God, and has been debated for centuries. For example, the Nicene Creed was created in AD 325 at First Council of Nicaea, revised at the Councils held in Constantinople (AD 375), Ephesus (AD 431), Chalcedon (AD 451), and there continues to be discussion today.
For me, the number three is a number that I hold very close to my heart. I am a triplet and while my brother and sister did not survive but a few days, it was my father who anointed me placing me in God Almighty’s hands. I believe that because of God’s grace and favor that I survived and I am here today. So for me the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are important figures to me.
Understanding the Trinity can be hugely complicated by competing theologies, doctrines, and traditions. Then, there’s me, who likes to keep it simple. But I do believe that to understand anything concept in life one needs to wrestle with the topic, almost metaphorically like Jacob wrestled with the Angel. Sometimes, when we do this, we learn things about ourselves, but we also open up ourselves to learn more about the topic. So maybe the best way for me to explain the Trinity is to look at various perspectives.
MORE THAN ONE PERSON: Is God one person or more than one person? In Genesis 1:26 we heard God say, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” A little later in chapter three, we read, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:22) The use of the plural pronoun does not conclusively confirm the three persons, but this is the use of the collective “we”. One needs to remember that when reading the Bible we are interpreting ancient literature with a modern lens.
Christianity for Dummies (Trinity Chapter) suggests looking at the pronouns that explain the Trinity for clues as to how God describes himself? Or is it herself? Or is it neither? Clearly in the New Testament, Jesus refers to himself as the “Son” and God as the “Father,” and visa versa. Remember, at Jesus’ baptism, a voice from the heavens says, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Mt. 3:17) The Spirit, “pneuma”, in Greek ends in the neuter noun. In Hebrew, it word is “rūaḥ”. It is a feminine noun. In Latin, the common language of the church for centuries, the word for Spirit is masculine. In the Book of Wisdom, Wisdom is referred to as the divine Sophia (female.)
While I might believe in a father-figure God, a male-Jesus and the warm fuzzy feeling or inner voice being the Spirit, we all have to latch onto what works for you. Can God be a Mother-figure? For many who have been raised in an abusive household or are living in an abusive relationship, father figure deities cannot be easily attached to. So, maybe God is a Mother figure.
Most catechesis classes teach the triangle diagram of the Trinity. In the middle of the triangle is God. Each triangle point is God. The apex is God the Father. The base angles are God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Here the relationships between the different members of the Trinity are explained.
Another model to explain the Trinity is the “Father gives the Son and the Son gives himself. Father and Son give the Spirit and the Spirit enables the work of both.” This model demonstrates the members utility of stewardship of each person of God. This respect for each member demonstrates the empowering nature of unity between the three members. Think of a flashlight. The flashlight is God, the Father; the switch and battery are God, the Son; and then the beam is God, the Holy Spirit.
The preaching aid, The Living Pulpit suggests looking at the different descriptors of the members of the Trinity throughout the Bible. In other words, how does God describe God? In scripture, we find references that God is imagined as a judge, midwife, dew, gardener, rock, fortress, deliverer, daddy, father, comforting mother, good shepherd, lion, leopard, and even a mother bear. I relate to the God who represents love, Jesus is God’s Beloved, and the Holy Spirit is the Lover.
Amongst different cultures, the members of the Trinity are viewed differently. Was Jesus a white man? Visiting the mission station when I was in Africa and looking at the stations of the cross on the wall, I noticed Jesus was a black man. A dark black skinned man. That was the first time I’d seen a non-white Jesus. I wonder what Native American or Hispanic kids dream Jesus to look like? A light brown tone skin color?
All cultures believe in a God that mimics their own culture. I say this because if my experience is only with Anglo middle class white people – then I am more likely to latch onto a white Jesus, especially if all the children picture books paint him as that. Remember, there is no reference in the Bible as to his appearance. Most scholars believe that Jesus would have been similar in appearance to those living Middle East, because he is referred to as a Galilean Israelite.
The novel and movie, The Shack, by William P. Young has a wonderful description of the persons of God. I’d like to read those passages to you.
Mack has arrived at the shack.
“Mack decided to bang loudly and see what happened, but just as he raised his fist to do so, the door flew open, and he was looking directly into the face of a large beaming African-American woman.
Instinctively he jumped back, but he was too slow, With speed that belied her size, she crossed the distance between them and engulfed him in her arms, lifting him clear off his feet and spinning him around like a little child. And all the while she was shouting his name–”Mackenzie Allen Phillips”–with the ardor of someone seeing a long-lost and deeply-loved relative. She finally put him back on earth and, with her hands on his shoulders, pushed him back as if to get a good look at him.
“Mack, look at you!” she fairly exploded. “Here you are so grown up. I have really been looking forward to seeing you face to face. It is so wonderful to have you here with us. My, my, my how I love you!” And with that she wrapped herself around him again.”
“The large black woman gathered his coat and he handed her the gun, which she took from him with two fingers as if it was contaminated. Just as she turned to enter the cabin, a small, distinctively Asian woman emerged from behind her. “Here, let me take those,” her voice sang. Obviously, she had not meant the coat or gun, but something else. He stiffened as he felt something sweep gently across his cheek. Without moving, he looked down and could see that she was busy with a fragile crystal bottle and a small brush, like those he had seen Nan and Kate use for makeup, gently removing something from his face.
Before he could ask, she smiled and whispered, “Mackenzie, we all have things we value enough to collect, don’t we?” . . . “I collect tears.”
“He then glanced past her and noticed that a third person had emerged from the cabin, this one a man. He appeared Middle Eastern and was dressed like a laborer, complete with tool belt and gloves. He stood easily, leaning against the door jamb with arms crossed in front of him, wearing jeans covered in wood dust and a plaid shirt with sleeves rolled just above the elbows, revealing well muscled forearms. His features were pleasant enough, but he was not particularly handsome—not a man who would stick out in a crowd. But his eyes and smile lit up his face and Mack found it difficult to look away.”
“Mack stepped back again, feeling a bit overwhelmed. “Are there more of you?” he asked a little hoarsely.
The three looked at one another and laughed. Mack couldn’t help but smile. “No, Mackenzie,” chuckled the black woman. “We is all that you get, and believe me, we’re more than enough.”
What I am suggesting is that you need to choose how you can best relate to the three persons of God. And you may not be there yet. Maybe the masculine nomenclature doesn’t work for you. That’s why I love The Shack and so appreciate the author for making God a bustling Southern Black woman. She wraps Mack in LOVE and I think that is the point.
And, that’s the beauty of the Episcopal Church too. We say at the Apostles Creed and at the Nicene Creed that we believe in “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, . . .”, and it is okay that I believe, while others may not today. The Episcopal Church expects and allows us to wrestle with this. Maybe that why we have Trinity Sunday in our Lectionary each year.
You get to decide.
“For we know that the Son who redeemed us is God “made flesh” for us; we know that the Spirit who meets us now is God present to us; and we know that the Father who sends the Son and the Spirit is God almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”
If there is any take-a-way, know this: God is Love. Jesus is Love. The Spirit loves you too. This Triune God is a God of love.
 Richard Wagner, Christianity for Dummies, –for Dummies (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Pub., 2004), 134.
 David H. C. Read, “God In Action,” The Living Pulpit 8, no. 2 (April – June 1999): 43.
 Elizabeth Rankin Geitz, “The Trinity: The Lover, the Beloved and the Love,” The Living Pulpit 8, no. 2 (April – June 1999): 40.
 William P. Young, The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity (Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007), 82.
 Young, 84.
 Ibid., 84.
 Ibid., 85.
 David H. C. Read, “God In Action,” The Living Pulpit 8, no. 2 (April – June 1999): 43.