Trinity – A preacher’s least favorite topic
The Trinity! It has been described as the preacher’s nightmare, the ultimate Rubik’s cube of theology. A great theologian of the last century wondered whether, if we no longer mentioned the Trinity, would most Christians even notice. After all, we are about Jesus. We are “Christians”. Too often the Trinity is something we, unthinkingly, celebrate when we make the Sign of the Cross… “in the name of the Father. The Son, and Holy Spirit!
As I reflect on Trinity Sunday in recent years, I realized I have been on quite a journey. I invite you to join me on this Vincentian Mindwalk. Some of you may relate to different phases of my journey.
What I grew up thinking
I grew up with two thoughts. It was a mystery that no one could explain except maybe by using the image of a three-leaf clover. I realize now that the focus was on a kind of theological math. How could there be three persons in one nature? I never thought about the “why” and “what” I could learn about myself from this mystery.
I got the impression that the Father, despite being described as loving, was a ruler who needed to be placated. Jesus apparently came to tell us that he stood in for us by appeasing his angry Father. The Spirit was talked about mainly on Pentecost or when we received the sacrament of Confirmation. Over simplifications, yes! Yet, but for all too many even today, I wonder how much.
Highlights of my journey
It came as a surprise to me when I first realized how much of a journey I have been on with regard to the Trinity..
- It has been a journey from Trinity as a puzzle to Trinity as a model for our lives.
- It has been a journey from an intellectual understanding to a mystery to be lived.
- It has been a journey from an emphasis on three distinct persons to an insight into ourselves as a community made in the image and likeness of the ultimate community we name as God.
- It has been a journey of slowly recognizing that the Good News is that we are made in the image and likeness of a community of persons. That is why we are called live in community united as the one Body we are.
- It has been a journey from trying to live in imitation of Christ to the imitation of God and realizing that Jesus was all about teaching us to live the mystery of community.
- It has been a journey from imagining God as a noun to realizing God is a verb. Be like the God in whose image and likeness we are made.
My maturing image of the church
All this has a profound impact on my understanding of the mission of the church as the People of God.
I now look at the church as fulfilling its mission when others can say with wonderment “See how these Christians love one another” and find unity in their distinctness. The church is so much more than an institutional structure or its leaders
I now look at the eucharist, not as something focused on what the priest does but as the reminder that our God is a servant God. A God who came not to be served but to teach us how to serve even the least of us, even to the last drop of our blood.
We should not just attend eucharist but live lives that imitate Christ who pointedly asked at the Last Supper. Do you understand what I, your lord and master, have done? Do this in memory of me, wash one another’s feet.
Then we will understand the last judgment…whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me.
Then we will live out of the realization that we are made in the image and likeness of the divine community of the Trinity!
A Trinitarian examination of conscience…
- How conscious am I of being made in the image and likeness of a community we call God?
- How did saints like Vincent and Louise translate this in their lives?
- What is my greatest challenge in living out of that awareness?