The trinitarian nature of our faith is unique and important. Islam and Judaism share with us the belief in one holy God and sacred texts which reveal the nature of God and a value system for human living. They share, in their purest form and in our purest form, a concern to praise and worship God and care for all people, especially the most needy and vulnerable. Where Christianity speaks to us in a distinctive way is in the all-important historic event of God becoming man and living amongst us, sharing the difficulties and pressures of the human journey of life. Living an exemplary and holy life showing us how to live well in our praise and reliance of God and our compassionate and individual care of the people we meet. This is God meeting us in sacrifice and suffering, on the cross. Jesus took the heaviness of human sin to reconcile us to God in right relationship. In Jesus we find death and torture, but we also see resurrected life, a sign that death is not the end but part of a journey that can continue beyond the grave into eternity. Jesus’ death and resurrection are part of God’s plan to connect the human and the divine, but the story did not end in AD 30 or so. God promised the Holy Spirit, the life force of God within humanity as we search and recognise God. Christianity is not at its heart a belief system to learn but a relationship with God to embrace and experience. The task is now ours to bring the world to know God, to recognise Christ, to work at bringing God’s values of justice, peace, and reconciliation to others. To me the Trinity is fundamental to my understanding and practice of the Christian faith. It means that God did not set creation in motion and leave us to grapple with all that means unaided. Prophets were sent and humanity failed to listen, so God sent his son. A faith that has survived all the pressures, failures and persecution of 2000 years is still affirming that God loves and wants the best for us as we worship and serve in the name of Jesus Christ. God did not just send his Son into the world to reconcile God and humankind; we were given the spirit of God within us to strengthen and challenge us to keep God’s holy laws.
We need to keep our understanding and our Christian discipleship firmly rooted in The Trinity. If we only believe in God the Father, God is remote, distant, uninterested in what is happening on earth. If we believe only in Jesus, he is a good and remarkable man, but that is all. If all we believe in is the Holy Spirit, we will have some good personal experiences but no solid substance.
If we neglect our praise of God as Father and creator, we lose a sense of God’s glory, in fact our worship is not of something we can define as God at all. Without recognition of Jesus as our Lord and Saviour our worship is not grounded in our earthly living. Without the energy of God’s Spirit within us our faith is academic, a set of hypotheses and beliefs without dynamic energy, literally without spirit.
The point of the Trinity is not to separate out and define the parts. Trinitarian theology merely opens to us the way that Christians have worked to understand the vastness of God.
We believe in one God, but one God in relationship. These are not concepts we can easily define or contain in words but the Trinity does give us a short hand for speaking of the complexity of God as the Almighty Creator who spoke the world into being, God as incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth who fully embodied the extent of divine love for the world, God as present with and within us today as Holy Spirit who guides and comforts and enlivens us.
It is important that we understand the breadth of the activity and personality of God. The doctrine of the Trinity should keep us from narrowing our vision of who God is and what God does; and this should broaden our understanding about who God loves, and what the work of God looks like in the world.
We need to understand God in the same way we understand music and visual arts and poetry - beyond definition. This concept perhaps speaks to what we call our souls rather than our minds. We can catch the nature of it even if we can’t justify the concept by logic. Sometimes the truths of love and relationship are as important and profound and true as the truths of sciences. I know that I love my husband, my children, my grandchildren as surely as I know that the earth moves around the sun. Relationship is at the heart of the identity of God. Relationships are not just something that God forms with creation, but relationship is who God is.
This God as one being but one being in relationship as a dynamic dance. And if God is relationship, that means that we, too, are drawn into the divine choreography. As are our neighbours. All of life is part of this, those who love us and all those who dislike us and the created earth and planets.
The Trinity is not a doctrine to be argued and recited. It is not even a concept to be understood. It is a mystery into which we are invited, a mystery to be entered. A dance for all to join.
God lives as a community, with Father, Son and Spirit in loving harmony and interdependence, each being distinct and doing distinctive things. We are made in God’s image; and so we too are made to be in community and are only truly ourselves as we live that out. This challenges the notion that faith is solely a personal matter. We must live out our faith together with our fellow-believers. A particular challenge when we are gathering in different ways.
Isaiah 40: 28-29
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator to the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless.
That is what now we need God’s power and strength to go on praising, loving and praying in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
We are called to follow that great commission to go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of God as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. We are now used to the statistics of exponential growth in the R number. What if we thought of evangelism in a similar way? As part of the Thy Kingdom Come initiative, we are asked to pray for 5 people to come to know God’s love for them in Christ. If they do come to know Christ and they tell others, who tell others, who tell others, then Christian discipleship increases. It may well be that this is the best way of spreading the message of God’s love, the relationship we can experience of God, in Christ and the presence and power of God we experience in the indwelling Spirit. Big missions may or not be the way forward but investment in relationship, accepting individuals where they are, praying for them, conversing with them, listening to their views, to their stories, sharing experiences and resources with them. This is a good way, that at the moment we can share and enthuse from our own experience and open people up to God’s work in their lives. We continue to seek how to do that faithfully, respecting our traditions and innovatively adjusting to strange and new times. We have God with us and each other to depend upon. The call is to be faithful and the results can be left safely in the hands of a trinitarian God.
By Sue Curtis