Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
“To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.
The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth–
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.”
When I was in seminary, I once found myself assigned to write a devilishly dense paper that highlighted everything I dislike about Trinitarian theology. The title of the paper alone was enough to put you to sleep, “Whether it is the case that there is an Ontological Identity between the Economic Trinity and the Immanent Trinity,” but I assure you that writing it was much worse.
I spent many hours in the library, pouring through old books, writing a paper that, if God is good, will never again see the light of day. Sitting there amidst the ponderous stacks of texts, a single phrase kept coming into my mind, over and over again, like a mantra. It doesn’t matter. None of this matters.
Because, it didn’t matter. Nothing I could write on the topic of the Economic and Immanent Trinity would ever have any bearing on anyone’s life, or anything in the world around us, or in any way to ministry. It was a topic that immensely few people would care about, and the people who did weren’t the sort of people with whom you would want to be stuck at a dinner party.
So it is with so much of Trinitarian theology. As the general wisdom goes, if you think you understand the Trinity, then you have clearly misunderstood something. It is incredibly dense, has a relatively small bearing on the world, is nearly impossible to wrap your head around, and much of the time, as far as I can tell, exists only for its own sake.
Paradoxically, this is also what I love about the Trinity and Trinitarian theology. For at its core, it is mysterious, existing just beyond our ability to comprehend, pointing the way into the heart of the unknowability of God. At its best, the Trinity is theology that is not about us, but only about God.
And that, my friends, is a radical thing! We are so very good at making religion about us, at making our worship about ourselves, at making the journey of faith about me. We ask questions like, how does this theology apply to my life, how does it make a difference in my day-to-day existence? Because that is what we want! How will our religion help us to be good people? How will it teach us to live good lives, filled with meaning and purpose? How will our faith help us get into heaven?
All of these are good and wonderful things, yes. We should seek to be good people, and it is a blessing to live a good life, and it is my sincere hope that each and every one of us find our lives expand into the eternity of God, whether in this life or the next. But when they become the sole focus of this thing we call religion, then we reduce our faith into a self-help club.
We reduce our faith to things that are knowable, things that are reasonable, and things that are practical. In doing so, we slowly erode the possibility of mystery and paradox; we cut ourselves off from the paths into the great cloud of unknowing that surrounds the divine.
In the face of this human tendency, the Trinity is like a breath of fresh air. It defies our ability to grasp—every simple analogy that exists for the Trinity commits some theological heresy or another. They are useful but for a moment, but fall apart if we grip onto them too tightly. As such, it reminds us that at the core of our belief is a place where reason, logic, and our ideas of the way things should be begin to fall apart. It reminds us that at the core of our faith is a mystery that stretches our imagination and comprehension.
Most of all, the Trinity reminds us that our faith is not about us; ultimately, it is about God. It is a theology that gives us a glimpse into the nature of God, a God who exists in dynamic relationship with God’s own self for no other reason than God’s own self. It is a theology that gives us a glimpse into the love that fills the Godhead, a love so great that it overflows into all of creation.
This is not just fancy sounding theology, my friends, it is important! It is important because it helps us begin to understand God’s desire to be in relationship with us, because it helps us begin to understand God’s love for us. It helps us understand why God would look out at the formless void, why God would behold the unformed chaos, and speak creation into being. It is why God would cause a thousand million stars to explode in nova, just to gather up the dust with which you were formed, shaping you carefully and lovingly, and breathing into you the divine spark which quickens your heart and drives the breath between your lips.
It helps us understand why God would become incarnate, enter into the most broken places of the human condition, and walk among us, just to lead us back into relationship with God. And it is why our rejection and crucifixion of Christ would not, could not, deter God or God’s love for us. And it is why God continues to blow through us, filling us with wisdom and courage, leading and guiding us toward the fulfillment and completion of creation.
All of this, God’s love for us, God’s desire—against all odds and all reason—to be in relationship with us, flows from the relationship of God with God’s own self, from the love of God for God’s own self.
On this Sunday, as we celebrate the mystery of the Holy Trinity, when you find yourself struggling to make sense of it all, stop. Take a moment and let yourself dwell lightly in the divine mystery of it all. Rest there, and let the love of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity flow through you. Because, that is what this is all about.
Preached by Adam Yates