Saturday, May 29, 2010

Trinity Sunday - A Study in Relationship


Look at that image for a moment if you will. The Father is not the Son. The Father is not the Spirit. The Son is not the Father. The Son is not the Spirit. The Spirit is neither Father nor Son.

All are God. Each one is God. It bears repeating… All are God. Each one is God. And yet God is one!

Even for those of us who believe in this One God of Three Persons, there is a good deal of mind bending that can go on if we try to understand the Trinity in our Western-Culture-Meets-Left-Brain manner. This manner often includes seeing “three persons” as we imagine persons – God as white haired, bearded and maybe slightly scary old man, Jesus as either Western European handsome or bleeding and wounded and finally the Holy Spirit as a dove or maybe a lick of flame.

None of that really breaks through to make the Trinity manifest as our God who is so present in ways that we struggle to recognize and respond to in our lives.

None of that really breaks through to make the Trinity manifest as our God who is so present in ways that we struggle to recognize and respond to in our lives.

When we use the word mystery in relation to the Trinity it can act as a polite excuse… “Oh, the Trinity! “ (ahem, clears throat) “That! It is a mystery!” And with such, we are potentially absolved from getting a headache trying to put the triangular trinity peg into a round left-brain hole!

Thus ends so much study of the Trinity and that is very sad. At the heart of the Trinity is a constant self-revelation of God and relationship, community. These are not abstract concepts but something very real and something we must be in relationship with in order to respond, participate and cooperate with God.

We can’t use mystery as a manner of abandoning our place in the relationship with a God that is relationship. If it is mystery, then we must enter into that mystery, not abandon it.

Let's refocus... How do you imagine God in relationship with you?

"God’s To-Be is To-Be in relationship, and God’s being-in-relationship-to-us is what God is.” Catherine Mowry LaCugna, from her book, God For Us

Think about that for a moment… “God’s being-in-relationship-to-us is what God is.’ God’s being in relationship is what God is. This makes the old-bearded-white-haired-man seem less likely to me. In fact this brings to mind images of relationship from the Song of Songs:

“Set me as a seal on your heart,
as a seal on your arm:
For stern as death is love,
relentless as the netherworld is devotion,
Its flames are a blazing fire.”

This is no longer God looking down at me, but rather the God of relationship, all three-in-one of God, staring at me, calling me into relationship in a most intimate and passionate way.

And it is a little bit uncomfortable!

So yes, this is mystery, but it is mystery as invitation and welcome, not mystery as an impediment of understanding, or mystery as confusion.

God – as Trinity, God – as invitation, God – as Love… in three persons. If a symbol is what it does and if the etymology of the word symbol is a combination of “token or mark” and “to throw” we can understand little else other than something real has been thrown at us. It has also pursued us in endless relationship.

This Trinity-relationship also negates individualism – which is probably one of, if not the greatest challenge to Trinitarian understanding and engagement in our culture. Our most basic national values are based on a kind of individualism that is antithetical to this God of Trinitarian relationship.

We are often so focused on our own relationship with God, that it can be easy to forget or ignore that our relationship with God is completely dependent on our relationships with others.

The model for understanding this in some way is to pray, to study and to simply be with the Trinity, God, Father and Son in ever present and constant motion and engagement with one another.

4 comments:

  1. A great read for me this morning, Fran--thank you!

    I also love what Margaret has to say about the Trinity:

    Remember--the Trinity is a creation of the Church, and any statements about the Trinity, should only lead to more great questions... and creations.... without end. Amen.

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  2. I also like these words, your own: "It is only when we plumb these depths, from oikonomia to theologia, from orthodoxy to orthopraxis, to fully enter into this covenant, this relationship that will find ourselves fallen, deep into the heart of the Trinity that is at once relationship. Sacrament and salvation." Falling deep into the heart of God is what it is all about. Btw, my image of God is a heart that contains all things.

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  3. I challenge you with this question: is it possible to have an image of God? Is it arrogant to have an image of God? I certainly am not saying it is or is not, but in my searching, I have found God streched so far beyond the bounds of my mind that I personally feel that I can not personify God in word or image. That mindset in itself is confusing, however necessary if we are to truely acknowledge the expanse of God... and to say that doesn't even begin to cover God, whatever God is. There really is no way to speak about what God "is" using the english language... if any language. Consider that any image we create in our minds can be described using language... if you can imagine something concretely, you can describe it. I am not suggesting that we can not on some level imagine what God MAY be... but if we are even close to understanding God, we are far beyond language and well into heavy abstract thought. So if we can't imagine honestly imagine God in a concrete enough way to describe God using language... is it benificial to have an image of God? Or do we shelter ourselves from truth by using a series of metaphors that may be more comfortable or understandable, but in the end become disguises...

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  4. Anonymous - welcome to the blog. I am not sure if this is your first visit or not. I will say that I often think about not having anonymous commenters... I would much rather be in conversation with someone whose name, even if not real, is known to me. Perhaps if you return you can identify yourself in some way.

    You make some good and thought provoking points, but I am not exactly sure where you are headed?

    Of course God is beyond all language, but we use language, element and symbol along with our imagination to try to enter into relationship with God, don't we? Perhaps not?

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