Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The mystery of 3 in 1

Readings for May 31, 2015. Isaiah 6:1-13, Psalm 29, John 3:1-17, Romans 8:12-25

I have no trouble figuring out 3 in 1 oil (penetrates, lubricates, cleans), a "triple threat" in the arts (someone who can sing, dance, and act), a 3 part speech (aren't we all taught to have 3 points when we speak or write?)

There are many things that are multi-purpose and conveniently combined into one handy package.

So, I am baffled sometimes that Christianity has so much confusion around the idea of Trinity. What's the problem? 3 in 1, three descriptors for God, (Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer), and three ways to understand wholeness (Spiritual, Physical, Mental).

Of course, I am being overly simplistic, but I guess I've never felt the need to fully pull this apart and try to cram it into some logical system. Historically, however, the church has seemed to need to do this, to make a doctrinal statement of belief that becomes "fact" and everyone has to agree to it.

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday. a day where the 3 in 1 is traditionally celebrated and preached in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist denominations-according to Wikipedia. (Notice that Mennonite is missing. I guess that explains my "huh?" reaction when I encountered the idea of a Trinity Sunday!) In our Mennonite confession of faith, we do not have a separate article for any explanation of Trinity doctrine. In article 1, "God", there is a sentence; "We worship the one holy and loving God who is Father, Son, and Holy spirit eternally." The articles on Jesus and the Holy Spirit, likewise, express similar unifying statements, but also do not try to tease the triad apart. David Lose, in his May 28, 2012 article for 'Working Preacher" says; "...I think, that trying to explain the Trinity in a sermon is a really, really, bad idea."  I tend to agree. Going all doctrinal on this idea of Trinity assumes that God can be explained somehow, put into neat understandable categories that all of us simply must agree to in order that our belief is somehow correct. For me, the Trinity is just a helpful tool towards, but not encompassing, understanding.

It's laughable that we think God can be partitioned and explained, and yet, of course we need some handles for understanding.

At first, Isaiah 6 seems irrelevant, but it's actually a neat 3 in 1 itself. Emotions (v5), thinking through a problem (v7), and doing something (v8) are all part of this passage. These three ways of reacting to issues interest me as a student of the Enneagram, a personality theory system. In the Enneagram, there are 3 basic types of personality centers, the heart (feelings first), the head (thinking first), and the gut (reactionary). Isaiah addresses all the aspects of the complete human!

Psalm 29 reminds us that God is unfathomable, powerful beyond our imagining. How can words describe God?

Romans makes an amazing claim, that because we share in God's spirit, we are joint heirs with Christ. We get to be a part of the great 3 in 1, and not as an awkward fourth, but joined to the whole in spirit.

The John passage, containing what is arguably the most famous Bible verse, makes me think again about the futility of trying to understand the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus struggles to understand the idea of faith and rebirth, In verses 6-8, Jesus compares the spirit to the wind that blows where it chooses. We can't see it, control it, or predict it. God's spirit too, is not something we can fully understand or control, but it happens. I love this because, as a practical "gut" person, I am a doer and here I cannot be one. Here I am challenged to be something else. Here I can't do anything, control anything, predict anything. I have to give up trying to handle the Spirit and give myself over to letting it handle me. It is more than doing, more than saying, it is being open to receive God. And that being "in the spirit" is remarkably rejuvenating! I will still strive to understand, but be okay with knowing it is impossible. I will still feel, but feel that God is with me in it. I will still react and do things, but can (hopefully) give control over to God for the results.  Three in one, thinking, feeling, and doing, and all three finding oneness in the mystery of God.

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