God = Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Or creator, redeemer and sustainer.
Is that like
H2O = ice, water and steam?
An apple = skin, flesh and seeds?
White light, refracted into 3 colours?
Many inadequate metaphors have been used to try and explain the Christian concept of God as ‘Trinity’. You see, the way God is expressed in the biblical narrative and experienced in life in Christian community seems to demand more than one simple word.
John Macquarrie, widely respected across denominations as an important Christian theologian, is a great read when it comes to Christian doctrine. His clear deep thinking and accessible way of writing are a gift to the person wanting to better understand complex doctrinal concepts like ‘the Trinity’. Macquarrie names the problem clearly: for a Christian, the single word ‘God’ might not actually be the key word. Christians use a diversity of language that is grounded in the community’s experience of relating with God, yet which also expresses insight into the mystery of God.
Think of the different ways you have experienced or encountered God, and the different names for God you use in worship and prayer.
The early Christian community believed that God, who created heaven and earth, became incarnate in a particular man and still dwelt with the community and continued to guide it. In trying to express this faith, the trinitarian formula of the New Testament emerged. The problem remains, as Macquarrie points out, that,
“any language that tries to talk to us of the mystery of God will have some obscurities”.
One of the clearest and most succinct expressions of the early church’s wrestling with the doctrine of the Trinity is expressed in the introduction to the Athanasian Creed:
That we worship God in Trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence.
That is 1 God in 3 persons. God in relationship within God’s self.
The novel The Shack by William P. Young is a modern attempt to explore one man’s relationship with God. Finding himself in ‘the shack’ (the shack being a metaphor for ‘the house you build out of your own pain’ where your experience of being stuck, hurt or damaged is linked to shame or woundedness), Mack meets God as 3 people he calls Papa, Jesus and Sarayu.
The Shack was made into a movie in 2017. While an impossible task in one sense, to cinematically portray the narrative and theological ideas of The Shack, it does make for interesting and captivating viewing. Many people have found The Shack (the novel and/or the full-length movie) a helpful way to access the relational nature of God. Young breaks down the stereotypes of the way people might view God and ‘makes God possible’ through expressing the triune nature of God in everyday relationships.
(For details of the film see https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2872518/ )
Trinity Anglican Mission is still the formal name for Anglican Church Robina. That’s why we celebrate Trinity Sunday as our Feast of Title – the feast to which our parish is dedicated.
By the way, did you know our parish’s story can be found on our church website? https://robinaanglican.com/our-story/
And so, on Trinity Sunday we celebrate who we are as a community – a church known for relationships. This includes God’s relationship within the unity of who God is, our relationships with one another, our relationships with ‘the community of saints’ who have gone before us and our relationships with people in the wider community through our op shops, Rainbow Town, Trinity Family Support Network and playgroup.
We are especially excited to be celebrating our relationships with families as our kid’s ministry team hosts ‘together again’ – a festival of faith and fun for our children and young people to be held in the Rainbow Town precinct during our 9.30 service this Sunday.
A final word from John Macquarrie:
“Let us bear in mind that our language about the Trinity and our talk of the attributes, while indeed it points to the immensely rich diversity-in-unity of God, falls far short of reality. Our symbols reflect the fragmentary sequential thinking of our own finite intelligences and should never distract us from the unity of God in whom all this is gathered up.” Principles of Christian Theology, 1977, p.210.
May the love which unites the persons of the Trinity in their celebration of life and relationship shape our lives as we seek to live as loving community. And all to the glory of God whose love in relationship remains greater than we can imagine or express in words.
Grace and peace,