In many Christian churches this coming Sunday is celebrated as “Trinity Sunday.” Here’s a good way to set the tone, with a video of James Weldon Johnson’s “Creation”:
The whole idea of the Trinitarian God is often baffling, somewhat contradictory, and eventually gets around to a mysterious equation: 3 = 1 and 1 = 3. That shouldn’t be so surprising; after all, can we ever know who, what, or where God is–or where/when God came from?
This is tough on people who demand rational explanations for everything. But throughout scripture we get hints and clues here and there about the nature and “person” (and personality) of God. Typically, what we learn about God comes in the context of a relationship with creation and, in particular, humankind.
The lectionary passage from Matthew offers us one of those glimpses:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” –Matthew 28:16-20 NRSV
Note, in particular, the promise at the end: And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. God, in Jesus Christ, intends to maintain and uphold the divine end of the relationship. That we can count on. God loves us and wants the best possible life–an abundant life–for us. What a promise of joy and hope! The question becomes, though: Can God, in Jesus Christ, depend on us?
Grace, for the Christian believer, is a transformation that depends in large part on knowing yourself to be seen in a certain way: as significant, as wanted. The whole story of creation, incarnation, and our incorporation into the fellowship of Christ’s body tell us that God desires us, as if we were God, as if we were that unconditional response to God’s giving that God’s self makes in the life of the Trinity. We are created so that we may be caught up in this; so that we may grow into the wholehearted love of God by learning that God loves us as God loves God. The life of the Christian community has as its rationale – if not invariably its practical reality – the task of teaching us this: so ordering our relations that human beings may see themselves as desired, as occasion as of joy.
We human beings have a tough time believing God can care so much. The psalmist was more than just curious about this, too: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:3-5)
On the other hand, who among us has ever (even secretly) concurred with Job:
What are human beings, that you make so much of them, that you set your mind on them, visit them every morning, test them every moment? Will you not look away from me for a while, let me alone until I swallow my spittle? –Job 7:17-19
Yes, God in Jesus Christ desires to be with us (whether we choose it or not, apparently).
My new book, Speak to the Bones: How to Be a Prophetic People in a Time of Exile, is up on Amazon in both print and e-book formats: 161-page Book ; Kindle e-book.The ancient Hebrew prophets can serve as guides for modern-day prophetic communities to engage in actions for peace and social justice. Each of the 10 chapters includes questions for reflection and discussion, making this great for class use.