Friday, June 17, 2011

Shaped by the Trinity

It’s time to think.  This week we’re starting a six week series on tough theology topics.  This is not easy business.  We’ve chosen some of the most complex and most difficult theological issues of our era.  Each week, we’ll give you a handout as a guide to further research.  I encourage you to take this home and look up some of these articles and deepen your understanding.  So buckle up.  It’s time to think about some of the deepest stuff in Christianity. 

Today is Trinity Sunday, so we starting our series with the heart of Christian theology - the Trinity.  To help us get started on the right foot, I want us to read one of the most important Biblical texts on the Trinity:
Matthew 28:16-20.
 16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!
 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
 Thomas Oden says that all Christian theology is basically an extended commentary on our baptisms.  We are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and then we spend the rest of our lives trying to understand and to live what that means.1
To be honest, I have kind of a love-hate relationship with the theological concept of the Trinity.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love the Trinity - God.  And on one hand, I love thinking about all of this deep stuff.  I love thinking about the inner workings of the Trinity, how the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Spirit, and how there are diversity and hospitality in the heart of God.  But, on the other hand, sometimes, I have a hard time with the doctrine of the Trinity.  I wish we had something easier.  I wish it was easier to explain God and to understand God.  As someone, whose job includes a lot of explaining God, something easier than the Trinity would be ... easier.
 For example, I remember studying a 900 year old symbol of the Trinity.  This symbol expresses two fundamental truths about the Trinity.  First, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct, separate, not the same persons.  Second, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the same God, one, united, the same essence.  Now, on one hand, I say, “Oh, OK, that makes makes sense.”  But on the other hand, I kind of feel more confused the longer I look at this.  How does this all work?  Is ... Is not ... Is ... Is not.  I feel like I should be picking petals from a flower.  He love’s me.  He’s God.  He’s not the Spirit.  He’s God. ... Aaahhhh. ....

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