I wanted to feature this fine Sermoneutics article because I’ll be bringing the concept of Trinity to my class this Sunday.
Sermoneutics is a weekly column authored by Doug Jackson. Before coming to South Texas School of Christian Studies, Dr. Jackson pastored churches for nearly twenty-five years. For more from Doug Jackson, check out his blog at djackson.stscs.org.
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by Doug Jackson
2 Corinthians 13.11-14
The good news is that the Western church has conspired to disobey the clear command of Scripture. The bad news is that our disobedience obscures our doctrine.
Augustine warned that anyone who disbelieves the Trinity is in danger of losing his salvation . . . and that anyone who attempts to understand it is in danger of losing his mind! Actually the Trinity is one of those things, like fried crawdad tails or dancing or being in love, that one understands not by pondering but by experiencing.
“We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.” Athanasius puts it rather neatly but perhaps leaves us wondering how to pull off the tricky business of inhabiting what we believe. The doctrine makes us psychological heretics whose nerves don’t connect with our confession.
Paul takes a more practical tack, perhaps because he writes as a pastor and not as a theologian. Just before rapping out one of the clearest Trinitarian statements in all of Scripture, he lays a command on us: Greet one another with a holy kiss. That’s the injunction I am so glad the Church exiles to the exegetical antipodes along with head coverings for women and not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk.
I don’t like it when people hug me; you can imagine how I feel about kissing. And I claim apostolic authority on this one: C. S. Lewis shared my aversion. “It is one of my lifelong weaknesses,” he writes in his autobiography Surprised By Joy, “that I never could endure the embrace or kiss of my own sex.” But there it is, right in the Bible and everything.
See, the problem is that the Trinity states, not an abstract mathematical puzzle but a common-sense relational truth: God is love, and either the Almighty is the ultimate cosmic narcissist eternally self-involved, or God has eternally had Someone to love. And since only God is eternal it must be that the Father has eternally loved the Son, the Son has eternally loved the Father and the Spirit has eternally been that love. And therefore Christians can only study the Trinity by risking the sloppy business of loving one another. And because God makes us bodies we can only love with our bodies. Every hug that breeches my barriers brings me closer to inhabiting the unity of Trinity. Amplexo ergo creedo: I hug, therefore I get it.
In this light, it is interesting to note that this year Trinity Sunday falls on the same day as Juneteenth, a nationwide observance for African-Americans commemorating the day the Emancipation Proclamation actually took effect. Perhaps instead of breaking our brains over the complexities of cosmic calculus, we could study the Trinity by repenting of past segregations and handing out a few hugs across the barriers we have built throughout Christ’s body.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, You are love from all eternity. Make us one as You are one, that in us the world may see the grace, love and fellowship of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
May you be broken enough to help one another,
For wholeness comes from healing.
May you disagree enough to hear one another
For oneness comes from listening.
May you be lonely enough to hold one another
For touch defeats division and discord.
In the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
The love of God,
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
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