Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Deep End of the Pool (Trinity Sunday)

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday, the last major feast day for some time (we won't be donning "white stoles" to celebrate a holy day until November for All Saints).  Like most of our "top seven" holy days (called the Seven Principle Feasts of the Church), Trinity Sunday takes us into a truth that is truly beyond our comprehension.  And though we deal with divine mystery every Sunday, Trinity Sunday throws us into the deep end of the pool.

But how are we to respond to the aspects of our faith, like the Holy Trinity, that overwhelm ability to understand? That's part of the question I'd like to address so that we'd be more able to enter into worship this Sunday.

The first thing we need to realize is that when we begin to contemplate the very Nature of God, we are truly in over our heads.  This is true because we are finite, and God is infinite.  The sheer math of this fact means He is beyond us.  In fact, if God hadn't told us specifically about himself through the Scriptures, we would have no clue about his inner workings, about the way He is.  So, while we can't know everything exhaustively about God (for if we could, He would cease to be infinite, would He not?), we can know some things truly about him.  We can stay afloat, but only because God has thrown us a buoy through the Word.  I wonder if God revealing his Nature to us is a bit like me trying to describe to my three-year-old about how babies are made:  these are things totally beyond his comprehension.  And while I do my best to explain to him, he does not have the semantic categories, life experience, biological drive or the attention span to understand.  Indeed some things about sex would be inappropriate for him to know at this age.  So, when it comes to understanding the mechanism by which his little brother came on the scene, he has some idea, and the ideas he has are true ("Mommy and Daddy made baby brother with God's help").... but the full picture is totally beyond him.  In a similar way, we can believe and know true things about God, specifically about his Triune Nature, but the full picture is beyond us.  Indeed, one difference between my analogy about my son and our situation with knowing God is that with my son, he will one day have the full picture, but when it comes to God, none of us will ever completely know Him.  Theologians in the past have called this God's "baby talk" to us.  Baby talk is true (e.g. "Dada") but it is not everything (every father is more than "dada").

Believing this truth, having a kind of a knowledge that we believe to be true yet not exhaustive, requires a humble attitude.  We must be able to receive what God has said about himself without demanding more as a condition of belief.  Many of our questions can be answered, but some cannot. Some answers are beyond us.  Few things are more humbling than being told you'll never ever be able to understand fully.  (Imagine a teacher starting the semester by telling her students they will never grasp the subject matter fully!)  We are humbled by God's Nature because we are not smart enough to get it.

But we are also humbled by this truth because we know that the only reason we even know about God is because of his undeserved goodness to us.  He didn't have to reveal himself in Jesus Christ in order to shed light on his inner nature.  He didn't have to send the Holy Spirit to inspire the Scriptures to help us understand.  He didn't have to lead the Church to better grasp what He is like.  And did not have to open your eyes and humble your heart so that you could receive Him as He is.  All this God did, not because you or I deserved to know the truth, but because He loves us. 

All this takes us back to Sunday worship in this way:  Rightly receiving God as Trinity will always involve worship.  When we face such an incomprehensible truth, we indeed are humbled in our understand if ourselves, but our understanding of God gets elevated.  We begin to see the heigh of God's glory.  For how can you not be in awe of someone who is so different, so beautiful, so powerful, so mysterious, and so great that the greatest minds of the human race put together could not fully grasp Him?  We are often amazed when we see an Olympic athlete do something we could never do.  How much more that the Triune God is what we could never be?  That He is more than we could ever imagine or fathom?

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