First Thoughts, Trinity Sunday
This is the last festival Sunday for a long time, as we move into the long “Season after Pentecost”. I actually like the term that the Roman Catholic church uses for it, “Ordinary Time”. More on that next week.
Trinity is an interesting thing to get a festival. All of the other festival days, with exception of the uniquely Lutheran festival of Reformation, center on some aspect of Jesus’ life and ministry. This one is almost the opposite; the Trinity is not in the Bible. Now that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Don’t get ready to start a heresy trial or anything.
How do we have a festival to celebrate a doctrine? Doctrine is… doctrinal. It is usually dry. Theologians do doctrine no favors by writing on them like a manual that seeks to explain God in infinite detail but come off boring.
If we’re going to celebrate the Trinity, we have to move backwards and unpack some things about it.
First off, we can’t do what the church has done and make it some ‘confirming doctrine’ that if you don’t see it how it has always been seen you can be out. We have to allow people to live a doctrine rather than tell them what it is and make it dry and rigid.
The Trinity isn’t something that came down from heaven word for word. It has its roots in the evening of the first Easter Sunday. Out of fear and loss, there was suddenly a new thing. This Jesus, whom the disciples had known and seen as man and God, whom they had seen killed, was alive, and alive in a new and different way, a way that confirmed the earlier suspicions he was no normal man, but that he was fully and completely man and God. This one who had been a man wise in the things of God and who had done godly things that no toher could, was now beyond that even, and in moving from death to life was radically different. This man-God had brought salvation in a greater way than freedom from Rome. He brought freedom from death entirely.
To fit the man-God-ness into human terms, to fit that feeling of salvation, and the understanding of the spirit of God resting in humanity, the doctrine of the Trinity had to be hammered out…
One of the more recent but also more ancient ways of speaking of the Trinity is as a ‘dance’. More than a relationship, a dance is two becoming one… moving together fully and completely. But the Trinity is alos a dance not just among the natures of God, but one in which we are also included. A hymn which we will sing on Sunday puts this image into song:
1 Come, join the dance of Trinity,
before all worlds begun—
the interweaving of the Three,
the Father, Spirit, Son.
The universe of space and time
did not arise by chance,
but as the Three, in love and hope,
made room within their dance.
2 Come, see the face of Trinity,
newborn in Bethlehem;
then bloodied by a crown of thorns
The dance of Trinity is meant
for human flesh and bone;
when fear confines the dance in death,
God rolls away the stone.
3 Come, speak aloud of Trinity,
as wind and tongues of flame
set people free at Pentecost
to tell the Savior’s name.
We know the yoke of sin and death,
our necks have worn it smooth;
go tell the world of weight and woe
that we are free to move!
4 Within the dance of Trinity,
before all worlds begun,
we sing the praises of the Three,
the Father, Spirit, Son.
Let voices rise and interweave,
by love and hope set free,
to shape in song this joy, this life:
the dance of Trinity.
The texts will come into play, particularly the baptismal and missional image of Matthew as well as the creation story. Imagination of the Trinity as a dance among God, as a thing of joy and beauty in which we take part. A doctrine? Yes. But so much more than a doctrine.