Reflection on Trinity Sunday 2021

As our lives resume some normality I have decided to make this my last reflection….for the time being!

A reflection on Trinity Sunday from Reader, Martin Brown

The word ‘Trinity’ does not appear in the Bible, but the concept of the Trinity is taught within its pages.

The Old Testament stresses the uniqueness of God and the importance of worshipping only him, and he often appears in the plural; for example in Genesis – “Let us make humankind in our image.” And there are clear references in the New Testament to the idea of Jesus as the Son of God and to the work of the Holy Spirit.

We read in the Gospels: “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The Doctrine of the Trinity was developed from the worship of Christ by the early Church. It was the best picture of God people at the time could draw, and resulted from prayer, revelation and the study of scripture. Without this, the Doctrine of the Trinity would never have been revealed for us today. So although the Trinity was not one of the beliefs of the early Christians, they realised they simply could not speak of God without speaking of the three ways in which he revealed himself to them. The Trinity is used to describe what one knows about God. It does not explain God - nobody can do that.

St Augustine was one of the greatest theologians of the early Church, and he became preoccupied with the Doctrine of the Trinity. When he converted to Christianity, Augustine wanted to know everything, and so this doctrine consumed him because he couldn't quite grasp it. He wanted so much to understand the doctrine of one God in three persons and to be able to explain it logically to others. Augustine told a story of when he was walking along the sea shore and reflecting on the Trinity. Suddenly, he saw a little child all alone on the shore. The child made a hole in the sand, ran to the sea with a shell, filled it with sea water, then ran up and emptied the water into the hole he had made in the sand. Back and forth he went to the sea, filled his shell and came and poured it into the tiny hole again and again. Augustine walked up beside him and said to him gently, “Little child, what are you doing?” He replied matter-of-factly, “I am trying to empty the sea into this hole.” Incredulous, Augustine asked him, “How do you think that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole using only your little shell?” The child replied, “And you, how do you suppose that with your small head you can comprehend the immensity of God using your simple logic?” And as Augustine related the story, with those words, the child disappeared. St Augustine did not give up on his desire to understand the Trinity and he wrote one of his most famous books on the subject (called ‘On the Trinity’), and the image of the sea shell remains as a symbol of St Augustine and the study of theology. And most importantly Augustine did change how he went about trying to understand God.

Knowledge of God is like knowledge of the immense ocean. At the end of the day, you could try to understand the ocean by learning about its chemical properties; researching the marine life; or studying tidal charts and the rhythms of the waves. But the only way to truly get to know the ocean is to wade in and experience it - to experience its pull and the power of the waves; taste its saltiness; and feel the sea life teeming around you. This is true of most knowledge, and certainly knowledge of all persons and relationships with them. You can analyze them clinically, but the experience of the person in a relationship is the way to essential truth, real, worthwhile knowledge, and meaningful understanding. So after years of getting to know God, Augustine described the life of the Trinity with this beautiful formula, and it is my favourite illustration of the Trinity; and one I often return to - the Trinitarian Being of God consists of: the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love that binds them together. The Father pours himself out in love. That outpouring of love is the Son. Son and Father love each other, and that living love between them is the Holy Spirit.

God is Trinity because he is love. Love requires twoness, in fact, threeness: lover, beloved, and the relationship of love between them. God is Trinity because he is love in all its completeness. Some may regard the Trinity as irrelevant. It isn’t and it must not be ignored since it is the cornerstone of what it is to be a Christian.

Trinity is our origin, our purpose, and our destiny, and by the creative power of love emanating from the Trinity we are able to achieve our true destiny. We shall then love the Father as Jesus does; and the Holy Spirit will arise in us as it does in him; and we will experience the life-giving power of love for ever.

Amen

 

(c) 2021 Martin Brown


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