Thursday 23 May 2024

A Wonder of Community

From the earliest days, the followers of Jesus wondered about the relationship between God, Jesus and the Spirit. As things got more formal and they began to be “the church,” there were questions and thoughts about how to understand that relationship and, of course, there was a point at which they felt it was important to be able to clearly state how it was to be understood. So in the 4th century, a worldwide gathering of the church (it was a smaller world then), decided on The Trinity.

The term “trinity” doesn’t appear in the bible at all, but is a part of the church doctrine (teaching) that has become dogma (teaching that the church considers to have been divinely revealed in the Word and therefore becomes part of faith). There’s lots of both, but the Trinity is the concept that God is three persons, classically represented as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This concept is revealed in Christian scripture, church leaders said, that there is one God and that God is, in essence, three persons, so intimately connected that they are one.

Remember, though, that they are speaking to the understanding of personhood in their time, when it meant both the individual and the sense of that individual existing in the context of community. The wholeness of being unique and, at the same time, part of something greater. Individual, but not separate; unique, but not alone; separate, but of the same essence. The three “persons” of the Trinity exist with each other, but are not each other.

In contemporary society, more weight now seems to be put to the individual, that the “I” of our personal rights is greater than the community. That makes it more difficult to see the relationship of the three within one.

So is God one or three? Yes, is the answer, God is both “Three in One and One in Three” so the old hymn goes. Okay, so then how does that work, exactly? It’s a mystery, the church said. It just is.

That sure didn’t stop people from trying to explain it. After all, in our modern minds, mysteries need to be solved. How do the three relate as one? What’re the mechanics of the relationship? Who’s in charge? What’s the structure look like? We even came up with other, more contemporary, ways of describing the three in order to better understand how they are one: Creator, Christ and Spirit; God in the world, God among us and God within us; Parent, Child and Comforter; there are many, each representing a particular perspective, trying to articulate the wholeness that is God.

But maybe it’s not a mystery to be solved, it’s a wonder to learn from. Maybe it’s not an example of individual distinctiveness, but a model of community. Maybe it’s not about who’s who, but about the necessity of relationship. The Trinity is constantly active relationship. That’s a powerful way to understand God: in the world, in relationship and in action.

The idea of the Trinity is a wonder, to be wondered at and wonder about so that we might find the wonderful in a relationship with God who is the very model of relationship, to live in community with God who is the very model of community, and to live out that love, not alone, but with the world around us.

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