Trinity Sunday
The Reverend Ashley Mather, Curate
Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133
1 John 1:1-2:2
John 20:19-31

A Relational Trinity

Prayer: Open our ears, O Lord, to hear your word and know your voice. Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills, that we may serve you today, now and always. Amen.

Today is Trinity Sunday, and we are building upon last week’s celebration of Pentecost. Last week, we heard the story of how the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples of Jesus. This week, we focus on the fact that we believe in a triune God. So what is the Trinity? Well…I can’t really tell you, because the very idea of the Trinity is a mind-boggling concept. For thousands of years, people have tried to describe the Trinity, and they have all either come up short or have been heretical. Episcopal priest “Robert Farrar Capon [said] that when human beings try to describe God we are like a bunch of oysters trying to describe a ballerina. We simply do not have the equipment to understand something so utterly beyond us…” 1

Even Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was saying when he would say that the Father is in me and I am in him. And I wonder, is the Trinity itself one of the very things that Jesus wanted to say to his disciples in the gospel this morning, but they simply could not bear it? The disciples wanted to know God, and it appears from scripture that they too wanted to solve the Trinitarian mystery of Jesus.

And we, like the disciples, are also so determined to solve this mystery, and I would encourage each and every one of us to continue exploring. After all, any good book about solving a mystery is all about the journey that leads up to the actually mystery being solved. How boring and short would it be to read a mystery book that doesn’t even explore how the person or group of people came to solve said mystery. That is a book that I wouldn’t want to read.

Fortunately for us as Christians, we have a book that is all about trying to figure out the mystery of God…the mystery of Jesus…the mystery of the Spirit. And the beautiful thing about this book, about the Bible, is that we consider it to be the Living Word of God. Meaning that even though the written stories of the Bible were canonized many, many years ago, the stories of God are and will never be finished or complete.

So this morning, I can’t describe how the Trinity is three in one and one in three, but what I can do is talk about a truth that I believe is an important aspect of the Trinity. I believe in Jürgen Moltmann’s account of the Trinity as a social trinity, which makes a point that relationship is key. The Trinity could not be without relationships. The gospels show us this through the ways in which God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit relate to one another. They could not be the way that they are or do the things that they do without being in relationship.

Our lives are lived and defined by relationships, and our relationship with the triune God is forever and forever unbroken.

During Easter, when Jesus was resurrected, He could have appeared before the high priests, the kings, the people who didn’t like him, and the people who doubted that he is the messiah. But he didn’t do that…he appeared before his friends, the people who already believed in him and believed that he is the Messiah. He appeared before them to show them the highest form of forgiveness and relationship so that they might also do the same to the rest of the world.

In the first couple weeks of Easter, Jesus first came to eleven of the twelve disciples, greeted them in peace and allowed them to see his hands and his side. And when these disciples went and told Thomas this, he of course (like all of us would have done), wanted proof. So Jesus comes without shaming Thomas and allows him to see and touch the mark of the nails in his hands and the hole in his side. We often times give Thomas a lot of undeserved criticism because he didn’t automatically believe what the disciples had said, and he wanted to see it for himself. Both John and Jesus understood this. And instead of shaming him Jesus allows him to see and touch, so that they could all see for themselves and believe.

Except it appears that this would leave us out of the circle. It would appear that this leaves us out of being in relationship with God. Those of us who have and in this life will probably never see Jesus in the flesh and never physically see and touch the wounds that he received during the crucifixion. We and future generations have missed this opportunity by a few thousand years, so it feels like we are a little left out, but Barbara Brown Taylor points out that Jesus is including us in this moment. It’s as if Jesus is talking over Thomas’s shoulder and peering into our souls when He says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” In that instance he is not making Thomas feel bad for not choosing to believe without seeing, but he is rather finding a way to include all of us in this relational moment.2 And as we came to the end of Easter just a couple weeks ago, it is very apparent that we are meant to be in relationship with God too. In the gospel two weeks ago, Jesus said “as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have have sent me.” And in today’s gospel, Jesus says “He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

If God was peering over Thomas’ shoulder and into our souls to include us at the beginning of Easter, then he is surely doing the same now.

When you think about it, only a few precious individuals saw Jesus in the flesh and came to believe in him, but millions of us have not and have discovered him through the stories that seem to have a way of jumping off of the pages and into our souls.

Scripture is alive with or without us, and God really wants us to be part of it. Even though I am new to this community, I know that you all have cried, laughed, rejoiced, and felt the spirit of God in relationship with one another. This is why we have these communities, so we can be in relationship with one another as we discover and rediscover our relationship with our Triune God.

The Trinity contains a lot that confuses us and will be a mystery until God reveals it, until we, like the disciples, can bear it. But one thing that is not a mystery, is that our Triune God is relational with each other and all of us.

So when you leave this morning, don’t let the peace of God stop at our doors. Be sure to go out and form those relationships, so that all may come to the know the peace of the Lord, just as Jesus’ disciples did thousands of years ago.

1. Barbara Brown Taylor, Home By Another Way.
2. Barbara Brown Taylor, Home By Another Way.