A reflection by Dan Spragg
As I mentioned in my midweek thoughts this week, occasionally the lectionary does well with the grouping of readings it selects for particular Sundays. This week is one of them. More on that in a moment. Firstly though, today is Trinity Sunday – the day we pay particular attention to who God is seen as being as witnessed to in the scriptures. It’s fair to say that it has taken up quite its fair share of time as a topic of debate throughout history. Quite often we have been left more confused about things after we’ve debated than before we started! The metaphysics of the existence of God can make for quite a few mental gymnastics. I must admit at times feeling a little like this quote suggests:
This is Trinity Sunday, but people who have cancer probably do not care. This is Trinity Sunday, but those young couples who cannot get pregnant probably do not care either. “But, this is Trinity Sunday,” proclaims the worship committee. Even so, the family dealing with the wayward teenager, the couple headed for divorce, the person who has lost a job, they do not care. Does it really matter to them that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
Indeed, what does it matter if we see God as Trinity or not?
What does it matter in times of uncertainty?
What does it matter when facing unemployment?
What does it matter when indigenous people and people of colour are constantly subjected to systemic racism and violence?
What did you make of the images earlier in the service?
Did they say anything to you of who God is?
I must admit to becoming less convinced of a number of proclaimed ‘certainties’ the further into this faith journey I get. I find that I am finding more ‘certainty’ in the knowingof my experiences rather than what I can or can’t get the logical part of my brain to. Understanding how God can be one-but-three is one of those. Needing to understand the math of it is becoming less important. What is becoming more important is the sense of meaning which is portrayed by various descriptions, metaphors and images of God.
The late Rev Andrew Norton when reviewing the Alpine Presbytery’s mission planning project in his time as National Moderator suggested that really there was only one question we needed to ask when looking at how to shape our thoughts towards Mission, towards the what we do with our faith. The question he suggested was:
Who is God?
Answer that, he said, and that will tell you what your mission is.
If God is an abstract concept that seems quite far removed from daily life, then so too will our mission be (if there is a sense of one at all?)
If God, however, is understood in quite relatable terms, then well, that starts to make a real difference to what our mission will be.
So what of these readings today? What do these tell us of who God is (keeping the Trinity in mind)?
Genesis 1:1-2:4a – God is = creative, life-giving, exists in relationship, the author of goodness…
Psalm 8 – God is = majestic, protective, attentive to creation, empowering…
2 Corinthians 13:11–13 – God is = peaceful, grace-giving, loving, relational…
Matthew 28:16–20 – God is = authoritative, mission orientated, united as one, present…
That is quite a list!
Is this true for your experience(s) of God?
If this is an accurate list of who God is, what do you think it means for how we are to be?
One of the gifts of our recent ‘lockdown’ experience for me was to be introduced to the early church theologian Gregory of Nyssa. Gregory’s big idea in his On the Making of Humanity was that the creation story of Adam and Eve doesn’t talk so much about the creation of the first humans but rather it paints a picture giving meaning to the concept of the entire human race, which only in its entirety is able to reflect true divine likeness and divine beauty!
In other words, to be made in the image of God could be far less of an individualistic thing than we have often made it out to be.
As if I by myself, or you by yourself could be the image of God!?
For Gregory, the image of God in the world = humanity – the entire species – all of us – ever!
That paints a different picture of who we are.
The human community… the ever evolving, growing, diverse, colourful, beautiful image of God in the world.
If you were to look out your window right now and see someone walking their dog down the street, they are a part of the image of God in the world… they are a part of the representation of God in the world… they are a part of God’s responsibility in the world… they are a part of God’s activity in the world…
But only a part because you are too, as is all the people you know and love as well as those who you find difficult, as is those who are seriously misguided! (which is a little challenging to swallow).
Now here’s where my brain is colliding the two ideas today – Trinity & Humanity.
If God is creative, life-giving, exists in relationship, the author of goodness, majestic, protective, attentive to creation, empowering, peaceful, grace-giving, loving, relational, authoritative, mission orientated, united as one, present…
And add to this list all of what the earlier images say to you of who God is…
And if we, all of us who have existed and all who ever will exist, together, are the representation of God in the world…
Then we must be at least capable, if not possessive of the seeds and expressions of these qualities too… (without lifting ourselves to the position of being God ourselves, of course, that’d kind of be the whole point of Genesis 3 perhaps?)
So I think we can take a guess at how we are to get about our living – it might have something to do with being: creative, life-giving, relational, sowers of good, majestic, protective, attentive to creation, empowering, peaceful, grace-giving, loving, relational, authoritative (in the right way), mission orientated, united as one, present…
If we were to do that I think we’d go a long way towards being at one with what seems to be God’s mission in the world that was what Jesus lived and told his disciples to go and do the same: Love and reconciliation, the valuing of all and the bringing of all into completion in the joy of life with God.
We can certainly identify in our world situations where humans are not valued, situations where we do not act in alignment with who God is, or with who we are, situations where love and reconciliation are not the driving forces.
And systemic racism
Rears its head
I haven’t gone anywhere
And in Aotearoa
Our egalitarian values
Struggle to own
What is true for us
Isn’t it sad?
Doesn’t it make you mad?
What are we to do?
God as Trinity
And our human community
The divine image
That is what we are to do.