In speaking of the Trinity, there always comes a point when words fail us. Supposedly, Saint Augustine of Hippo was walking along the beach one day, puzzling over the doctrine of the Trinity, when he came across a little child who was running back and forth with a bucket, pouring water from the ocean into a hole he had dug in the sand. (I myself remember spending hours of summer days engaged in exactly this activity.) Augustine asked the boy, "What are you doing?" The boy replied, "I'm trying to put the ocean into this hole." Augustine abruptly realized that he had been trying to put an infinite God into his finite mind. Let’s take a moment and allow the rest of our reflection to be in that place beyond words, imagining that joyful dance and our part in it, in gratitude to the God who invites us into the divine dance with one another.
This Sunday we celebrate this funny kind of day called “Trinity”. It’s the only day of the Christian calendar that celebrates a particular doctrine of the Church. It is not about Easter or Christmas. It is not about a saint or a martyr. It is about what we believe in terms of doctrine. And what is doctrine all about? It is about the relationships we keep and how they have worked out over time. For example we acknowledge that there is one God who is known in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How do we know God is there? Because God has through time revealed himself to us as human beings. We know and understand him best in the earthly life of his Son Jesus who came and showed us who God is. And we have become aware that God has a mission: to draw in all those who will believe in him through Christ so that they can live with him in the new creation forever. God has revealed that he is not only the Creator and the Redeemer of this creation, but that he through his Spirit, sustains and maintains his creation, his universe. And I have to stop in this moment and acknowledge the bucket in my hand as I run back and forth, trying to fill my particular whole with water from the ocean. That it why I am draw back to my relationship with God and with the Church so that I might marvel and wonder enough that I might be of some use to both God and my neighbour.
You might be wondering why I might take the time to consider doctrine and what it might mean to us. After all sermons need to breathe and to bleed at least a little do they not? Why should I care about the Trinity? Doctrine should cause us both as individuals and even more so as a community to consider carefully how it is that we encounter the other, whether it be God or another person. The doctrine of the Trinity should remind the Church that we are not just a collection of individuals but rather we are a tightly knit community bonded (and occasionally crazy-glued!) together by God. That the peace bought for us between God and us and even salvation itself is not found apart from a relationship with God and with the Church. God nourishes community because that is his desire not ours. When we were yet still powerless and helpless, Christ sacrificed himself that we might be forgiven and then raised from the dead that we might live and be empowered to participate both in the new creation and in the kind of life that God lives. God shows us his love for in the dying and rising of Christ and through all that begins the new community of the Church which he creates and enables to be and to do.
What does the Church need to do?
We need to tell the world the truth – that God delights in his creation and that they are invited to come and to receive all that God has to offer. We need to tell the world that God takes delight in and enjoys his creation. We need to be people who are going to claim the promises that have been made by Christ, (1) that the Spirit will be sent to us and will be with us forever, (2) that the Spirit will teach and remind the Church of who Jesus is, (3) will bear witness to who Jesus and thus to who the Father is, (4) that the Spirit will convict the world in terms of sin, righteousness and judgment. In short, we communicate the truth reliably and by the work of the person of the Holy Spirit and allowing God to be God.
And in all this we need to admit both to ourselves and to God that we don’t always know the way and we don’t always have the answers. We as a community need to admit that we need to be led by our God into those spaces and places where we can faithfully serve and proclaim that Jesus is Lord – and that to the glory of the Father. We can celebrate that the presence of God through the Spirit is not bound to whether we always understand everything and know every bit of doctrine. The God is with us through the Spirit to continue guiding, encouraging, empowering and emboldening the Church to be the Church. Together God and the Church work towards that new creation and that new day in that new kingdom where those who participate in it will know the full reign of God.
In this moment we are a people who are on the way to that time and that place. And we are being led and sustained by the Spirit to participate in that great dance between the hole and the ocean, doing our part to make God’s presence know and felt. And this dance is not a futile act, never being able to contain the waters but as a moment of pure joy and worship in the act of making all things new again.