I’m back from a week’s vacation, sitting at my kitchen table at six o’clock on Saturday morning, sipping hot coffee from a ceramic mug and thinking about the Trinity.
That’s right: the Trinity.
Tomorrow is Trinity Sunday, the day when we turn our thoughts in worship toward the mystery of one God in three persons, but today is the Saturday before, when I am thinking about the young man who will sit in a pew tomorrow wondering what any of this has to do with him.
It’s a wonder he’s there at all. He probably wouldn’t be if he hadn’t promised his parents he would come. I can almost picture him, trying to look interested as I talk about this, the most abstract of all theological concepts. I used to do the same thing in algebra class, when my teacher wrote x + y = z on the board and then turned around beaming as if he had just shared the secret of life. I can see me up there in the pulpit tomorrow, with that same look on my face as I explain to this young man that Father + Son + Spirit = Trinity. And I can see him, glancing toward his parents and rolling his eyes as he struggles to stay awake.
Somehow, between now and then, I have to find a way to express this mystery so that it touches this young man’s life, so that even if he spends most of Saturday night drinking himself into a state of oblivion he will walk out of church on Sunday morning humming “Holy, Holy, Holy.” And that’s where the Trinity begins to touch my life, because I know that’s a bigger job than I can do by myself. I will need the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit as I work, and if tomorrow’s sermon makes any difference at all in this young man’s life it will only be because of that kind of collaborative effort. I don’t know about him, but I can’t make it without help. Life is too hard. This job is too big. I need the Trinity.
And maybe a second cup of coffee.
*The title of this post is an allusion to this poem by the great 17th century poet (and Anglican priest) John Donne, with apologies.
Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
—Holy Sonnet XIV