Finish My Sermon, Three-Person’d God*

trinityI’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

9 thoughts on “Finish My Sermon, Three-Person’d God*

  1. No sooner do I conceive of the One
    than I am illumined by the Splendour of the Three;
    no sooner do I distinguish Them
    than I am carried back to the One.
    When I think of any One of the Three
    I think of Him as the Whole,
    and my eyes are filled,
    and the greater part of what I am thinking of escapes me.

    I cannot grasp the greatness of That One
    so as to attribute a greater greatness to the Rest.
    When I contemplate the Three together,
    I see but one torch,
    and cannot divide or measure out the Undivided Light.

    Gregory of Nazianzus

  2. Jim,

    I don’t know if either of these are helpful for you. First, this is a blog I occasionally visit that may prove interesting for you:

    The above is the link to his Trinity thinking. I sometimes find him helpful.

    Second, I am not preaching on the Trinity directly this Sunday. It feels odd to step out of the lectionary, but there it is. I’m focusing on Exodus the next three weeks. This week Moses is in the crag of the rock and God is passing by. In reading some midrash on the subject, I have been inspired to ask “What did Moses do in the crag?” What if he danced? What if he rejoiced and danced and praised God?

    The Trinity is God’s dance in praise of Creation. The Trinity dances with us, rejoices with us. It’s a circle dance with room for us to join. The icon you posted here reflects that. There is room at the table. It is open to the person viewing the icon.

    Peace to you.

  3. Jim,

    May I call you Jim. From where I come from Dr. seems so stuffy and often separates the commoner from the elite. I heard one Pastor with a Doctorate say once, “When I had my masters degree, no one ever called me Master…so please just call me Jimmy” Funny, I just realized his name was Jim too. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that and the way his words helped me to be able to relate more with him man to man, God’s creation to God’s creation.

    As I too sit here Saturday Morning with my first cup of Coffee… and read your words… My initial thought is really very simple. H20. Steam, Solid, Liquid. That boy in the pew is very much a man who desires some concrete examples of this truth. Not only that he needs to know how he is to interact in a solid way with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit!

  4. I have no idea what one would say to make the concept of the Trinity come alive for that young man or for this old woman. What I do know is that I can pray that the Holy Spirit give you the right words to say and that the Holy Spirit will give the listeners insight into those words that we all may be touched by the awesomeness of our God who sent Jesus to save us and the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin and convince us of our need for God. My prayers are with you today as you prepare and with that young/old man/woman who will be hearing your words tomorrow.

  5. Have you read The Shack? — some pretty good, non-traditional thoughts about the Trinity there!

  6. When and how do we (ought we) turn to each person in the trinity when we need to interact with our God. What might be going on on that mans life where talking to the Father might be the most helpful? What might he be going thorough where Jesus is the person he needs most. When are the times in life that opening our selves to the holy spirit is the best approach.

  7. Truly the notion of 3 personages in one being is preposterous! And completely unfounded in the text of the New Testament.

    The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are three beings who share one purpose, not in one body. That is what it is about.

    John 12: 27-30
    John 14:26 (The Father sends the Holy Ghost)
    Romans 8:34 (Christ sits at the right hand of God- the Father)
    Hebrews 1:1-3 (Christ sits on the right hand of God the father.)

    1 God, who aat sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

    2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his aSon, whom he hath appointed cheir of all things, by whom also he dmade the worlds;

    3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his cpower, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

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