Trinity Sunday is an occasion many preachers would rather avoid, as they do not know what to do with this strange feast day celebrating a doctrine. And, it is often an occasion for some fanciful, if not creative, theological discussion. Perhaps the early church was closer to the mark--even in the midst of its theological debates: the Trinity is better celebrated than explained, better served through doxology than in theology. Yet even such celebration leads to our need for pastoral, healing, words, which Rev. Paul Bieber provides this week:
Where's the healing word in a doctrine, particularly one as abstruse and easily misunderstood as the doctrine of the Holy Trinity? From those parishes who blow the dust off the Athanasian Creed on this day and celebrate the faith as intellectual assent to a series of authoritative, correct, and quite incomprehensible propositions, to those who regard this doctrine as a relic of history that only stands in the way of knowing Jesus and being about his mission in the world, it seems that this doctrine wounds more than it heals.
And yet, and yet—in a world wherein nothing needs more healing than our relationships, could it be that the understanding of God as Trinity could be the most healing word of all? For what the doctrine of the Triune God shows us is that God is relationship, that each Triune Person is identified precisely by relationship with the others.
The Father speaks the universe into being through the Word who is the Son. The Son is begotten, not made; filiated, not built, and so organically, substantially, ontologically united with the Father, not a product or construction. The Father breathes life into the creation through the Spirit who proceeds through space and time, bringing God's presence into the height and depth, the past and future of all that is.
And because God so loved this created world, the creative Word was enfleshed among us. He came not to condemn the world but to speak a saving word, a healing word, and to live out his word of self-giving love all the way to the cross and the empty tomb. For only the One so sent among us and anointed by the creative Spirit could speak and embody the identity of our merciful and gracious God. Only this One can claim all authority in heaven and in earth and promise to be with us always.
In creation, in new creation; in crib and cross and resurrection; in the height and depth of all things and in the inner recesses of our heart, this Jesus is with us. And if he is with us, so is that transcendent source of all things whom he called Father, and so is the Spirit of their future for us: God with us, always, creating and recreating us, saving and healing us, bringing us into the fullness of relationship that is the very image of God. [Paul Bieber, "The Healing Word," in Homily Service 41.3 (May-August 2008): 17-18.]
Paul G. Bieber is the pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church in San Diego, California.