This Sunday rejoices in the Church having found ways to reason about the three-in-one God of scripture, tradition, and human experience despite the complexities of language. The Trinity is not three “gods” or three “persons” with different jobs. Those who have studied the early church councils know how pin-pointed the arguments came to be in order to fend of heretical conceptions. But that doesn’t leave the preacher with an easy task.
The preacher has this Sunday, however, to help people imagine an impossibility: the relationship between person of the Trinity who are each other. And yet not quite.
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.
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 G. Bieber
This account bears some similarities to the Babylonian creation account, enuma elish, but there are notable differences. In particular, unlike the enuma elish, the Genesis account posits no conflict, does not relate the birth of the gods, nor does it suggest that mankind was created to serve the gods. While many readers are familiar with the opening words of Genesis as “In the beginning God created…,” many may not be aware that the preferred translation (cf NAB and NSRV), is “In the beginning, when God created…” This translation implies further that for the writer there was no “creation out of nothing,” but rather God brought order out of chaos.
It is interesting to observe that the term for a watery chaos. . . bears a striking similarity to Tiamat of the Babylonian creation myth, from whom the world was created. The term for create. . . is reserved for God, who creates by the word, that is, God speaks and it happens. The reference to the Spirit of God in verse 2 is best understood as the wind of God, not a distinct being.
Now although some have found a reference to the trinity in verses 1–3 (God, Spirit, Light), this is untenable. The highlight of the majestic poem is the creation of humankind in the image of God. Humankind is placed in a position of responsibility for the creation and in a real sense, the creation continues in the creative activity of men and women. – Jeffrey Galbraith
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
The interest in this pericope for Trinity Sunday is the supposed reference to the Trinity found in verse 13. While it is clear that Paul does refer to God, Jesus, and the Spirit, in words that are familiar to every churchgoer, it does not follow that Paul had any notion of the Trinity as it was to develop in the following centuries. For example, Jesus is not referred to as the “Son,” but the Lord. God is not referred to as “Father,” but the source of love, and the Spirit is not a distinct being, but rather is the source of community. – Jeffrey Galbraith
Paul Bieber is pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church, San Diego, California.
Jeffrey Galbraith is pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and a professor of business administration at Greenfield Community College.
Homily Service 41, no. 3 (2008): 15-23.