This Sunday, June 11 is set aside to give us a chance to focus on a description of God that emerges for us out of biblical narrative, the life of the early Church and most especially out of the story of the life, death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus, including the event of last Sunday's celebration, Pentecost. The emergent description is the Trinity.
In the earliest usage we learned to say Father, Son and Holy Spirit and in various contemporary attempts Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier or my favorite -- ancient but modern -- Lover, Beloved, Love. Lots of questions preceded the ones that are answered by our trinitarian titles. Lots of questions remain but in these days we have come to a fairly comfortable acceptance by way of admitting that most of what we hope to know about God has lots of mystery with it.
Given that most seminarians are instructed to avoid preaching on this Sunday, its safe to say that there is a certain avoidance of this trinitarian "mystery." Sadly, this is by the very ones who should be delving, digging, embracing this particular theological necessity. I'll get to why we need to but for now dig into this mystery with me a little.
Remember how I described how necessary are each of those moments we've observed in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The mystery of the Trinity is a similar necessity.
To begin we can't leave God simply as ONE (think the monotheism of Hebrew scripture) while at the same time claiming that God was incarnate by way of a fully-present-for-us divinity in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. One at least must account for the conversation that Jesus has with God in prayer, especially like those moments from the gospel of John read on Good Shepherd Sunday. What was first a christological question persists and joins our trinitarian investigation. We have to get at some description that accounts for that relationship shared with God and Jesus. Jesus uses Father and Son language while praying.
As we follow the story into and beyond Pentecost we have another relationship for which to account. It is that one that continues between us and God the Father now accompanied by the post-Ascension Son sitting in authority with Him. The Holy Spirit is how we understand ourselves as believers still to be in relationship with God, who has already redefined the divine human relationship for us.
However you are comfortable with describing the manner in which a divine relationship proceeds towards you, you can count on God to see to the proceeding. When Jesus says "I am the way, . . . " he knows that way starts with God coming to us first.
God is always "towards" us, from before creation and that same relationship with all creation has always been of the Holy Spirit. Think of the winds hovering over the waters, God breathing into the nostrils of the first human, how the Red sea was blown back for the children of Israel to escape the Egyptians, the army mustered into being in the Valley of Dry Bones, and the dove descending as Jesus comes up from the waters of his baptism by John.
That's why I appreciate and use the description of Lover, Beloved, Love. For sure it speaks of how we have historically read Jesus in prayer -- from the cross as well -- though maybe not so much of how we read Paul in particular. And that is why we dig. We are drawn into the mystery and cannot stop, because of love.