Today is Trinity Sunday when we celebrate the fullness of God – Father/Creator – Son/Redeemer – and Holy Spirit/Sustainer. The Trinity is a central doctrine of the Christian faith – and the most difficult to understand. There is a hymn, composed in 1861, that tries to describe the Trinity – based on Isaiah 6 – and it is #1 in most hymnals:
“Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee; Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and mighty! God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!”
The hymn uses words from Isaiah 6 – words that Isaiah used in trying to describe his experience of being in the presence of God. Isaiah experienced God in a dramatic temple vision. God was so awesome, high, mighty and huge, that Isaiah only caught a glimpse of the hem of God’s garment – and he was overcome with a deep sense of his unworthiness. This feeling led to Isaiah’s confession of sin and the forgiveness offered by God. Then God called and Isaiah responded – “Here am I; send me!”
The progression of Isaiah’s vision reflects the progression of our worship – songs of praise (Holy, Holy, Holy), confession and forgiveness – listening to God’s word – and then our response – being sent into the world.
In Isaiah’s vision he was experiencing God. Isaiah had a very real sense of God’s presence – and through that experience, Isaiah was changed. He responded to his experience through service as God’s prophet, witnessing to God’s power and holiness.
In what ways have you experienced God? Has it been in the midst of worship? Perhaps it was an experience of God’s comfort during the illness of a loved one. Often people say they experience God in nature – have you? How have those experiences changed you?
There are plenty of people who call Jesus a great teacher/rabbi and role model, but do not count him equal with God. We all know friends and acquaintances who claim some affinity for the Spirit, telling us that they are very spiritual but not religious. The God we worship is all three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – unity in the Trinity. We cannot choose one of the three or two of the three and ever expect to know the fullness of God.
We come to this Sunday in the church year with many different ideas of what God as Trinity means – and the Trinity remains a mystery that still eludes us. Believers throughout the centuries have tried to describe God, but very few have been satisfied with their descriptions.
In one of his books, Robert Farrar Capon says that when human beings try to describe God, we are like a bunch of oysters trying to describe a ballerina. We simply do not have the equipment to understand something so utterly beyond us, but that has never stopped us from trying.
The best any of us have ever been able to do is to describe what experiencing God is like – how it sounds, how it feels, what it reminds us of. Each experience is different – God as judge, God as comforter, God as companion, God as friend, God as a whirlwind, God as silence – God comes to us in all different kinds of ways. The list could go on forever. God is one and God is many and this is one of the mysteries behind the doctrine of the Trinity. For us fully knowing and understanding God can only be through experiencing God.