The New York Times columnist, Ross Douthat, who is also a practicing Roman Catholic, some years ago wrote a fascinating book entitled Bad Religion. The heart of the book revolves around a critique of contemporary versions of Christianity that in many respects fall short of the orthodox heart and center of the Christian Gospel. Too often, Douthat maintains, contemporary variations of the Christian message are manipulated to simplistically justify personal or political agendas that have very little to do with the classic Christian message. This manipulation of the Gospel can be seen in the simplistic psychologizing of the Gospel into nothing more than the “power of positive thinking,” or the affirmation of materialism and consumerism that is so characteristic of what we see in our society today. If you are rich, God has blessed you, if you aren’t, then he hasn’t!
Orthodox or authentic Christianity cannot be reduced to such simplistic concepts. Orthodox or authentic Christianity as reflected in the Gospels and the writings of the great theologians of the Church lives comfortably in two worlds, the world of mystery and the world of ambiguity. And, it is precisely these two realities of mystery and ambiguity that are anathema to a scientific and post-modern world where we demand answers to every question, and thrive on the simplicity of the black and white.
My sisters and brothers, as we gather this Sunday, there is probably no teaching in Christianity that is more mysterious and ambiguous than the one that gathers us in faith this day, the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Orthodox Christians believe that the God who lives in unapproachable light and is uniquely One, is also a Trinity of persons whom we name as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – three persons in one God. Such a belief down through the centuries has had to defend itself against those who simplistically have concluded that such a belief is an affront to radical monotheism – the belief in a single God. In the early Church such a belief was just too much for some and led to the development of some of the first great heresies of the Christian Church.
However, thanks to the philosophy of Aristotle and his use of the categories of “person” and “nature,” Christian theology professes the radical oneness of God’s nature that is humanly experienced through the person of God who is Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.
Israel came to know the presence of God through their experience of a God who created all things out of love and then guided them to liberation in the great Exodus experience. His commandments to them were signs of his abiding love and presence.
God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten Son to continue His loving liberation. Christ, the anointed one, willingly embraced our human nature and the human experience of death itself so that our nature and death would ultimately be transformed by the power of redeeming love.
That transforming love continues to this day, penetrating every moment of our lives through the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, enabling us to experience in this present moment of our lives the God who carries us in the midst of our human challenges and brokenness by His unconditional love.
While theologians down through the centuries have attempted to “explain” the “mystery” of the Trinity, at their very best they help us to gain “insights” into the meaning of a reality whose depth can never truly be captured in words alone. Like love, it must be experienced.
And so, my friends, in every moment of our lives when we experience the gift of life, the Trinity is there. When our hearts are transformed by the love of another, the Trinity is there. When we experience the precious gift of freedom, the Trinity is there.
As we mark and celebrate this mystery of our faith, let us be grateful for a God who abides us with us still as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. May He be blessed now and forever. Amen.
The beginning chorus of Bach's Cantata 129 for Trinity Sunday.
Praised be the Lord,
my God, my light, my life,
my Creator, who has
given me my body and soul;
my Father, who has protected me
from my mother's womb,
who at every moment
does much good for me.