“A Trinity-Shaped Life” A Meditation on Trinity Sunday
Trinity Sunday, May 30, 2010
I wonder if, on Trinity Sunday, many people feel like the sermon is answering a question they aren’t asking. (What does the Trinity have to do with my daily life?) And many preachers may think to themselves, “Here is another occasion when my job is to try to convince people that an abstract concept they never give much thought to is foundational to their lives.”
The Trinity is “the centerpiece of Christian theology and sometimes considered the most subtle and abstruse of all doctrines.” (Eugene H. Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology 45)
A better approach is to paint the broad brushstrokes of the doctrine and ask, what’s at stake? So what? What’s at stake in claiming that there are three persons and one essence, not just God being called different things at different times? What’s at stake in claiming that there is one God, not three? What’s at stake in insisting that Jesus is of one substance with the father and not just a really good guy who got a promotion?
What kind of life does the Trinity shape? Personal and Participatory
Eugene Peterson, in his book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2005) reminds us that “our Greek theological ancestors used the term perichoresis to describe the Trinity. Perichoresis is the Greek word for dance. Peterson asks us to imagine a folk dance with three partners in each set. The music starts up and the partners holding hands begin moving in a circle. On signal from the caller, they release hands, change partners, and weave in and out, swinging first one and then another. The tempo increases, the partners move more swiftly with and between and among one another, swinging and twirling, embracing and releasing, holding on and letting go. There is no confusion, every movement is cleanly coordinated in precise rhythms, as each person maintains his or her own identity. To the onlooker the movements are so swift it is impossible at times to distinguish one person from another; the steps are so intricate that it is difficult to anticipate the actual configurations as they appear: Perichoresis (peri=around; choresis=dance)(45)
“We are baptized in the name of the Trinity. Our Christian lives are an immersion in the triune God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We are shaped by this triune life. “We are now participants in the company of the God who creates heaven and earth, who enters history and establishes salvation as its definitive action and who forms a community to worship and give witness to his words and work” (303).
What kind of life does the Trinity shape? Lives that are a personal response to a personal God that results in participation in community. It does make a difference that God is three persons and one substance. It means we can only know God by personal response that is a participation in the activity of our Triune God in community.
A participation in the Triune community of God: We cannot live as spectators of the dance of the Trinity.” A hand reaches out to pull us into the Trinitarian actions of holy creation, holy salvation and holy community…” (46) “There are no nonparticipants in a Trinity-revealed life… God is never a nonparticipant in what he does. He does not separate himself from his community by ranks of angel-secretaries through whom we have to arrange an audience.” 305
We began by wondering if there was any relevance to our everyday lives in this abstract doctrine called the Trinity. It turns out the Trinity is a personal, participatory reality that threatens to bring God a little too close for comfort.