Today is Trinity Sunday when the Christian Church has a focus on how God has reveled himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is a sticking point of Christian doctrine that prevents many engaging fully with the faith- they simply can’t get their head around this glorious mystery. How can one person become three and why and where and when? I am not a learned theologian and have not answers to this mystery that will give doubters the answer that they seek- it simply doesn’t make logical sense- but that doesn’t make it any less real does it? As Nick Fawcett writes in his prayer for Trinity Sunday in Daily Prayer:
“It reminds us of a truth we cannot afford to forget: that God is beyond the human intellect, defying expression, greater than we can ever conceive. We cannot explain how the pieces fit together but we know that they do, for we have experienced the truth ourselves. If we imagine that we have solved the mystery and that the full wonder of God is firmly in our sights, then it is time to think again, for if we ever think that, then the truth is that we have lost sight of him altogether. Sovereign God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. teach me to live with mystery, and simply to celebrate each day my many experiences of your love. Amen.”
So God not one person but a community of persons made one through their mutual love. The mystics and theologians have speculated long and abstractly on these matters, and we continue to do so until God settles the issue. In the meantime lets draw meaning and inspiration and give thanks by using the words of the peace for Trinity Sunday:
Peace be to you from God our heavenly Father. Peace from his Son Jesus Christ who is our peace. Peace from the Holy Spirit, the life-giver. The peace of the triune God be always with you. And we continue to give you thanks because you have revealed the glory of your eternal fellowship of love with your Son and with the Holy Spirit three persons equal in majesty, undivided in splendour, yet one God ever to be worshipped and adored.
May you discover peace, comfort and inspiration this Trinity Sunday and see more of the glorious oneness of love, mystery and hope.
Last night I attended the final home group session on the theme of the Holy Spirit. We ended the session with a new poem written by my friend Christopher Payne. I wanted to share it with you all.
I believe in the Holy Spirit…..
…The breath of God caressing my face upturned in worship or in grief,
The wind of God filling my sails though I tack and turn to resist the divine intention,
The Voice of God whispering in my ear when I would prefer Earth’s tremors or the storm,
The Fire of God refining life’s metallic or until the true self becomes fit for eternity,
The Flame of Gd lighting the lantern for me to hold high as I stumble along,
The Sound as of many waters of refreshment cascading from the Source of the city of God,
The Spring of living water bubbling from my heart in rare moments abandoned to tongues of praise,
The Muse in early morning urging me to write and dance to His tempo,
Holy healing, wholeness and re-creation
Preparing me for the coming day of prayer.
For other posts on Christopher’s Poetry see https://unfinishedchristian.wordpress.com/2009/03/30/stay-close/ & https://unfinishedchristian.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/hold-that-word/
The first volume of Brian McLaren’s trilogy A New Kind of Christian, recounts a lively and intimate conversation and spiritual journey between fictional characters- Pastor Dan Poole and his daughter’s science teacher Neo. They reflect together about faith and life as Dan has a crisis of leadership, faith and doubt. It is essential a tale of hope and spiritual renewal for those who thought they may have given up on God, faith or the church. Throughout the book the character of Neo challenges Dan and others in their thinking and in one part Neo asks his students about the practical advice they would give Martin Luther if they could go back in time and meet this sincere young medieval monk who wants his life to count for God. The class replied:
“Don’t put your confidence in the institution of the church; put your confidence in God. be open to new ideas and new interpretations of the faith. Don’t be too quick to criticize. Expect things to be messy. Don’t resist change, Go with it..Keep going back to the Bible, but not with the standard interpretations blinding you to new interpretations. try to sort out tradition from the real essentials of the gospel. Get with it, get out of the way, or get counselling!”
When challenged about the dangers of change and the prospect of heresy, the character of Neo responds with quiet determination; “I believe in the Holy Spirit. i believe Jesus meant it when he said the spirit of God would be with us, guiding us to the very end. So I believe that he will guide us through these winds and currents of change, no matter what storms come. In fact, I believe that he is the wind in our sails, leading us into the change, because that’s his way. he always moves ahead.He’s not about taking us back to the past..He has a purpose he is working toward, and I want to keep up with him. I suppose that’s my greatest fear, not that I’ll go too fast or too far but that I’ll lag behind.”
Visionary and inspiring stuff . It’s no wonder Neo is fictional when did you last get words like that from a church leader?
Number one New York Times bestseller, Waterstones and W H Smith bestseller,cult classic….. yes The Shack by Wm Paul Young,where tragedy confronts eternity. This is a book thousands of Christians are raving about- but can a fictional take on God and the Trinity have all the answers? The Shack is the story of Mack’s ‘great sadness’, following the abduction of his young daughter, Missy, and how he walks back into his darkest nightmare symbolised by an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness following a mysterious invitation from God. The book wrestles with the terrible question, “Where is God in a world fulled with unspeakable pain”, and the book’s blurb tantilisingly pulls us in with the phrase, “The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You”ll want everyone you know to read this book!” The only thing was I didn’t! The problem I had is that its answers stretched my imagination a little too far in an attempt to present almost a caricature of the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Of course it’s a work of fiction and I had to remind myself to cut the author plenty of slack, but I still found some of the writing simplistic and over sentimentalised, although in parts quite moving. Everyone I know that has read this book has loved it so what did I miss? Is my spiritual imagination too stagnant to be moved by this fictionalised expression of God’s forgiveness, mercy and tenderness? Maybe it was too unconventional? Was it over hyped to the extent that my expectations were too high? Am I simply not capable of losing myself in a book like this on its own terms? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that Ididn’t find it the work of encouragement, healing and cleansing that others have. I found myself wondering in the Hollywood adaptation that will inevitably follow who would play the various manifestations of God- Queen Latifa, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Anniston, Steve Martin? I decided to re-read it tonight and found my answer in the foreword in the form of a disclaimer. The author writes; “If you happen upon this story and hate it. he says ‘Sorry …but it wasn’t primarily written for you’.Then again maybe it was.” Let’s see…..
For more on the shack go to http://theshackbook.com/