Kimberley Reflections – On the Trinity – Archdeacon Thomas Mhuriro

Today we celebrate the only Sunday in our liturgical year that is named after a doctrine or Christian teaching. We are looking at ideas that have come to us through centuries and constituting a subject that requires more than just a 10-minute reflection. This year we also celebrate this Solemnity of the Trinity under the uncomfortable heat and dust of the global pandemic that is doing havoc to our lives. The latter makes it so challenging to convince anyone that it is essential to spend time worrying about the nature of God as understood over the years more than what could be said today. The reading from Genesis states that every deed and response of God in this context brought pleasure to Him. Today you and I must still agree on what that goodness really embraces in a world that is so threatening.
What exactly is the Trinity from a considerably basic appreciation of the teaching? I am at pains to simplify this teaching being aware that big minds have deliberated on this subject in more detailed and in-depth fashions. In the course of the week, we were alerted by the book of Ecclesiastes (5), that it is more important to listen that to talk and I find it more appealing when we want to understand the exact nature of God. Those whose reflections have made attempts that have given us the doctrine of the Trinity have left us with more problems than solutions.
The following questions could help us appreciate the complexity of the task before us:
1. Is it really possible for our minds to comprehend God in such a way as to be able to say the last word about this Being who is far above our minds?
2. When we say that God is three in one, what exactly are we describing?
3. Does our faith in God fail if we are not able to articulate the doctrine of Trinity?
We could expand the above questionnaire but only to demonstrate the fact that the talk about God is no walk over. Someone shared with me this fascinating story about a man who sent his two sons to a theological school so that they could learn something about God. When they had finished their training, they came back home and naturally, the father expected to learn also from his two sons. Indeed, the younger son was upbeat about how much of God he had learnt! He could articulate on blessings, grace, the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, the sacraments and everything else that could prove that he had learnt all about God. The elder son had no words! He was now even quieter than he had been before training. The father realised that actually, between the two, the one who was quiet had learnt something more about God than the talkative one. The mark of one who is ignorant of God is a sustained tendency to exaggerate their knowledge about him.
We all have been made to understand the doctrine of the Trinity as having, at its centre, our appreciation of God the father, whom we associate with creation as given in the passage of Genesis we shared today; God the son, Jesus Christ, whom we associate with the redemption of humanity; and the Holy Spirit associated with the sanctification of creation. The Nicene Creed we recite captures for us these three dimensions. In our baptism, through confirmation, we are supposed to have been exposed to some knowledge about the creed. But does that say everything about God? Could we reduce the nature of God to a mathematical formula and sit back thinking that we have done a good job?
There is a school of thought that reminds us that God is a mystery. Of course, we humans are curious to the extent that we would like to solve this mystery. However, on this one we are also reminded that because the mysteriousness of God is beyond comprehension, no attempts could help us solve this problem. To this end, instead of thinking about a mystery that could be solved, we are actually faced with one that needs to be appreciated for what it is. I do not want to discourage our habits of making reference to God from time to time but it is clear to me that the more we think that we are familiar with the nature of God, the more we should interrogate our convictions.
It is curious that Jesus Christ, did not articulate for us the doctrine of the Trinity. Various references he made to God the father were always punctuated by cautions. No one therefore could cite Jesus as the one who said the last word about God. Therefore, we also should never think that we could work out the last word with our limited minds. We can only make attempts to understand the work and nature of God but could never comprehend it in full.
I personally tend to agree with those who teach that the only suitable response we should render to God is an appreciation of his goodness which we should also try by all means to put into practice. When the Bible teaches us about God, there is only one word that is put before us: Love. We must render that love to God first and to one another. We are told that everything else should follow from this. Perhaps we could also begin to think of the Trinity in terms of Love because it is the only power that could unite. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit should be understood in terms of the love shown to us by God and that which we should emphasise amongst ourselves as humans. If God is one and yet three, it really means that as humans, it is possible to be so many and yet united. To this end, the Trinity is not so much a description of God but an invitation to us who have been created for fellowship and are constantly being encouraged to promote it amongst ourselves.
If we are honest with all the gifts that we attribute to God in our lives, nothing could surpass that of love. One observer recently pointed out that even today under the restrictions that have been imposed on us by the Covid-19, one of the challenges we are having is the inability to live our love to the full. We are created to be social beings and nothing could substitute the love that we are supposed to share amongst ourselves and with our Creator.
It is therefore important to stop worrying about having the right formula of who God is and to start focusing on how to share the life we were given out of love. What could it benefit anyone to articulate the doctrine of the Trinity and yet fail to uplift others in the process? One man was asked whether he was Christian or not. His brief answer was: “Ask my neighbours”. Indeed, it is the way we live that will define who we are more than the claims we lake for ourselves.
Jesus’s parting words in the gospel have to do with a command and encouragement to go out into the world and teach others to obey God. This we do not do by articulating theological concepts but by showing others what it means to live for God.
Today we have seen the world uniting against the pandemic. We also have seen the world standing up to condemn racism in no uncertain terms. I see it as a challenge among us Christians, who have a tendency of separating our faith from our deeds, that we are celebrating Trinity Sunday with all these developments around us. A united world could be a better example of the oneness and the Threeness of God. The big question is, where do we stand as Anglicans in the face of all this?
To God be the glory. Amen.