Mystery and Trinity

As we leave the season known as Eastertide, we expand our praise as we allow God to expand us. This is the week between Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday. Throughout the season of Easter, we celebrated the risen Christ. On Pentecost, we remembered that God’s Spirit—the Holy Spirit—dwells in us. And this coming Sunday, we will stand in awe of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

Monday, June 10

Read: Ephesians 3:1-11

Consider: As we read the New Testament letters attributed to Paul, we find various kinds of insight. Sometimes Paul wrote to the churches with very practical instruction about how to worship and how to live in harmony with one another. Other times he taught great theological truths with which we articulate the beauty of the gospel—the good news. But there is more. While many Christians see Paul the teacher and Paul the pastor, they miss something central in his life and ministry. They miss Paul the mystic.

Now don’t be intimidated by the word, “mystic.” That word carries a lot of baggage in our day. People often think that mystics are Eastern gurus who sit on mountain tops, chanting from the lotus position. Or they think of mystics as people who are trying to escape the real world—people who have little practical life-sense. Sometimes they see mystics as people who thrive on emotion and are intellectually lazy. Or sometimes mystics are viewed as people who chase after signs and wonders.

I’m not using “mystic” in any of those ways. Rather, I see in Paul one who is not afraid to embrace “the mystery of Christ” (3:4).

“Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ…” (3:2-4)

Listen to the words Paul used—mystery, revelation, insight. These are words that transcend what we can capture with our intellect alone. When something is revealed to us, it is given to us. We don’t apprehend it with skill or effort. We receive it.

So, Paul calls us to receive and embrace what can only be given to us by the Holy Spirit. We don’t listen to our emotions, our biases or our self-will. But as we dwell in scripture and in community with the Body of Christ, we can trust the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can embrace the mystery.

Pray: “Lord, help me to grow in my desire and capacity to listen to your voice.”

 

Tuesday, June 11

Read: Ephesians 3:14-19

Consider: Yesterday we looked at Paul’s use of the word “mystery” to describe what God had revealed to him and what God would reveal to us. I love how Paul then gave us insight as to what mystery is. He did so by speaking about our capacity to “know this love that surpasses knowledge” (3:19).

Now if we don’t embrace mystery, that sentence makes no sense whatsoever. How can you know what is impossible to know?

Our concept of knowledge is often confined to what we can handle with our minds—what we can figure out with our gift of reasoning. We often draw sharp distinctions between knowing and feeling and doing. But in the New Testament, “knowing” is much more expansive than simply wrapping our brains around something. And with this broad understanding of “knowledge,” we are told that we can “know” God. So, this invitation to know him points to something more than what we can grasp in our heads or communicate with our words.

Paul was a gifted theologian who had immersed himself in the scriptures. He knew so much! And yet, from the perspective of a brilliant mind, he passionately exclaimed, “I want to know Christ” (Philippians 3:10). He was speaking about a knowledge that “surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19).

To know God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—we’ll have to use our physical senses and the spiritual capacity that was given to us when God made us in his image. The Bible often talks about seeing God and hearing his voice. And God has made that possible for you and me.

Pray: “Lord, open my eyes and my ears. Enliven my physical and spiritual senses. I want to see you, to hear you and to know you this very day.”

 

Wednesday, June 12

Read: Ephesians 4:1-6

Consider: Over the past two days we’ve peered into the “mystery” that Paul proclaimed (3:2-4, 19). His words point us to life that cannot be confined to physical senses or to reason. God gave us our physical senses and he gave us amazing minds with the power to categorize, define, understand and communicate. They are gifts beyond imagination. But he has given us so much more. By creating us in his image, he gave us the capacity to know God with a knowledge that transcends the way we know anything or anyone else.

His words about mystery and knowledge in the third chapter of Ephesians reach a poetic climax when he proclaims…

“…one body and one Spirit…one hope…one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (4:4-6)

Wow! He had to give us a running start for that. He had to lead us to understand that we can “know” that which “surpasses knowledge” (3:19) before he could describe the God beyond limits.

That description of God — “over all and through all and in all” — has become powerfully important to my understanding of God (as incomplete as my understanding is).

I love to run and walk outside. When I slow down to a walk, I take that opportunity to drink in the sights around me. In those times, I cannot look at nature without realizing that God is there—over all, through all, in all. And then I see a God who is so close to me that he can only be described as being in me and though me.

Of course, we cannot grasp that with our intellectual powers. That truth does not become real to us in a manner that we can explain. But we can know it. We can know what cannot be known—the “mystery of Christ” (3:4).

Pray: Meditate on Paul’s description of God as the “Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Meditate. Look with spiritual eyes and listen with spiritual ears. Don’t evaluate. Don’t try to engage that truth on a logical level. It can’t be done. Engage that truth by listening to the One who lives in you.

 

Thursday, June 13

Read: Colossians 2:6-10

Consider: We spent the first part of this week challenging ourselves to embrace mystery. We did that to prepare ourselves to consider the very essence of God. For us, the word that describes God is “Trinity.”

The “three-ness” of God and the truth that “the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4) cannot be harmonized through logic. We must see. We must to see God in his various manifestations. We must know God in the ways that he chooses to reveal himself to us.

Paul wrote that in Christ “all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (2:9). What did he mean by “deity”?

It’s an interesting word in the language in which Paul wrote. It literally means “God-head” or, as it is sometimes translated, “God-hood.”

We could think of it in the same manner that we think of words like “manhood” or “womanhood” or “personhood.” When we use those words, we’re not talking about one person, but the essence of what it means to be a person. So, Paul is saying that “God-hood”—the very essence of God—was alive in bodily form when Christ came to us as Jesus of Nazareth. And Christ is still the fullness of God.

It may not be the case for everyone, but for me, the starting point in grasping the Trinity is Christ. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the very essence of God. He is the part of God that took on our humanity. We were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and God joined himself to us to reveal that image to us in Christ.

As we try to grasp the essence of God, we can begin by looking to Jesus.

Pray: “Lord, thank you for putting on our humanity and showing us who you are. You are too great for me to comprehend, and yet, I can embrace you. Thank you for making it possible for me to see you and hear your voice.”

 

Friday, June 14

Read: Genesis 1:1-2

Consider: I’ve heard people say that the Trinity is not found in the Bible. Well, perhaps that particular word is not found in our English translations, but God as Father, Son and Spirit is seen and known from Genesis to Revelation.

“In the beginning God…” Those four words stretch our minds and spirits to new dimensions. It’s hard for us to imagine eternity as existence that has no end. But for me, it’s even more difficult to comprehend eternity that had no beginning. But God is eternal—with no end and no beginning. He was. And he is. Even before the beginnings of our cosmos. The opening words of Genesis are not about the beginning of God. They are proclaiming the beginning of the creation in which you and I dwell.

Just as the first sentence of the Bible centers on God, the second sentence tells us about the “Spirit of God.” And just as the Genesis writer describes the Creator and the Spirit, in the New Testament our brother, John, tells us that the Son “was with God in the beginning” and that he, in fact, “was God.” He called the Son “the Word” and taught us that…

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:1-3)

Why is this so important? Because as we get a glimpse of the dynamic, communal God—the God who is Father, Son and Spirit—we can interact with him in every facet and on every level of our lives. He is not one dimensional. And since we were created in his image (Genesis 1:27), neither are we. There is more to us than we see. And he who is fully God wants to help us be fully human.

Pray: As you pray today, take a moment to give specific praise to the Father, then to the Son and then to the Holy Spirit.

 

Saturday, June 15

Read: Matthew 3:13-17

Consider: At Jesus’ baptism we see the Trinity. The Son of God chose to become the Son of Man. He humbled himself by descending into the waters of baptism as he would later descend into the grave. The Spirit of God” (3:16) descended to the humbled Son. And a voice came from heaven that could only be the voice of the Father, for it said, “This is my Son” (3:17).

Some have described the Trinity as a community. This community experiences unhindered love that constantly flows between and among the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Richard Rohr likes to call this “the divine dance.”

Now that may seem strange or abstract to us. But if we allow ourselves to believe that God has invited us into the dance, we may begin to understand.

Remember, Jesus said that the Spirit would live in us (John 14:17) and that “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20). The Spirit in us. Christ in the Father. The Father in Christ. Christ in us. Us in Christ.

When we actually hear the words of Jesus, we can begin to grasp an amazing insight about the Trinity. God intends the unhindered and constant flow of love among the Father and the Son and the Spirit to include us. We really are invited to the dance!

Pray: “Lord, I cannot comprehend what it means to be ‘in Christ’—inside of God. At least I can’t understand it with my intellect. So, help me to grasp it in my life. Teach me how to be aware of the constant flow of your love and your presence in me and through me. Today I submit myself to your unfathomable love.”

 

Sunday, June 16 — Trinity Sunday

Today is Trinity Sunday. Today Christians around the world—through song, scripture, sacrament and preaching—will try to get a fresh glimpse of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Spend some time today meditating on the beauty of your relationship with each “person” of the Trinity. Then spend some time thanking and praising the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.