Saturday, May 29, 2010

My Husband's Thoughts for Trinity Sunday

from Steve's blog, Tight Lines on the River of God


Recently I was talking with church members who would be vacationing in New Mexico. I urged them to stop in to see the Loretto Chapel when they visit Santa Fe. The old chapel, which is now privately owned as a museum, contains a marvelous wooden spiral staircase constructed around 1880. The identity of the craftsman behind the staircase is unknown and a sweet little legend surrounds it. It's told in such a way that one might imagine that St. Joseph or even Jesus Himself appeared to build a staircase for the Sisters' of Loretto new chapel.

We have only speculation about Jesus actually practicing carpentry (He is called a carpenter only in Mark 6:3) and what sort of wood craftsman He might have been. Yet our sermon text for this week Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, is part of the biblical understanding of the second person of the Trinity as a Craftsman of Creation.

Our text played a huge part in the christological controversies of the fourth century. Everyone at the time agreed that Proverbs 8:22-31 (some spoil-sport modern commentators with no poetry in their souls disagree) is to be understood by Christians as about the pre-incarnate Jesus. What troubled the waters was verse 22's simple statement "I was created as the first of your works." The Arians trotted it out as proof that Jesus was less than God the Father, that He was only the first being God made before all others. Others, markedly Athanasius, took the orthodox view to be that "created" here is to be understood here as "begotten." Several evangelical modern versions follow suit, hence the NIV's "brought forth." The point is that the second person of the Trinity is not created in time, but stands in an eternal relationship with the Father. "Begotten, not made," is the Nicene Creed's formulation.

The point of all this is to be able to affirm that far from being the object of divine creation, even as the first creature, Jesus Christ is the agent of creation, along the lines of John 1:3, "Through him all things were made." Which is key to our affirmation for this Sunday, which is Trinity Sunday. The three persons of God are not separate deities each playing unique and distinct roles almost like three gods. Attempts at a gender neutral doxology using functional titles like "Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer," get it all wrong. The Son (and the Spirit) is just as involved in creation as the Father. And the Father and Spirit also redeem us just as the Father and Son also sustain us.

No, with Athanasius we affirm this text as a celebration of the Son's divinity and participation in creation alongside and coequal with the Father. And verse 30 gives us a blessed and wonderful insight into the divine life and relationships, "I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in humankind." The persons of the Trinity love and delight in each other, and out of that delightful relationship they love and delight in what they have made: the world and us. We are the objects of a shared Joy which is at the root of our existence. We are created because it delights those three Persons to share the joy of their mutual love with us as they experience it together.

So when we come to the Trinitarian meditation of our epistle lesson, Romans 5:1-5, the love which is "poured out into our hearts," is this great, already-shared Love of the three Persons of God, filled with delight in each other and filled with delight in us. And that thought of God's great delight, both internal and external, sustains us and sees us through whatever may befall.


Ted M. Gossard said...

I appreciate the words here of the love of the Trinity. Moving,and really at the heart of what God is about. Thanks, Beth.

Carving Ben said...

I am certain that that staircase is a miracle.