12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Jesus words from the Gospel of John speak about one of great mysteries of the Christian faith. Christianity is monotheistic; we believe in one God. But within our God is the belief in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – all three in one, making up the Trinity. Yesterday, we celebrated Trinity Sunday, the Sunday after Pentecost.
That our God is complete only within the Trinity is too complex for us to understand at the deepest levels. The Book of Common Prayer has in the catechism this simple question and answer about the Holy Spirit:
The Holy Spirit
Q. What is the Holy Spirit?
A. The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity, God at work in the world and in the Church even now.
God the Creator was present from the beginning. As was foretold in the Old Testament (Isaiah especially), God sent his Son to live as one of us and die for our sins – the second piece of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit was sent as the one true Advocate after Jesus ascended to heaven for the last time after his death and resurrection (see last week’s blog post here https://paigehanks.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/the-fire-of-gods-love/) This was the final piece of the Trinity revealed to God’s people. One God in Three Persons; the Blessed Trinity.
Now, I am a simple girl that sees the world as pretty black and white. I love the structure that comes with rules and tend to be literal in their interpretation. But let’s face it – literally speaking, the Trinity makes no sense. Is it three Gods? How does God come as a man then rise from the dead as Jesus? The Holy Spirit???? Kind of creepy if you just focus on this formless and shapeless being that does God’s work in the world without the context of understanding that this just isn’t for us to fully understand. But I like to understand my world and so I need a little something to help me.
For me, the Trinity is a system. To compare, we have a nervous system in our body, along with muscular, digestive, skeletal, reproductive, respiratory systems, etc. Any one of those systems cannot make our body work as a stand alone. The muscular system helps us to move our arms, legs, and bodies to move throughout our lives. It is useless without our nervous system to tell which muscles to move and when. There is nothing for the digestive system to do if we don’t have muscles moving to get the food to the stomach. We are an intricate melding of systems to make the one body work. Science has helped us understand these systems and many others in the world, providing structure and order to a complex concept.
I like to think of the Trinity as a system. God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit – all are necessary for the fulfillment of God’s purpose in the world. God created us and gave us the talents and capabilities to do the things he has designed for each of us. Jesus came to the world to save us from the unfortunate decisions we make and give us a promise of eternal life with God. And the Holy Spirit resides in and around us, guiding us to do the work God the Creator intends us to do. I’m sure it is way more beautiful and simple than this rudimentary explanation, which will be revealed to us when we are granted complete healing upon our death; but for now, this systems thinking of the Trinity helps me wrap my brain around the awesome wonder that is our God.
For me, awakening to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is my focus. I just came back from a Centering Prayer Retreat at St. Mary’s in Sewanee, TN (http://www.stmaryssewanee.org/). I feel closer to the Holy Spirit part of the system through the learning of the technique of Centering Prayer and hope to develop this habit fully in my prayer life. Each of us is called by God to do his Kingdom Work. I pray that I may feel the power and presence of the Holy Spirit every day as I discern how God is planning for me to live out his Word.
God the Creator, thank you for the gift of the Trinity. Your grace and mercy in our creation is awesome and we praise you. Send us out in the world to serve and honor you in all we do and say. We ask all your blessings through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. AMEN
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
When I was a freshman in college, I experienced one of the greatest social experiments for students this age – I pledged a sorority. I went to college far from home; no phone back then (much less a cell phone!!), no T.V., no car and not a soul that I knew. Sorority rush was a few weeks after I arrived and I immediately felt a sense of belonging on my bid day. I not only had new friends, but I also spent the semester learning about the beliefs of our founders and was introduced to a life long focus on serving others and philanthropy within a community, separate from my parents and my childhood and something I could own and believe in.
I remember standing in line on bid day and there was a group of girls in front of me that clearly all knew each other. They laughed at jokes that had unspoken insider information and already seemed to have that “sisterhood” thing before even accepting their bid. But some of them weren’t like girls I had ever known. They dressed differently, talked with strange accents from parts of the country I had never visited – and I was quite intimidated. Fast forward 27 years and these are some of my lifelong friends and sisters. All I needed was the “invitation.”
Being a follower of Christ is so much greater than my sisterhood in my sorority. Some obvious differences include that EVERYONE is invited to believe and follow Christ, no one who chooses to live a life in Christ will ever feel rejected in that relationship and we don’t have to DO ANYTHING to be deserving of acceptance. This verse from John describes the complex and simple dichotomy of the relationship of Jesus with God – both praying to the Lord and depicting his role as part of the Trinity, therefore inclusive WITH God. His words from verse 22-24 are a clear articulation of Jesus’ desire to share his knowledge and love of God with his friends and followers, as well as for you and me.
The world gets a lot more simplified when we view it through this lens of love. Loving our neighbors as ourselves, God’s love for the world and its people illustrated through sending his Son to take away our sins, loving our enemies, and trying to love ourselves as God loves us. All the other stuff we experience in the world can be flipped around if we filter it with love. Just try feeling anything other than love for someone who wrongs you when you remember that he or she is a child of God, just like you! It’s much harder to hang on to hurt when we are invited to love. Loving Christ and others through him makes everything easier to handle and the world a much better place.
God of love, open our hearts to reach out in love to those around us; at home, at work, at school, in our community and those we don’t even know. Help us to feel your love for us each day and to live out our lives in a way that honors your greatest commandment. We thank you for your many gifts and we ask you to lift our eyes to you to feel your love for us. In your name we pray. AMEN.