The Rev. Andrew K. Barnett
Today’s Gospel: John 1:29-34
Here’s a fun fact: the word ‘Trinity’ never appears in the Bible. Yet, it remains central to the Christian faith. Where did it come from, what does it mean, and why does it matter? Our Gospel today illustrates the three persons of the Trinity in partnership for the sake of the world, illuminating these fruitful questions.
First, where does Trinity come from? This passage from John’s Gospel is one of several texts that names (or references) three distinct persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Early Christians debated this doctrine with passion, because one of the defining elements of Judaism and Christianity is that there is only one God. This was a point of pride, especially as both rejected Rome’s polytheism. But there’s a problem here. If we only have one God, why do we find three persons in the Gospels? After four-and-a-half centuries of councils, the Church settled on the notion that they are three distinct persons, of the same substance.
Second, what does Trinity mean? A powerful way to understand three persons of the same substance, is the Greek word, perichoresis. Literally, “move around,” it can be understood as a whirl, an activity of God, in relationship. For example, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, but in today’s passage, the Spirit descends upon him, and in Luke’s Gospel, the Spirit sends Jesus into the wilderness! Our Triune God is a sending presence, deeply committed to relationship, which requires justice and compassion for all.
Finally, why does Trinity matter? One of the central things to know about Trinity is that God sends.God sends forth the act of creation in a primal blur. God so loves the world that God sends Jesus, who then sends the Holy Spirit, the activity of God in our midst. The Holy Spirit builds and sends God’s church, and God’s church sends us – you and me – into the troubled waters where the kingdom is not. It is precisely there, in these waters, that God calls us to build the kingdom of Shalom, which is a just peace for all of God’s children. This is nothing short of the apostolic mission of God.
Almighty God, you have revealed to your Church your eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Gives us grace to continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of you, Father, Son, ad Holy Spirit; for you live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen. (BCP, 251, Of the Holy Trinity)