What is a Trinity, and is it male or female?

ok, so this is what I wrote for last Sunday, which is Trinity Sunday in the church calendar. Its based around a passage from John’s Gospel, chapter 3, verses 1-17, and a chunk from chapter 8 of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome…

Its not massively about what the Trinity is, but, well, you read it.

I wrote it before all the discussions around attributing male/female gender language to God came up in the headlines, but its not entirely disconnected… well, it helps me with my thinking… anyway, i’ll write a specific post on that issue next week!

so, here’s what I said:

Our two passages this morning come from one of the most well known parts of the Gospel- Jesus’ late night encounter with Nicodemus, and from that well-spring of Paul’s teaching- Romans. Some have described Romans as the Himalayas of the Bible- and chapter 8 as Mt Everest. These passages, rich and amazing as they are, are quite complex- each chapter of Romans contains enough material to keep you busy for several months… while John’s gospel is regarded as the deepest and most mysterious of the Gospels. So, today, on Trinity Sunday we have these two passages from two complex books of the new Testament. What’s going on?

The way that we understand God is rather similar to the way we read and understand the Bible- we have favourite bits that we love and come back to, we have bits that confuse us but we know are important, and we have bits that challenge us and we’d rather were slightly different, and rather than striving to reach perfect understanding before we can start on the Christian life, or giving up on the attempt and simply saying ‘God is unknowable so there’s no point in trying’, instead we opt for a third option- understanding enough to get started, while hoping that we will come to a fuller grasp of things as we live the Christian life…

The Trinity is a perfect example of this- 3 in one, one in three- at one level it works fine to say that the trinity is like water which can be liquid, ice or steam… or that the way we think of father son and spirit is like a person who has different forms of address in work, at home or with family…, or the lobes of a 3-leaf clover none of those analogies is quite accurate, but they work to help us understand enough- they point out the connectivity of the Trinity, they point out the movement between father son and spirit, and the highlight the relational aspect…

In John 3 we see some key ideas about our relationship with God, and the relationship between father, son and Spirit that we call the Trinity… the father sends the Son, the Son acts to bring salvation and sends the Spirit, the Spirit enables believers to be born into the kingdom of the Father… each knows their role and trusts in the others. Loving relationship leading to trust and willing obedience.  For Christians, as much as anyone else, the idea of trusting others and being willing to allow them to make decisions for us is difficult- I’m not sure whether its easier to trust people (who we can see but know are flawed) or God (who we believe to be perfect but can’t touch)- but I know neither are easy! But when we do begin to trust, to step into relationship that is reciprocal- to respond to the invitation to become children of God, co-heirs with each other and Christ- the promise that is contained within Roman’s 8, we are released from the bondage to fear that governs so many people’s lives.  This allows us to let go of our ‘rights’ and to start to take hold of our ‘responsibilities’… being a child of God is a privilege, with responsibilities.

Relationship with God leads to obedience to God leads to freedom from fear and freedom to live- a different way of life from that which we’d otherwise have… being born again. If you’ve always been a Christian and can’t remember anything different then you were born again at an early age- but you were born again… or else you wouldn’t understand what Jesus did for you. If you’ve been coming to church for years, and you don’t understand that Jesus death on the cross means that you can become a child of God… then hear the words of Jesus in John 3.16…one of the most well known verses in the Bible… and hear them just as Nicodemus did, and answer this- what about you? If this is true, then why not you too? Why not your friends seem to ‘get’ being good and moral, and are spiritual, but don’t get Jesus and the language we use, or are happy for your faith to be really important to you, so long as it stays a safe distance from them…

But these Ideas need to become concrete- my brother’s job… getting people to think about what they can do… lots of thinking and research and analysis just to get the contract… but once they’ve got it the real work starts- helping people to do it- otherwise they’ve not actually succeeded- the job is to make the changes, not just see them.

The language of Trinity is an example of how we take the huge concepts of God and bring them to life in ways that we can grasp- while I was writing this I boiled a kettle and watched clothes dry on the line etc- we get water… we get relationships… Jesus came to help the Jewish people understand the relationship that they already had with God, and to expand it, to open the doors wider to include the whole of the earth…

If we are already part of the Kingdom of God, or would consider ourselves to be a Christian, or would like to say we’ve been born again of the Spirit- whichever of those you prefer, they are all true if any of them are! Then we have been given responsibility, and the invitation to take on that responsibility- to step up as co-heirs along with Christ… to continue his work of helping people to understand the relationship that they can have with God… to open the doors of the kingdom wider… to grow deeper in this ourselves as a demonstration to others of what it looks like…

Going deeper with God- realising the depth of God’s love for us, and responding to that in greater ways through our lives. Just as I’m finishing, I want to give some practical teaching on how we live our lives- not just the importance of prayer, worship or Bible reading, but how our faith impacts in the everyday situations of work, money and leisure… it stems from how we relate to God in those parts of our lives- how we understand the Trinity has exactly that sort of practical angle to it- the application of deep theology to the reality of life.  There is so much we could look at under each of these areas- but just to give us a taster…

God- the Father… source of all things, is the source, ultimately, of our wealth, of our bodies and for whom we work- whether we’re comfortably well-off or poor by our own standards but still in the top 10% of the wealthiest people on the planet, whether our culture says we’re retired or struggling to find our vocation, whether we enjoying the physical thrill of sport or prefer to sit and talk… if God is the creator and sustainer of all things, then he is the provider of our wealth- and so we owe him thanks and blessing for all we have. If God has caused our very jobs to exist, then ultimately we work for him- leaving an employer for whatever reason is viewed as moving to our next assignment for God, and the leisure activities we love are things we do with God, serving God in those places, rather than things we should feel guilty about- unless we are ashamed before God of our source of income, our workplace or our leisure activities… if so, then we need to reassess those parts of our lives as children of God…

God- the Son…giving himself in obedience to the will of the father- Jesus showed on many occasions that he valued the sacrificial generosity of those who had little over the false generosity of the rich- giving completely, sacrificially, means that we notice it… that it comes as a high priority rather than an afterthought. Jesus also knew the value of work- having been a carpenter himself (which may have been more similar to how we understand a general builder rather than a joiner etc, BTW).  He understood the work environment well- his parables frequently alluding to farming, building or trading… the industries of his society. Jesus worked, but also rested- he withdrew from his ministry to others to maintain his own relationship with the father, and he also spent time with his friends- sometimes in teaching, but also eating together, travelling and being with them… the Son knew that the Sabbath was to serve man, not man to serve the Sabbath!

God- the Spirit… God’s power to help us do what we cannot do, and to direct our actions… when the world around us says money talks and that we cannot make do without it, its God’s Spirit in us that whispers the truth- that money not only cannot buy us everything, but it cannot buy us anything that is of importance.  The Spirit of God in our workplace- opens our eyes to help us understand how it is that we’re serving God in that place- removes those barriers that we create between Christian work and other work- if we’re Christians all our work is Christian… The Spirit of God in our leisure time does the same… at the allotments, watching films, talking about football or playing golf…

So, as Christians we don’t fully understand God, but we have a ‘good enough’ model. We don’t yet live perfectly, but we have a ‘good enough’ idea- and those provide us with the starting point we need… a place where we can start, where we can return to if necessary, where we can bring others to… it’s a place of considered humility and hope- we have something to offer, but we know we ourselves are still in need.


4 thoughts on “What is a Trinity, and is it male or female?

  1. Hi Andy Really enjoyed reading this !   A good product of planning at Hartley Cottage last week !I must confess  that i’ve missed your recent posts – this retirement lark is busy !Liked the diagram of the Trinity – some think that Holy Spirit is the spirit of Jesus but that diagram shows he’s a separate part of the Godhead.  Didn’t see much about the gender of the Trinity but I’m not really fussed about that discussion either.We have a great housegroup developing at Chivenor with inroads being made into the ever moving population.Marianne’s just walked into our glazed Conservatory door so we’ve been busy with ice packs – some bruises evident so praying it won’t be too bad when guests arrive ! Love to all the gangTrevor From: Essential Thinking To: trevor_marianne@yahoo.co.uk Sent: Friday, 5 June 2015, 12:02 Subject: [New post] What is a Trinity, and is it male or female? #yiv5781910471 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv5781910471 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv5781910471 a.yiv5781910471primaryactionlink:link, #yiv5781910471 a.yiv5781910471primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv5781910471 a.yiv5781910471primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv5781910471 a.yiv5781910471primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv5781910471 WordPress.com | acdodwell posted: “ok, so this is what I wrote for last Sunday, which is Trinity Sunday in the church calendar. Its based around a passage from John’s Gospel, chapter 3, verses 1-17, and a chunk from chapter 8 of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome…Its not massively a” | |

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