One day, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
And his disciples answered, “Some say that you are John the Baptist returned from the dead. Others say Elijah or one of the ancient prophets.”
And then Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered, “Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple.”
And Jesus answered and said, “What?”
And honestly, my response is often similar whenever I hear someone try to rationally explain to me the mystery of the Holy Trinity. After some years of theological education, my mind still gets a little dizzy and wraps itself in knots whenever I try to make rational sense of the three-personed God. Using our limited language to try to explain the Trinity is like using a butterfly net to try controlling the wind, which Jesus says will blow however and wherever it pleases. Our human limitations push me to remember that the Trinity is not so much a concept that we can explain but an experience in which we can participate.
Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn has a beautiful song called “Mystery” and, in the song, he says, “Infinity always gives me vertigo; and fills me up with grace.” Infinity is also a concept that our finite minds cannot really grasp or comprehend. However, we can start to grasp the concept of infinity with our hearts by experiencing love, which fills us up with grace. That is why the book of Ecclesiastes says, “God has put eternity [not in our minds, but] in our hearts.” Whenever we love someone, we have this intuitive sense that our love will last forever, even though the one whom we love may no longer be with us in the same way.
Love is the way we can begin to understand eternity and infinity. Love is the way that we can begin to understand the Trinity. And that is, in fact, how the early church theologians understood the Trinity. They described the Trinity by using the metaphor of a circle dance in order to emphasize the relationship and the love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And that might be the most important message of this greatest of mysteries: that God is Relationship. God is the love that flows between persons or even between entities in the great cosmic dance of all that exists. Atomic scientists and astrophysicists are discovering this power of relationship both in subatomic particles and in stars, in quasars and in quarks. The atom is “most simply understood as the orbiting structure of three particles—proton, electron, and neutron—in constant interplay with one another,” three particles in a kind of circle dance. And according to atomic scientists, the power of the atomic bomb is found not in the proton nor the electron nor the neutron. Rather, the power is found in “the interaction between them,” in the relationship. That is the source of nuclear power, which can change everything. It is no mere coincidence that Robert Oppenheimer named the final stage and site of the detonation of the atom bomb Trinity.
God is the relationship that flows eternally like an endless waterwheel of absolute self-giving and receiving. Other faith traditions describe God as loving. We do too but the mystery of the Trinity pushes us a step further to identify God as Love itself. God is the love that exists within community. That’s why we talk about God being present here among us right now. In his sermon at the Royal Wedding, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry quoted an old medieval hymn, which in Latin is Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est. Where love is true, God is there. And Christ’s promised presence in the bread and wine of the Eucharist is given to us so that we might train ourselves to see the presence of God and to feel the pulse of that Trinitarian circle dance in all loving relationships.
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul invites all of us to participate in the divine circle dance. He says, “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” Through love and communal prayer we can join the divine circle dance, we can start feeling the rhythm, pulse and flow of the love between the Abba, the Son and the Spirit, which is more powerful than anything in the universe because it is the Source of everything in the universe. It is the Source of “the Big Bang” or the “Let there be Light” moment that brought all creation into existence. It is the Source of the exploding power within atoms. That is why author Annie Dillard says, “On the whole, I do not find Christians […] sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT…we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should [strap] us to our pews. For…God may draw us out to where we can never return.” That is the pulse of the divine circle dance. Will we let it beat within us and move us to dance with the Triune God? As part of the Triune God? Will we let our lips be touched by the live coal of God’s love so that we can say, “Abba, Here we are. Send us!” Send us into the world to invite all of creation into that divine dance that spirals deeper and deeper into the eternal abundance of the life and love that flows between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.