15 Jun 2014
“And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” (2 Cor 13:13) (+)
Today is both Trinity Sunday and Father’s Day. The Trinity is one of the most difficult subjects to preach about, and I shouldn’t have to work all that hard today because it’s Father’s Day. Trinity Sunday comes after our 50 days of talking about how God the Father raised God the Son from the dead on Easter and then sent God the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. That’s a message that we Christians can accept with faith. But the difficulty arises when we start with the math. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. That’s God plus God plus God. I was never great at math, but that seems to add up to three to me. But the message of the Trinity is that God plus God plus God equals one. That’s a message that Christians even with faith can have a hard time wrapping their minds around. That’s why it took the Christian church some 300 years to finally teach without wavering that we believe in one God but in three Persons, or the Holy Trinity.
When St. Patrick went to Ireland to preach Christianity, he used the three-leaf clover to explain the Trinity. When I teach First Holy Communion catechism, I use the example of ice, water and steam to try and convey the idea of three as one. But I think probably the most popular explanation of Trinity today is from the three movies of The Matrix. In that science fiction trilogy, which I can’t explain if you’ve never seen it, the hero Neo is in the world that seems to be real but isn’t while Trinity is outside of that less than real world watching. When the hero dies in the less than real world, Trinity brings him back to life because of her love for him. But what I think is equally insightful is that in the third and last movie, when Trinity dies, the hero gives up his life for all others because he can’t live without Trinity. Now I’m not drawing out from this movie character called Trinity the message that God has died. But I do appreciate the significance that Trinity is portrayed not as a safe observer of the manufactured world, but as one who chooses to become a part of it and all of its trials and terrors. I appreciate also that because of this, the one in that world is as devoted to Trinity as Trinity is to him.
The idea of God as Trinity is all based on the reality we see with eyes of faith. God entered into our world as Jesus. Up until that moment of revelation, God’s perfection was defined as unchanging. Perfect meant that God could not be affected by anything because if God changed that would mean that He either became more or less perfect, and there is no more or less perfect. There’s only perfect. Then came Jesus, and then came the realization that Jesus was not a prophet of God or a messenger from God, but that Jesus is God. Jesus was God living our full humanity. At that point the church had to start thinking about how God was in the world in Jesus and yet remained the God who, for example, heard all of the prayers of people everywhere. The fact that Jesus ate, slept, cried and laughed forced the church to rethink the nature of God, and it was all because God left His reality and came into our less-real world to be with us. You can hear intentional echoes of this in The Matrix and in the character of Trinity.
But God’s revelation of Himself wasn’t done. Last Sunday was Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit descended upon the church and remains with the church to this very day. Again, it is the closeness of our God that forced the church to rethink the nature of God. Today Josh read for us the very last verses of Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. It is Paul’s prayer that “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” Again we hear of the closeness of God still, that God is a part of our lives and our world always. God does not sit off in some quiet corner of heaven watching the world like it was a television show. The message of Pentecost is that the Spirit of God is here with us in fellowship in the good times and the bad, during the triumphs and the failures.
Trinity is how we see God because God is such a part of our lives. Trinity is the message that the very nature of God is bound together with us. When Trinity dies in the movie and the hero dies for others because he cannot live without her, that’s also an important but often forgotten message about God the Trinity. God is revealed as the Trinity because of His presence with us and among us, but the nearness of God is supposed to inspire us to that same kind of need, the need to be with God. If you watch The Matrix, I think some of that comes through when Trinity dies and the hero can’t live without her. The name Trinity for girls has increased greatly in popularity since the movie was released. The year before, the name Trinity ranked 523rd on the list of girl’s names. After the movie, it made it all the way up to 48th and even today it is still in the top 100. Maybe that character is doing today what the three-leaf clover did centuries ago. Maybe it’s helping us to better understand God. Maybe it’s getting us to think that Trinity isn’t only about the nature of God as God, but about the nature of God as His relationship with us and us with God.
Which is my segway into Father’s Day. Fatherhood is all about relationship. It’s about trying to be a part of your child’s world, and hopefully spending enough time there so that the child wants to be a part of the father’s world. Just as the writers of The Matrix chose the name of Trinity for a purpose so has God accepted the comparison with fatherhood for a purpose. That’s a pretty heavy expectation and so for those fathers who strive to be a part of their children’s lives we today celebrate them. We pray that God help fathers to nurture the young lives entrusted to them. We pray that fathers help their children to understand responsibility to others, to themselves and to God. So on this Trinity Sunday, and on this Father’s Day, we offer our thanks that God in His very nature as Trinity is a part of our lives, and that our fathers by their very nature are there for their children too. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo