I have yet to see the Avengers: Age of Ultron, though it’s on my short list of things to do. Not being that familiar with the comic book origins of the Avengers, at first I thought the movie title was the Avengers: Age of Voltron, which got me all excited, because Voltron, the 80’s cartoon, was the best ever. Voltron was loved by good, feared by evil; and like the Avengers, was a force made stronger by the uniting of many forces made one by a singular cause.
Every year on Trinity Sunday, more heresy is preached from pulpits around the world than any other Sunday, and I just know that someone, somewhere, is preaching that the Trinity is like the Avengers or like the five lions of Voltron, three divine Persons coming together into one overwhelming force.
It’s a tempting analogy, really, not the least because all other analogies fall short of capturing what, or rather who, our Trinitarian God is. One God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, seems contradictory or at least incomprehensible, and trying to capture the Trinity in a three-leafed clover or a triangle or a circle just doesn’t cut it.
It’s important to point out, as my friend Fr. Sammy Wood did a few years back, that there is not “one God who shows up wearing different masks or in different roles at different times — look, now he’s creating, now he’s on the cross, now he’s filling the apostles at Pentecost. No. “God is not more fundamentally one than he is three, and he’s not more fundamentally three than he is one.” At the center of his being, in his essence, God just is three in one.
“Now, people will tell you that the word trinitas doesn’t appear in the bible. And they’re right. Nobody used the word “trinity” to refer to God until the second century. But the seeds of the doctrine are all over the bible. From the creation account in Genesis (God creating the world, God’s spirit “hovering” over the waters, God’s voice or “word” speaking the universe into being) to the great Prologue to John’s gospel (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”) to the baptismal formula at the end of Matthew’s gospel (“go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”).
“Once the early Christians were safe enough not to just worry about survival, they hammered out the doctrine over the centuries, and we say it now in our creeds — “We believe in One God, the Father almighty . . . . We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God . . . . We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life . . . .”1
You may have noticed that I haven’t actually explained any of this to you, but that’s because God is just impossible to explain. God is too much for us to handle, and I like to think that if we could handle Him, He wouldn’t be much of a god.
Our one God in Trinity of Persons is deepest mystery humankind has confronted. As my friend Fr. George Roberts noted this week, “We have grown very wary and uncomfortable… with the mystery of God in modern times. We want specific proofs, everything is questioned, and anything that cannot be scientifically, under-the-microscope proven is dismissed as folly and fiction or, at the very least, suspicious. Nicodemus (in the Gospel lesson we just heard) brings what seems like the mind of modernity into His encounter with Jesus; he is thinking very literally, very academically, while Jesus is speaking about the mystery of God: rebirth, renewal, and the gifts of Baptism and Spirit… Humanity tries to understand the mystery of God, which is all well and good, but it may be a bit of a fool’s errand. We must leave room for the wide-reaching majesty and holiness of God which moves in ways that we can sense but, as Jesus says in John, “…you do not know where it comes from or where it goes” (John 3: 8). Modernity has given us huge gifts but many have lost a willingness to trust in the ever moving power of God.”2
Of course, modernity also gave us five flying lions that get together to form Voltron, so I dig that about our modern world. But this Trinity Sunday, as we welcome the newly baptized, as we send our youth out into the world to proclaim what they’ve learned, as we thank our teachers for instilling the faith, as we thank our choir for lifting that faith to new heights, let’s thank our God for the mystery of who He is and for how He so richly blesses us in this place.
1The Rev. Sammy Wood, http://theadventboston.org/sermons/sw060312.htm
2The Rev. George Roberts, in a Facebook post, 5/25.