Trinity

As most of you have probably heard, Bishop Councell passed away on Monday.  Bishop Councell inherited a diocese that was broken and depleted, treated by his predecessor as both a MAC machine and a misfit toy.  But if anyone could step in and fix such a thing, it would be George Councell, a bright, engaged, humble, and deeply kind man.  I don’t know anyone who didn’t like the Bishop – he was impossible to dislike, really.  If Bishop Councell punched your mother in the face, you’d wonder what your mother did to deserve it.

The Bishop loved Christ Church and we loved him back.  Kate Williamson shared the story of when she served as his chaplain at a service here: at one point Kate addressed him as Bishop and then corrected herself and said “Your Excellency.”  And he smiled and said, “God just calls me George.”

Personally, Bishop Councell gave me two of the best gifts I’ve ever received.  One is my priesthood, which he approved despite the nagging disapproval of his then Transition Officer.  I tried to pay him back for that by shielding him from my colleagues who always seemed to need something from him when he was just trying to eat something during a conference.  Once, during a clergy conference, the Bishop was seated a table alone, just beginning to eat, when he was slowly surrounded by priests who wanted this or that.  “Matthew Tucker,” he yelled across the room, “I need to speak with you right now.”  The priests walked away to their own tables, surely thinking I was in some sort of grave trouble.  When I sat down with the Bishop, he pointed his finger at me like this and said, “Did you see the Dodgers’ game last night?”

The second gift was the unusual permission for me, as a seminarian, to apply to be here as Deacon in Charge.  By the grace of God, George Councell, and our Vestry, I’ve been able to be in Bordentown ever since, serving Christ and this community with you.  Bishop Councell gave me the gift of this place and of all of you, and I can never pay him back for that.

So.  Now on to trying to say something intelligent and intelligible about the Trinity, this being Trinity Sunday.  And since I won’t be able to explain the Trinity with any more success than anyone else, I’ll try to give us a glimpse of what the existence of the Trinity can tell us about reality itself.

“Christians believe in one God and only one God.  But the heart of Christianity is the belief that this one God is three Persons, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  We count only one God.  But when we count divine Persons, we count three.”  It’s just not possible to avoid this problem, this problem of God being someone we can’t possibly grasp with our finite minds, let alone put into words.  But God being One God and yet a Trinity of Persons tells us of His majesty, as opposed to the what our minds can grasp.  Let me explain.

“Whatever its shape, the whole cosmos rests on the loving and caring Persons of the Trinity.  You can’t divide the one God into three more fundamental things which make up the one God.  God isn’t a compound of anything more fundamental.  One is all there is, when it comes to God.

“But here’s the hallmark of the doctrine of the Trinity: you still have to count three.  The three Persons of the Trinity are not really anything else.  They aren’t roles of God, or modes of God.  You can’t reduce the three Persons of the Trinity to some more fundamental something in order to get—at bottom—just one.  In themselves, they are just Persons, and there are three of them.

Science, which I’m a big fan of, by the way, tells us “that everything whatsoever is reducible to elementary particles.  For secularists, (those who believe there is no God, they believe that) at the ultimate foundation of reality there is just the impersonal, the cold and uncaring bits of matter and energy that make up the material world.

“What the doctrine of the Trinity tells us is just the opposite.  At the ultimate foundation of reality, irreducible to anything else, there are the three Persons of the Trinity.”[1]  A divine switcharoo.

This might sound like I’m saying that What you see if not what you get, but that’s not it at all.  That’s not it, because we have seen, we’ve seen God the Father in all His glorious works; we have seen God the Son, we have beheld the glory of his birth, death, and resurrection; and we have seen the Holy Spirit, who comforts us, warms our hearts, gives us life.

The Holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, might be too much of a wonder for us to grasp, but the One God holds all of us, the living and the dead, in the palm of His hand.

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