In the opening chapters of his letter to the Church in Rome, Paul is walking a tightrope – or perhaps better, he’s trying to thread a needle. At the heart of his whole argument, at the heart of what he is trying to teach – indeed, at the heart of the Gospel that he is proclaiming, is that amazing, earth-shattering declaration that we reflected on two weeks ago: that we are saved by grace.
Last week, when I spoke about the Trinity, I suggested that the doctrine of the Trinity was not so much a set of formal propositions, a formulation to be learned and believed and recited, as it was an attempt to describe the indescribable, to put into words the experience of the people of God: that they encounter God – the one God, who is all in all – in many different ways: that the God who those first followers of Jesus worshipped in the Temple and the Synagogue as creator of the whole universe, and as the God of the people of Israel, was also the God spoken of in the language of the Spirit, the ruach, the dynamic divine energy experienced by the people through history and then most dramatically at Pentecost; and was also the God that had been revealed to them in human form in the person of Jesus Christ; that each of these was a true encounter with the fulness of God, but that when you come to speak of the nature of God, language lets you down, and all descriptions are partial, tentative, analogies.
The Sunday after Pentecost Sunday is probably one of the least observed festivals of the Christian year. So you are fully excused if you didn’t know that today is Trinity Sunday. To be honest, I don’t think I’d have realised either, if it hadn’t been for an argument on the subject breaking out amongst some of my theologian friends on Facebook….
And I’m absolutely sure that the reason Trinity Sunday gets so little play in the Christian calendar is that the idea of speaking on the subject of the Trinity sends preachers everywhere into fits of despair.