It feels very strange, even out of place, to celebrate a feast about a dogma of the Church. Events in Jesus’ life, Pentecost, stories of Holy Women and Men gone before us: those we can wrap our heads around. But the Trinity? Why the need to celebrate that?
The word “dogma” has itself gotten a bad rap in recent decades. It was hilariously (and I would argue, respectfully) parodied in the title of a Kevin Smith movie in 1999. The term is so strongly associated with heavy-handed and closed-minded authority that we no longer question the phrase, “dogmatic, narrow.” We trust the pejorative sense of the term, even when it’s put in the mouth of the great villain of my favourite film saga. It evokes the stone walls of a prison or a fortress, rather than anything we would want our church to be about.
This celebration seems especially out of place the week after George Floyd was murdered, and days after those protesting his murder were thrown into literal prisons after getting tear-gassed and pelted with rubber bullets. It seems out of place during these last few months, when we’ve all been cooped up in the walls of our houses, and our main source of human contact outside has been to display our heads in squares on computer screens.
And yet, here we are, approaching Trinity Sunday. Approaching a celebration of the most central dogma of the Christian Church, a Sunday about the primary rule we have for talking about God. Again, why are we celebrating this? Before I attempt an answer, I’d be remiss not to post Rublev’s famous meditation on this dogma. It might be helpful to take a moment to meditate on it yourself, to reflect on this Icon of God with your feelings along with your mind:
So, why do we celebrate the Dogma of the Trinity? Because we are continually called to remember the God who loves us and who comes to us. On Ascension Sunday a few weeks ago, Jeff pointed out the comedic problem with the “Jesus working from home” meme as an example of the ways we forget. We were reminded that Jesus doesn’t leave his “office” and start working from “home” in heaven, as if Creation was somehow split like that.
You see, Jesus isn’t at all concerned with “going home,” or even taking a break. He is the Creator and Redeemer of the world: he is always at home in his Sonship of the Father, his work on the Cross is perfectly finished, and he is always at rest exercising his gracious rule through the authority and love of the Holy Spirit. Jesus isn’t concerned with “going home”; he wants to be our home, be the Beloved with whom we dwell. If there are boundaries and rules around the ways that Christians talk about God, they aren’t meant to dominate like a prison cell. They’re meant to help us name and describe the love of God and the hope that he offers as fully as we are able, and exclude notions of God that are less than perfectly loving or eternally hopeful. In fact, they’re meant to be more like the walls of a house, of the City of God, within which the human family can make a home.
So what can this say to us right now, when the world, and our own houses, don’t necessarily feel like a home? Well, to make our home in God doesn’t mean that we leave the world or the present any more than Jesus does at the Ascension. It means the precise opposite. It means that “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit” can embrace the whole human family, and all of creation. The dogma of the Trinity—the reality of Who God is—means that God continually moves toward us, welcoming us into his family right now: welcoming Black lives, Indigenous lives, Queer lives, you and me to his Table. It means that this is true right now, even if that “table” of relationships looks primarily like a phone call, a livestream, or Sunday prayers in your house. It means that those who find their home in God are called to take part in God’s great welcome, take part in God’s work of healing a humanity divided by racism and fear, take part in God’s work of gathering us into that great family for all time.
This sounds like something worth celebrating.