Sunday, May 27 2018
For somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 years, I have been saying the Nicene Creed or the Apostles' Creed during a service. Early on, I checked off all the proper boxes for Confirmation class; twenty-five years later the boxes, though more subtle, were once again checked while I completed my seminary studies. However, merely passing tests on essential doctrine or giving a purely intellectual assent to them was not enough. To believe in the triune God, to worship him was not a piece of cake, at least not for me. I needed to anchor myself in something every day, something that would provide a path back when I strayed.
In Chapter 16 of John's Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that when the “Spirit of truth comes he will guide [them] into all truth.” Whenever I have been blown astray, whenever doubts have arisen, and they still do, Jesus himself is always the corrective, the one whose Spirit gets me back on course. Hence, every morning I anchor myself in a truth expressed in a hymn attributed to Saint Patrick: “I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in Three.”
Numerous moments have occurred in my life when, suddenly, like lightning from a clear sky, all the tests I had passed, all the boxes I had checked, all the formulas I had memorized became actualized. In an instant, all that lay within that rehearsed, memorized, recited line was crystallized, rock solid, a firm foundation on which I stand and build. It was all true and unfolded before me, a gift of grace that swept away whatever doubts there were, at least for a time.
As is often the case, my imagination encompassed more than my brain could articulate, but in those moments the doctrine of the Trinity became more than a document debated and arrived at by ancient scholars; it was lived out in a life; it was proclaimed in pagan arenas over 2000 years ago as Christians died for this God; it is still proclaimed in pagan arenas today as Christians across the world believe (and act on that belief) that they, today, have a faith worth living and dying for. I continue to discover that the central faith of the New Testament is as present and relevant in today's world as it was even before the doctrine of the Trinity was hammered out in a church council.
Yet a question remains for me, one that arises daily in my life at some point: Will I, at this point, build on the ancient belief that the one God and “his relationship with the world has been fulfilled in Jesus and implemented by the Holy Spirit”? However the answer works itself out for the remainder of my life, will I be obedient to the creator God, incarnate in Jesus, and active in the Spirit who lives in me, breathes in me, so that others might believe in him? The answers to questions like these can best be answered in a line from Michael Ende's The Never-Ending Story: “But that's another story and shall be told another time.”
Under the Mercy,