A Provocation: Trinity Sunday: June 11, 2017: Matthew 28:16-20

Matthew 28:16-20
28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

28:17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

28:20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

A Question or Two:

  • Why does the Trinity matter?
  • If God is One, why ought we to bother with the complications that come with the Trinity?

Some Longer Reflections:

So, it’s Trinity Sunday.

The one thing everyone knows about the Trinity is that any attempt to define it lands in heresy: every drawing, every metaphor, every analysis of the natures and of the interactions and of the relationship that is essential to God as Christians conceive of the Deity.  Heresy every time.  Some models blur the individuality of the Persons of the Trinity.  Some make them so utterly individual that it is hard to argue (with a straight face, anyhow) that Christians really ARE monotheists.

Some models offer a good picture of the relationality of the Deity, but make God seem to be obsessed with God, and uninterested in acting, which makes it hard to figure out how such a Deity ever got around to creating anything, much less redeeming it and making it holy.  Other models get the acts of God clearly in focus, but end up with a muddled picture of God, who becomes either a team of three Divinities or a Deity who likes to play dress up.

My own particular favorite image of the Trinity comes from a woman in the congregation I served in Door County, WI, a few decades ago.  She told me that she had come up with this image when she was 12 years old.  Her grandmother was teaching her to bake.  She said that she realized that the Trinity was like a cake.

I had no idea what she meant.

She explained: It’s like the eggs, the flour, and the sugar in a cake.

I still had no idea what she meant.  That sounded like a list of ingredients to me, and a partial list at that.  And, I asserted, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were not ingredients.

“No kidding,” she said.

I realized I was going to have to listen more closely.

I asked her if the image didn’t lose the “threeness” of the Trinity in an effort to affirm the “oneness” of God?  After all, God is one, and a cake is only one thing.

“A cake is not one thing,” she said, “and it’s not just a jumble of ingredients.  The ingredients react with each other, they affect each other, change each other, but in order for a cake to be a cake, they all have to be there.  A cake is not one thing.”

“It’s a relationship,” she said.  “The elements don’t vanish when they interact.  When I taste a cake, I can tell you how many eggs are in it, and how much flour and sugar.  And I could tell you if there were too much of any one element.”

“I’m a baker,” she said.  “A baker can tell.”

I thought (briefly) about arguing that God is active and creative, while a cake is a thing and it just sits there, but then I remembered what it was like to eat something that she baked.  A cake, when she baked it, was not just a thing, and it did not just sit there.  Anything she baked wrapped you up in flavor, aroma, texture.  Anything she baked revealed things about flavor, things about life, that you would never have imagined on your own.  Her cakes created joy and hope.  A family told me once that her cakes were the only thing at the funeral lunch that didn’t taste like styrofoam.

I am sure that someone will find all sorts of problems with the image that she showed me.

I am sure that someone will find heresy.  Someone always does.  It is one of our great skills, finding fault.

But the idea that we are baptized in the Name of creative hope and restored life seems just right to me.  The idea that baptism bakes us into the love and skill that went into my teacher’s cakes seems to catch something that is essential to the work of God in the world.



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