Early in the history of the American Episcopal Church, there was a controversy over whether to include the Athanasian Creed in the American Prayer Book. The proposed book of 1786 did not have it, and the English Church was afraid we had gone off the rails. 1789 included it. Now, it’s in small print at the back as one of the “historical documents” along with the 39 articles. The problem with the Athanasian Creed is it leaves you with the impression that the Trinity is “incomprehensible,” which, in a way it is, but that’s not very useful.
At the very least, we can say that community is at the heart of the deity. One of the first christian trinities was Father/Mother/Son. I like it. Gives the impression of human love, and not just two people mooning over each other, but a creative and expansive kind of love. If this is the love that we find at the heart of the deity, creation makes sense. The divine love seeks expression.
The readings for this Sunday are wonderful. In the John passage, we have the famous John 3:16. It does really stand out in its context like a sore thumb. The whole discourse up to this point has been about authority (you are a teacher come from God), possibility (no one could do the signs you do; how is it possible for a person, grown old to enter into the mother’s womb) and about the Kingdom (it is not possible for anyone to see the kingdom without being born of water and spirit). It’s about knowledge and testimony, and ascending into heaven. And all of a sudden, you have: “For God loved the world so, that he gave his only begotten Son.” In the words of Tina Turner, what’s love got to do with it?
This is the only instance in John’s Gospel where God ‘gives’ his Son. In all other instances, God sends his son into the world. Nicodemus thinks the discussion is about authority (by what authority do you cleanse the Temple?). In the fight between John’s community and the Synagogue, the question of Jesus’ authority would be paramount. Jesus indicates that Nicodemus has asked the wrong question. It’s not about Jesus’ authority, but about seeing the kingdom (what we know, we say; what we have seen we testify). The question becomes, how do we live seeing the kingdom.
The answer is that God loved the cosmos so, he gave his Son, that who ever trusts him has the life of the ages (now). The life of the Trinity is one of self-gifting, and of gifting the divine life to the cosmos. The godhead is a constant dance of the giving and receiving of self, and of gift to the cosmos.
When we receive the spirit, we enter into that divine life, giving and receiving self. That same spirit cries with our spirit, Abba, Father, and we take our place as joyful children within the divine household, not slaves of fear.
And it all happens at worship. When we cry, “Holy, holy, holy” with the seraphim and with all those who have gone before, and all those throughout the world who sing it with us, we enter that divine dance. We may think we are not worthy to be part of the dance, but God assures us otherwise. Our lips have been made worthy of singing that song, and we respond with a willingness to be given to the world to include the world in the divine household (here I am, send me). Worship includes the world in the divine dance of giving and receiving self.