Impossible. Remember the story of Cinderella? How about the movie version with Leslie Ann Warren? In that timeless fairy tale, a pumpkin becomes a glittering carriage, and the lyrics of a song declare the transformation to be: impossible: for a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage. Impossible! But for those with imagination, it happens. Even without a movie camera, ordinary objects become transformed through the power of imagination. In a child’s hands, a pencil becomes a rocket ship soaring through the air. The air itself becomes perfectly brewed tea, sipped delicately out of tiny cups. The cups, too, could be made of air. It doesn’t matter, for the power of imagination lets us believe in impossible things.
Incomprehensible. Today in Trinity Sunday, the day in the church year on which we celebrate something as difficult to understand as it is wonderful to know. The Trinity: God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Theologians have grappled with the concept of this Truth since the church began. We simply cannot adequately explain the mystery of the Trinity, although many, many people have tried. Some use examples of water, how it exists in the forms of solid, liquid, and gas. The description, while perhaps helpful, is a perfect description of a heresy called modalism, in which God is one and bursts forth in whatever “mode” is needed at the time. Still, we try to explain the trinity. We hear examples of fruit (an apple), our different roles (grandfather, father, son, uncle –all the same person), chocolate (yes, really!). Why I’ve even heard someone try to explain the Trinity using a fairy tale….
An ancient creed of the church actually explains the Trinity in a pretty simple way for a doctrine that is so complex. The creed is called the Athanasian Creed, named after our church father Athanasias, a bishop of Alexandria and an early defender of the faith. Athanasius. This creed is in our prayer book (check it out), in the back in the “historical documents” section. Hear a few of the words this morning:
And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.
5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.
9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.
12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.
That is the Trinity. The words themselves are amazing: “majesty coeternal,” “uncreated,” “incomprehensible.” We knew a long time ago that the doctrine of the Trinity is incomprehensible to tools of human creation. Our words cannot quite describe it, our minds cannot quite imagine it; we seem to be left with that one word:
We are not left at incomprehensible as if it were a time and a place. It is only a word. And just as the power of imagination brings the impossible to life, it is the power of faith that explains the Trinity. Faith brings the Trinity to life, gives us the power to believe in something that we can neither explain nor comprehend. Faith.
It is faith that gives allows us to realize that being alive another day is a gift. That we have breath in which to live that day, or hands to feel it, or eyes to see it, or ears to hear it – those things are part of the miracle that we have. And we need not have all of those things to know that we are alive and to be thankful. For we have, at least, life.
It is faith that allows people to continue when the world seems so very bleak, difficult. This was yet another week in which little children went to school and did not come home. Wind, air, that thing that we celebrated as tongues of fire last week, the breath of the Holy Spirit – wind became a monster and cast a path of utter destruction. Faith allows the living to breathe again, to live life even when it hurts so very, very badly.
It is faith that gives us hope. Hope fuels our hearts with the idea that tomorrow will be better. Hope fuels first responders, police, medics, volunteers, neighbors, to search for the living; to celebrate the living, to dig, and pry, and move mountains of debris in order that one more person might live a few minutes more.
Hope is a powerful fuel. Sometimes it is the only thing that we have, this other incomprehensible called hope. Hope says that we are not alone, that we are certainly not in charge, and thank goodness, no, thank GOD that we are not. Thank God.
Thank God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we are not in charge and are incapable of knowing the depth of human misery, the depth of human sorrow, because the tragedy that we hold is incomprehensible to the tragedy that the Father holds and protects and heals. Incomprehensible.
I do not mean to say that we do not mourn or that we have no sorrow. We have mountains of every imaginable pain. We cry. We hurt, we mourn the unthinkable madness that overturns our world. And yet, and yet …
We are Easter people. We are Easter people, fueled by the hope that Jesus is Lord, and that our Lord has conquered even death in His resurrection. Jesus rose in resurrection glory! Now we can mourn the dead in the firm faith that death is not an end. Death is an end only here; we, too, will be raised into the arms of God, loved and protected and healed forever.
And so, if we are left at all, we are left with faith and hope. Faith and hope that there is Good News. Because we have good news; the good news remains that we have a God who loves us even when we don’t understand things like the doctrine of the Trinity or why little children go to school and never come home or why young people die of diseases for which there is no cure. The good news is that we do not get through tragedy – those of nature and those of our own making, alone. We get through with the fullness of the power and love of
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And that is more than we will ever comprehend and is all that we will ever need. Amen.