This past weekend we celebrated Trinity Sunday. It’s the only Sunday festival of the Church that celebrates a doctrine rather than a historical event, and that tells me that the Episcopal Church considers something about the Trinity to be especially important.
And what about it is so important? It’s certainly not the specifics of how One God manages to be three persons in unity of being. Because pretty much the best we can do in laying that out is to say what it is not rather than what it is. It’s striking that in the end, we say it’s a Holy Mystery and back away from trying to explain it all.
So, what is it then? To me, it’s not the details of the doctrine but the implications that matter. I think there are three of those: Unity in Diversity, Interdependence and Cooperation, and Complexity and Order. Because God is the Creator of the reality we know, we ought to expect to see these implications everywhere we look. And when people insist on ideas that contradict them, we should be wary.
As citizens of a great democracy, I think we fundamentally understand how Unity in Diversity works. You can find that sentiment on our nation’s Great Seal: E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one. The motto doesn’t mean that we lose our distinctiveness by being part of one nation; it means that our individual gifts contribute to making the whole more robust than it would otherwise be.
One of the great gifts of being part of the worldwide Anglican Communion is that we have been taught the meaning of Ubuntu by our siblings from the nations of southern Africa. Human beings are fundamentally social beings who exist in relation to others. The philosophy of Ubuntu encourages people to be inclusive and value each individual’s diversity and uniqueness. Like E Pluribus Unum, Ubuntu is a reflection of the love that is the essential quality of our Trinitarian God.
One of the most striking qualities of chaotic materials and situations is that, over time, a sort of mostly stable order emerges spontaneously out of the chaos. It’s like the flight of a large flock of birds when the individual behaviors suddenly seem to be coordinated and arresting patterns emerge – what scientists call “murmuration.”
None of these things could exist if we were just one thing or all held to a singular set of beliefs. It is the diversity and, frankly, the sometimes frustrating division that makes us who we are. Our duty as believers in this Trinity is to recognize the power of our diversity and do what is needed to protect it when it is threatened. It’s why we celebrate Pride or Black History, Women’s History or Asian American History, or the History of our Native forebears. The wonderful diversity of our communities should be reflected in our congregations and our life as a church. Just as our churches and communities, at the very very best, reflect the Trinitarian God we worship and adore.