God as Community and Why I Pray Trinitarian Prayers

One of the things I love about the liturgical calendar is the way it forces you to pay attention to things you can otherwise skim over. For example, Sunday was Trinity Sunday. It always falls the week after Pentecost (the Sunday we set aside to commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit–see Acts 2).

The thing about the Trinity is that you can’t just flip through the pages of Scripture to understand it. (It? Them?)

Even from the beginning of the church, things got a bit complicated as believers grappled with how the God of Abraham and Sarah could be Jesus and yet also call Jesus the “son with whom I am well pleased”; how Jesus could also be the Comforter promised by Jesus to come at a later time. How can Jesus be the son of God if he is God? I mean, really, let’s just ‘fess up: it’s rather confusing. And so somewhere along the way, the church decided that the week after we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, which is always fifty days after Easter (ahem, Pentecost), we better take a Sunday and step back and appreciate the mystery that is our God who comes to us as a community.

I mean, wow.

God as community.

I never cared much about the mystery of the Trinity. I’d heard all the Sunday school ways of watering it down: the three parts of an apple (core, flesh, peel) or an egg (yolk, white, shell), the forms of water (liquid-gas-ice), or the way people can have many roles (mother-daughter-niece). That all worked for me when I was a kid, and since I’ve always been a rather trustworthy gal, I continued to trust that this mystery made sense, even if it didn’t really matter to the way I lived my daily adult life.

For the record, I’ve learned from people smarter than me that those child-friendly ways of explaining the Trinity are actually all heresies that were condemned by the early church, but who can argue that they’re not good first steps to helping us understand the mystery of God?

Then a few years ago, when we lived in Texas and were going to a church that paused on the Sunday after Pentecost to say “Today is Trinity Sunday,”  someone pointed out to me that the Trinity can teach us about community. I started thinking about it more. God as community.

I also started praying Trinitarian prayers. Folks who go to church with me have probably noticed this because I frame my offertory prayers this way, too.

Creator God, form us…

Redeemer God, reveal to us…

Sustainer God, remind us

There is a mystery to God-as-community I still don’t understand, but I’m sure of at least one thing. Having begun to pray and acknowledge more deliberately the “big-C” Community of God–that the Creator is still creating, that the Redeemer is still redeeming, that the Holy Spirit is still sustaining–somehow, mysteriously, my understanding of the way I see my role in the “little-c” community of God has begun to shift.

I don’t know how it works.

I guess it’s just part of the mystery of community.

It changes us.


4 comments on “God as Community and Why I Pray Trinitarian Prayers

  1. Mary Lou White says:

    This past Sunday, the homily had similar things to say. Fr. Linh talked about the Trinity as relational – the source of love. But I think any good theologian will tell you that she/he really doesn’t understand it either… But I like the idea that the very essence of God is relational, God would not have created humanity for relationship if that was not already a part of who/what God is.

    • elizabeth says:

      Absolutely. If we are created in God’s image, and God’s image is relational, then we are, too. We are made for community.

      Thanks for sharing, Mary Lou!

  2. Dad (Stephen Sands I) says:

    What do you mean “those child-friendly ways of explaining the Trinity are actually all heresies that were condemned by the early church?” I thought they made sense! Heresy? Bummer….I guess I have to rethink that, eh? :>)

    You always challenge me….thanks!

    • elizabeth says:

      Thanks, Dad. And you can ask J about the heresies. 🙂 He gave a children’s sermon once in Texas on Trinity Sunday and used those examples of the Trinity (the apple, water, etc.) to explain what the Trinity was and then after each example, he posed a question about each one (the sort of question a kid would ask) that highlighted what made that particular example an inaccurate portrayal of God. It was really funny for the adults to listen to because it showed just how often we water things down for kids and end up making it more difficult to understand. Sometimes maybe we just need to say “It’s a mystery! Praise God!”

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