"God in three persons, blessed Trinity."
We will sing that verse this Sunday to start the traditional services recognizing that this is Trinity Sunday. What? You don't have that on your calendar? Come on, there's Christmas, Easter and Trinity Sunday. I hope you didn't forget to send cards. Make sure to get to church early this Sunday to get a good seat!
One thing the Church has been good about through the ages is when you want to make sure your position is kept, declare a day to honor the outcome of your vote. Future generations will have a hard time believing otherwise. You probably wonder just what I'm talking about, so let me explain...
At the start of the 4th century (early 300s AD) the Christian world was in turmoil. A controversy was rising from a person named Arius and his followers who believed Jesus was not of the same nature with God, and certainly the Holy Spirit was not. But the other side was having a hard time articulating their position. At the same time Christianity was experiencing all new levels of recognition and advancement because the new Roman Emperor, Constantine, became a Christian. It seemed as if Christianity would no sooner be recognized as a growing world religion than it would fade away from internal conflict (some things never change!)
But Constantine called for a gathering of bishops in Nicea. A significant outcome was the affirmation that Jesus Christ is "of the same essence as the Father," and the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son." This established an understanding of a complicated idea, that God is three in One. One God in three persons (think of an egg that is shell, whites and yolk; or water that can be liquid, gas and solid. Three in one). Those affirming this creed prevailed and the Arians were defeated.
Therefore a day was established, the Sunday after Pentecost, to recognize Trinity Sunday. So when a generation gets raised worshiping with this belief, there's no chance of turning back.
There's two ways to look at this, cynically and think of the politics and humanity that shaped the church the way we have it. Or to think of it faithfully. What if God was at work through this history, establishing an important understanding of God's nature? And, what can we learn from the practice of the church to establish a day to honor the Trinity as a way to make sure people don't stray from this idea. That's not such a bad thought actually. When I sing, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, early in the morning my song shall rise to thee..." I'm not thinking church politics. In fact, I am writing these words VERY early in the morning, and I may tell you why in the sermon this Sunday. But when I sing those words and affirm "God in three persons, blessed Trinity," my faith is encouraged and I put my trust in a loving God who creates, redeems and sustains (the qualities of the Trinity).
What rituals do you have to affirm this faith so you don't turn back? Is regular worship a pattern for your family? How do you instill an understanding of God in the lives of your children so they won't believe just anything? Once a year is a good way to lock down a doctrine. But once a week is the best way to lock down a soul.