A Constant Flow of Love
(Prov.8:22-31; Rom.5:1-5; Jn.16:12-15)
Today puzzles many people. Why? It’s because this is Trinity Sunday. They can’t understand how three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – can possibly be one God.
We can know some things about God, however. St Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) said that ‘behaviour is determined by the nature of things,’ so we can tell something about God from the things he does.
God the Father, for example, is the Creator of all life. Our life is a gift from him, so we know he’s clever and generous. Jesus also calls his Father ‘Abba’, which means ‘Papa’, so we know he’s kind and gentle. And we know that he’s the loving and forgiving Father who waits patiently for his son, in Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk.15:11–32).
We also know that Jesus, as the Son of God, gave up everything to live among us as an ordinary man. He reveals his loving heart by curing the sick, by helping the blind and downtrodden, and by sacrificing himself for us on the Cross. And by rising again, Jesus shows us that we can do the very same thing.
Then there’s God the Spirit, who is the love between the Father and the Son that constantly flows into our world. Wherever there’s love, there’s the Spirit. He makes us holy. He makes it possible for us to lives of faith, hope and love. He comforts, unites and strengthens us, and he leads us to the truth about God. And when God’s Spirit works in and through us, we are part of God’s life.
But many people still struggle with the Trinity, because they think that God must be a being, perhaps a grey-haired old man, controlling things from afar.
Richard Rohr says this idea of God as a being comes from the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC), who taught that there were ten different qualities to all things, including ‘substance’ and ‘relationship’. Substance, he said, was the highest quality, so people thought that God must surely have substance.
Then, in the fourth and fifth centuries, St Augustine (354–430) described the Trinity as God in three substances united as one. And by the sixth century, God was defined as one substance who had three relationships.
Later on, however, Thomas Aquinas argued that God is one substance, but these relationships constitute the very nature of that substance.
This thinking has helped us understand that God doesn’t need to have any physical substance at all, for he is Spirit and relationship itself.
Richard Rohr says that our salvation is simply our readiness and capacity to stay in that relationship. As long as we remain vulnerable to some degree, he says, the Spirit can keep working in us.
But when we’re self-sufficient, we effectively shut ourselves off from God. That’s why Jesus arrived as a naked and vulnerable baby, Rohr says. Jesus was completely dependent on relationships, for that’s the way God works.
Rohr says that the Way of Jesus is our invitation into a Trinitarian way of living, loving and relating. We’re all essentially just like the Trinity, living in absolute relatedness, and to choose to stand outside this Flow is the deepest and most obvious meaning of sin.
This Flow is called love. We were made for love, and outside of it we die very quickly. [i]
He adds that infinite love is planted in all of creation, including ourselves. Everything is attracted to everything: life is attracted to life; love is attracted to love; God in you is attracted to God in everyone and everything else.
That’s what it means when the Bible says we’ve all been created in the image and likeness of God (Gen.1:26-27). God placed this alluring attraction of life toward life in everything he created.
The Trinity, then, is the heart and soul of all creation.
But what image should we use to represent the Trinity? Richard Rohr suggests the ‘fidget spinner’ toy. When it’s still, a fidget spinner has three different lobes. However, when it spins (which is its essential function), we can’t see the distinct wings; only an unbroken movement or flow, which is how God works.
This movement and flow between the three members of the Trinity is more significant than the qualities of each individual. That’s because God is a verb more than a noun; a flow more than a substance, an experience more than a deity sitting on a throne.
And we live naturally inside that constant flow of love – if we don’t resist it. [ii]
Our challenge, then, is to always go with the Flow.
To always allow God’s
love to flow in and through us.
[i] Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation, God is Relationship, Thursday, May 9, 2019
[ii] Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation, Aliveness, Friday, May 10, 2019