Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Re-thinking the shape of the Trinity: Part 4
Alternate image #2: Outward-reaching TriCircle
The next of the alternate images I would envision still contains three circles, but now concentric ones like the ripples in a pond. (Image public domain courtesy of Wikipedia, altered.) These circles do not remain still; they are ever reaching outward, ever expanding, ever sending forth the presence of God. This image emphasizes the origin of all things in the Father and the dynamic action of God. If we take the conventional ordering of the first person of the Trinity as the Father and the second person of the Trinity as Christ, the Word of God, then this image reflects the work of the Word being sent out into the world, in forming God's thought into created reality, into revealed thoughts, and into God incarnate where we meet the fullness of God in bodily form. Through the Word also the Spirit goes forth into the world. Here it is clearer that the Word and Spirit have their origin in the Father, and that through them God reaches out into the world, communicates with us, and shares his presence. In this concentric, expanding image, God now has direction and purpose and movement. The world to which God relates is now part of the picture. The approaching and outward-reaching movement of God also forms the promise of a future of God's presence throughout all things.
This picture too has its drawbacks. While a ripple shows the center as the origin and implies a world at the horizon, that smallness of the center is not quite what we want to say about God as the origin of all things. And there are still shortcomings such as the impersonal shapes in this particular image of God. Maybe someday a skilled artist might help us here.
Also, this image barely suggests what it should better portray: that as the Holy Spirit and the Word fill us, we become partakers of the divine nature, new centers of the outgoing ripple of God's presence in the world. Here we, like God, seek to accomplish the blessing of those around us, seek to draw others into fellowship, to convey the same love and human touch which God conveys, to relay the Spirit of God to others. The image of the Living God is inextricably bound up with the people of God. It is an image of God who breaks the barriers of isolation, loneliness, and separation, God who is always reaching and always moving forward, who has no boundaries.
This outward-moving ripple depicting the action of God in the world is related to our understanding of baptism, and not by the superficial coincidence that both involve water. In baptism, God immerses us in himself, cleanses us, gives us new birth, and in his Name transforms who we are. This mirrors what we have said about God's actions already based on the other images we have reviewed. In baptism we see God touching the world, touching each person in turn as we pronounce over each new person the name of Father, Son, and Spirit so that the circle of God's presence is felt in ever-wider contexts.