June 11, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – John 16:12-15 (NRSV)
Jesus said to the disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
What implications does the idea of relating to those around you with the same mutual, self-giving love that characterizes the Trinity have for your life and work?
As we mentioned yesterday, the idea that God is three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—dates back to the earliest days of the Christian church. Believers tried to figure out what it meant that the man Jesus, who had walked among them, died, and rose again, was fully human and fully divine; and they tried to figure out what it meant to be empowered by his Spirit. If Jesus Christ was fully God, and if the Holy Spirit had descended at Pentecost as he promised, and yet the story of the Hebrew people had established that there was only one God, how could this be? How could statements such as the one in today’s passage from John 16, and the story of Acts 2 which fulfilled the prophecy of John 16, be explained?
From the very beginning of the Christian movement, converts were baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28:19 as well as countless places in Acts.) For the first four centuries of Christianity, preachers and thinkers explored and refined what that meant. Their explorations culminated in what we today recite in church as the Nicene Creed, thanks to its being put forth at the Council of Nicaea in 325. (If you want to be absolutely precise, what we say today is the version of the Creed that comes from the Council of Constantinople in 381.) To be clear, these thinkers were not trying to invent new doctrines; they were trying to be faithful to the testimony of Scripture and the experience of the early church.
While many authors have attempted to explain the inner workings of the Trinity, it’s difficult to do this for very long without wandering off into esoteric or heretical statements (if you haven’t seen the video about St. Patrick attempting to explain the Trinity and continually using bad analogies, it’s worth a good laugh). For me at least, what is most fruitful for the life of faith is to think about what it means for our daily life to believe in a God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Here are three implications (see what I did there?) of belief in a Triune God.
All three Persons of the Trinity are (as the St. Patrick video says) coequal—Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not somehow “lesser.” Watch your language when you speak about God—do you find yourself saying “God” and “Jesus” when you mean “the Father” and “Jesus”? Or thinking of the Spirit as some kind of energy sent out by the other two? Does this affect the way you view the ability of the Son and the Holy Spirit to be present in power in your life and to affect your daily work?
All three Persons of the Trinity relate to each other in mutual love. Do you see love as utterly constitutive of the character of God? Or do you oppose the other two members of the Trinity against a wrathful Father? What implications does the idea of relating to those around you with the same mutual, self-giving love that characterizes the Trinity have for your life and work?
“Locality, limitation, sleep, sweat, footsore weariness, frustration, pain, doubt, and death, are, from before all worlds, known by God from within.” This is a quote from C. S. Lewis which I used in one of the very first Life for Leaders devotionals I ever wrote, and it is to my mind the most profound truth which the doctrine of the Trinity teaches us—as we discussed yesterday. Do you picture God as distant and unable to understand the sufferings of your life and work? Or do you experience in your daily work the presence and power of a God who made the heavens and the earth, who walked the dusty streets of Nazareth, and who brought tongues of flame on the disciples at Pentecost?
Ponder the questions above.
It’s hard to suggest any song today other than “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” a great old hymn of the church which originates in a prayer attributed to St. Patrick, honoring and praising the Triune God he served. (The lyrics are at that link. Sing and pray along!)
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we bind ourselves to you today. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Importance of Workplace Relationships (John 14-17)
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Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
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