I thank Ethel and Ed for teaching me about the Trinity. They weren’t seminary professors or pastors or even Sunday school teachers. They were pillars of my congregation who had been married for about 50 years when I was a teenager.
One Sunday, I looked around the sanctuary and noticed Ed and Ethel holding hands. It was easy to see their love for each other, even when they were bickering, which wasn’t uncommon. For the first time, I noticed how different and how devoted they were. Ethel liked to gossip and shop. Ed liked playing poker and smoking cigars. The only thing they both enjoyed, as far as I could tell, was complaining about each other and being together. They shared a special presence and persona together that neither could match alone, though both were strong individuals. Their relationship was a dynamic dance of three distinct identities: Ethel, Ed, And. Their bond had its own unique life.
Ethel and Ed’s marriage was made in the image of God—three in one, one in three, vibrantly living love. It pointed me beyond math to mystery. It gave me a glimpse into the heartbeat of God that sustains both creation and re-creation: relationship.
Trinity Sunday is the hinge of the liturgical year. After celebrating Christ—the Father’s “only begotten” gift—at Christmas, Christ’s (the Son’s) resurrection at Easter and the power of the Spirit at Pentecost, we subtly shift the focus from God’s life reaching toward us to the fruit the Spirit bears in our life as we grow in God. Summer, with its rich greenery, charts a course for us into the heart of this holy love, which is so deep and eternal it lasts beyond any season.
The life we receive comes from God through Jesus, who bestows the “And” we share with the Trinity: fully human, fully divine; Son of God, son of Mary. He furnishes the hinge that connects creation and creator, heaven and earth, this world and the next. Joined to his life, death and resurrection, our story pops with new color and continues past its end. For the Spirit, the bond of love in God is stronger than sin or death for us. The Trinity endures. Our shared adventure goes on. God’s life persists, triumphs and overflows, holding together all things—including you, me, and Ethel and Ed.