This week’s readings are here.
As I was listening to the reading from I John 5 (9-13) on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, it struck me that the lectionary had passed over I John 5:7-8 which is included only in a footnote in the NRSV). In so doing, the lectionary editors passed over one of the most controversial texts in the History of Christianity: the so-called Johannine Comma. They read:
There are three that testify in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 8And there are three that testify on earth:
The great Humanist Erasmus ignited the controversy when he published his new Greek New Testament in 1516 with his Latin translation on the opposite page. It was based on a comparison of the best available manuscripts and concluded that these verses were a relatively late addition to the text. He was attacked by many who thought that he was altering the Word of God. In response, Erasmus said that if anyone could find a Greek manuscript that included the verses, he would restore them in his next edition of the text. One such manuscript was miraculously discovered and in 1522, Erasmus’ third edition of the text restored the verses (although he continued to doubt their authenticity).
I bring this up because this coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday, when we focus on the doctrine of the Trinity. We do this even though the Trinity is not attested in Holy Scripture (the word “Trinity” nowhere appears) and the doctrine is a development from scripture and from early Christian reflection on the nature of God.
Our texts this week offer several insights into the divine nature. In the familiar and awe-inspiring passage from Isaiah 6:1-8, we read of Isaiah’s vision of God, an image so immense that the hem of God’s robe fills the temple. Surrounded by seraphim who sing the Sanctus, Isaiah is confronted with God’s majesty and his own frailty and humanity.
In the lesson from Romans 8, a passage earlier in the chapter from which we read on Pentecost, Paul affirms the Holy Spirit’s connection with us. As God’s children, we are adopted, and through the Spirit our cry of Abba, Father, is the cry of a child for a parent. But adoption doesn’t mean any less of a relationship–we are children of God, just as Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We are heirs with Christ. This profound relationship that is ours through Christ is similar to the relationship that inheres in the Trinity, which is why it is included in our readings today.
The Trinity is a difficult concept to understand, and difficult to discuss. In these two readings we see two aspects of the Divine nature–the divine transcendence and otherness of Isaiah’s vision of God in the temple, and God’s immanence, God’s presence in us through the Spirit.
The Trinity is central to the Christian understanding and experience of God, perhaps most importantly in the idea that at the heart of God’s nature is relationship, relationship among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that because we are created in God’s image, we are created in relationship with God, and created for relationship with others.