Friday, May 28, 2010


Have you read the book, The Shack? I have, several times. It’s a great story. It is highly theological. In my personal opinion, it has provided an understanding of The Holy Trinity. The book gives us an insight into what God is all about.

However, this book, nor any other book, nor any treatise, essay, or analytical book can possibly explain the Trinity. It is impossible to do so. As I have heard and said many times, “If you can explain God, it isn’t God.”

There are many thoughts about the Holy Trinity, just as those shared in the book, The Shack. Let me share mine, which are in line with many Lutheran theologians, and might help us understand where the author of The Shack is coming from.

First of all there is the understanding that The Holy Trinity is one God, three persons. We usually say that God is three in one and one in three. Yet that does not really convey an overall concept of The Trinity. First, the “persons” are not persons as we understand them. The word “person” is used, albeit weakly, to denote a sense of being. (However, The Shack does identify three people who appear to be human persons – Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu.

There is a diagram above that is used quite often to “explain” The Holy Trinity. On the outer points of the triangle, there is the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the Father. In the center is God. The diagram acknowledges that the Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. Yet, the outer circle recognizes that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father. It recognizes that the Son is not the Spirit, nor the Spirit the Son. Finally, it says that the Father is not the Spirit, nor the Spirit the Father. This diagram is helpful in one way. It shows us that there is no way to explain The Holy Trinity. God is God. God is who God wants to be.

Let’s look at God through another perspective. Scripture says that God is love. This statement is true. So, let’s think about it. Love requires relationship. Love cannot exist all by itself with one person. We know that the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. The power of that love, the existence of that love that flows from both the Father and the Son, is the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Spirit has been called the power of love.

If we embrace this understanding – which is not an explanation – of the dynamics of The Holy Trinity, then there is another concept we might embrace. The Holy Trinity is community. It is the community of love. Knowing that God is love, this is the community of love.

Jesus said the Father is in him and he is in the Father. Jesus also said that he is in us and we are in him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are invited into this community of love.

Just think what this means for us as we travel our human journey as spiritual beings. Just think what it means to live in this world but also live in a community of love at the same time. Just think what it means to live with love and to live in love.

The Shack is a wonderful book from which to get an inkling of The Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But that is all that the book can do. God is mystery. We embrace that mystery in faith.

We are invited to live in the mystery of God.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


While the question is not raised very often, one can hear in between the lines of any comment, be it written or spoken. “What do I/we need to do to b saved?” The answer is, “Nothing.” God has done everything through Jesus Christ. That’s why we celebrate Easter. God sent his only Son into the world because God loved the world. Jesus, his son, lived among us so that we could know, at least slightly who God is, what God is all about, and what are relationship is with him. Then, as a living sacrifice, Jesus died on the cross so that we might be made one with God, so that we might be reconciled to God, even in our personal sinfulness. God has done it all through Jesus Christ. Jesus rose from death. God defeated death. Death could no longer control our thoughts or actions. We are free in Christ.

Do you believe this? Many of us do, intellectually. However, at the gut level, we wonder. We doubt. After all, shouldn’t we have something to do with our own salvation? Shouldn’t we have some control over what happens to us? We always struggle with that answer. Lutherans, understanding that we are justified by faith through works, say “no.” No, we have no control over this. God has done it all. If we believe in Jesus Christ, who he is, what he has done, his relationship with God, and our relationship with Jesus, the rest is “history.” We are in.

As Paul said, just because it has all been done for us, does not mean that we are at liberty to do whatever suits our fancy. In baptism, we no longer belong to ourselves. In baptism we become children of God. In baptism, we commit ourselves to lead the baptismal life, acknowledging that Christ lives within us. What Christ wishes us to do is to lead a relational life with the Father and with him, powered by the love of the Holy Spirit. Christ wishes for us to lead a life of love for one another. Our life on this side of death is to be in appropriate relationship with God and one another. God will take care of the other side of death.

In the letter of James, the author writes that “faith without works is dead.” The author is absolutely correct. If we have faith, powered by the Holy Spirit, we will demonstrate our life of love. We will perform “works.” They will happen out of love, love for God and love for one another. Good works, initiated for our purpose, are not the same. In fact, Martin Luther said that if we do good works in order to get to heaven, there’s a good chance we’re going to hell. Why? Our motives are self-centered. Martin Luther also believed that self-centeredness was the basic sin of humanity.

For Lutherans, the primary purpose of scripture is not that it is a handbook, or manual, on how to live. The Bible is where we find Jesus. The Bible is how we learn and understand the deep love that God has for humanity which manifested itself in Jesus Christ. We can find Jesus from Genesis through Revelation. The Bible is a story of God’s relationship with humanity.

The season of Easter changes our entire concept of how we are to live out our lives. The season of Easter is a revelation of the love of God, the love of Jesus Christ, and the power of love. The season of Easter gives us an opportunity to walk through the rest of the Church year – the year after Pentecost, the year of the church – committing ourselves to live this life of love through the church and through the church proclaiming this incredible love of God to the world.

Salvation belongs to our God.