” . . . endurance produces character, , and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Romans 5:4-5
Endurance doesn’t suit the spirit of the times. Instant gratification is what is wanted now. Endurance character and hope might have been fine things in the past, but they demanded commitment and work. Enthusiasm for discipline, for commitment, for working at things is not plentiful. Instead of seeking the qualities of which Saint Paul writes, people go in the opposite direction; people feel they shouldn’t ask people to think, that everything should be dumbed down, made simple; to be complicated is likely to lead to being accused of being elitist.
Yet a moment’s thought would reveal that the world is not becoming simpler, it becomes more complex by the day. Technology, science, medicine—each field becomes more and more difficult for an outsider to understand. So, on one hand, there is a popular mood that says everything should be simple and on the other there is a world of increasing complexity. The Church has tended to go down the popular route, not asking people to apply their minds to things, dumbing things down. It is thought that if everything is made as simple as possible, then people will be more attracted. Except, just as would expected in other fields of knowledge, in church teaching there are some things that cannot be dumbed down; the understanding of God as the Trinity is something that cannot be made easy.
One of the problems Christians have with the media is that God cannot be simplified. God is not simple – no matter how hard speakers try they cannot make God fit into the simple terms of a newspaper headline. All the words in the dictionary only start to explain God.
Trinity Sunday is an annual reminder that God is not like anything or anyone that can imagined. God cannot be fitted into the mental capacities of the human brain. All the terms from mathematics and geometry and science and philosophy are inadequate; all the ideas from art and from literature are insufficient. All of human knowledge put together would still not encapsulate God.
“Endurance produces character,”says Saint Paul, writing to the Christians in Rome in this morning’s Epistle, and for a man with a powerful intellect like Paul, endurance would mean serious thinking. Paul would want readers to try to think about God, intimidating as such a thought is.
Such endurance can cause a headache! Attending church, trying to understand the confusing things that everyone encounters from time to time, facing those moments in life when there are questions what on earth this life is about, means dealing with things with which the human mind cannot cope. It’s like trying to imagine the whole universe and then trying to think about what’s beyond it.
It is not in the spirit of our time to think about such things. People do not like that which they cannot control. People do not wish to imagine things that they cannot understand. The Bible is a disturbing book for the times because it doesn’t allow any possibility that people can control this world. The writers of the Bible acknowledge God as God. They do not attempt to describe him, nowhere do they sit down and say, ‘God is this, this and this’. Instead, there are just tiny glimpses.
Belief in God in the Bible comes as a consequence of the facts of the experience of God in their lives. If people are to follow the way of the Bible, they have to argue for God from their own experience. No-one can reason another person into belief. God cannot be crammed into human reason or argument. All that can be done is to present what is known and to allow people to decide for themselves.
The idea of God is not something which will fit into any explanation that can be given. God is God, he is who he is, he cannot be controlled, he cannot be simplified, he most certainly cannot be dumbed down.
This day, this Trinity Sunday, this day when the church remembers God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, prompts thoughts at least once in a year as to the nature of God. In a world where laziness is a sign of the times we live in, it is not for Christians to go down that path, instead they need to listen to Paul’s instruction, “endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.”