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What Does the Trinity Have to do with Christian Worship?
Trinity – three in one – is not “funny math.” It’s the name Christians use to describe the kind of God they encounter in Scripture.

In worship we are led beyond ourselves to the one true God, and so find our lives are transformed. The worship of the Christian community is transformative precisely because it is rooted in the hearing of a very special story, the story of a crucified and risen Lord.

In keeping with this, worship should take trinitarian form.

If this be true, the God whom Christians worship is neither a so-called supreme being nor an unmoved mover. Quite the contrary: The God Christians encounter when they attend to the history of Israel fulfilled in Jesus, is a God who is triune. Far from being “funny math,” Trinity is God’s name. To talk about God in trinitarian terms is neither a matter of abstract speculation nor an unfortunate case of the early Church’s indebtedness to Greek philosophical discourse. Rather, Trinity is the name which the Church has deemed fit to describe the kind of the God it encounters in the biblical narrative.

In keeping with this, worship should take trinitarian form. Let me explain. First, the one who gathers a people devoted to the praise of His holy name is the One whom Jesus calls Father. The Father wills to create and gather together a people for Himself. Paul in Galatians 6:16 calls this people “the Israel of God.” It is a people comprised of Jews and Gentiles, men and women, poor and rich. They are those gathered together by a God who wills life for them and gives life to them. Worship is a response of gratitude on the part of God’s people to God the Father’s gathering and life-giving initiative.

Second, worship is a matter of obedience to the Son, the Son who upholds, despite profound opposition, the will of His Father. The Son upholds precisely because through His cross He destroys sin and death, all that would prevent us from living in friendship with God. Indeed, the Son upholds His Father’s original purpose for humanity: that of creating and gathering a people unto Himself. The God of the Gospel is thus a God who naturally shares and gives of His very self to what He has made, healing and restoring both individuals and societies.

Third, worship is an act of the Christian community which sends the community forth, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to testify in word and deed to the life-giving work of God. Worship of the one true God reminds the Christian community that it lives by the power of Another, the Lord and Life-Giver, as the Nicene Creed of 381 states.

In sum, Christian worship is a matter of gratitude, obedience, and service to a very particular kind of God. This God gathers, upholds, and sends a people forth into the world to testify to what He is doing to make human life more human in the world. Worship is the act of the community through which the community becomes a participant in the God who, in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is making “all things new” (see Revelation 21:5).

Christopher R.J. Holmes, Th.D., is an associate professor of theology and ethics at Providence Theological Seminary.

 

 
 
 
 

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