St. Patrick and the Trinity

Yesterday, our church recognized Trinity Sunday.

We take time to acknowledge the theological concept of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity, of course, is the idea that God is distinct in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but still one God. There are many ways we try to make sense of this idea. Some are better than others. All have their limits.

Saturday morning, a colleague asked a group of pastors if anyone had a fidget spinner he could borrow for Sunday. I can only imagine the Trinity references.

When it comes to explaining the Trinity, many people remember Saint Patrick. Even if you don’t know the legend of how he forced all the snakes out of Ireland, chances are you know about the shamrock. Legend is that he used the three-leaf clover to describe the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

There’s no way to know for sure Patrick did that.

Plus, thinking of the Trinity as a mystery is problematic. Mystery seems to imply something to be solved. Let’s not be in the habit of solving God. Maybe Patrick used the three-leaf clover to describe the enigma of the Holy Trinity.

Saint Patrick has a lot more to offer church history than cute illustrations. Take some time to learn about his life and his conviction will impress you.

It may be that St. Patrick’s Breastplate is more helpful on Trinity Sunday than any clover. According to legend, Patrick wrote the prayer before he set out to convert the pagans of Ireland. In the prayer, Patrick calls on the Threeness. He calls back to various forms of inspiration and guidance as he prays. Much of the prayer connects us to the Trinity.

The last section connects us to today’s reading.

As the people of God set out in their new freedom, God led them. A cloud by day and fire by night served as their constant reminder of God’s presence and power. Whenever the cloud moved, they moved. When the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they stayed. Their divine GPS didn’t tell them where they were going, but it was a surefire way to get them to go.

But it was more than guidance.

It was promise and protection. It was a visual reminder of the care they had from God. Everyone could see the cloud and be reminded of God’s divine love.

Now, you and I don’t have a cloud resting over our church building. That might make things easier if we did. Thank God we do have the same promise of God’s care. We have the outpouring of God’s Spirit. And we have the blessing of Christ. Like the Israelites, we may not always know where we’re going, but we can know who we’re following. 

Listen to the final section of St. Patrick’s Breastplate:

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Friend, wherever you go today, go with the confidence that God goes with you. 

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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