A Fourth Man
These last couple of weeks has been quite involved at several levels, within my business, my community engagement and also my family. April 6th is a special time given that my daughter, Summer, and now her daughter, Caroline, were both born on that same date!
Yet amidst all that, I have continued to wonder about a thought that occurs to me as I continue to meditate upon the concept of the Trinity. You may be humored by the thought that I put into my walk with Christ, but for me, Christianity is not about religion, church attendance nor even sharing my testimony, but rather, fully understanding who God is and affording avenue for the Trinity to flow through me. If that happens, the other stuff will be a natural!
Is there more to the Trinity story than simply three beings, unlike me, whose only mission is to lavish love upon each other, and to demonstrate that love by way of this broken creation, of which I am a part! Was there entry made for me to walk through this life, bathed in that same love, in full communion with this Tri-part Being? That is the Gospel!
Raised quite simple, I was taught to see God the Father as Creator and a kind of general overseer of the Universe; then Jesus, His Son, a Redeemer type foreordained to rescue a broken world. It was all about us and a God feverishly attempting to redeem something that had gone awry. Once redeemed, one could by way of the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, be empowered to win the rest of the world to Jesus, if each so chose. The concept was fairly easily explained.
Only of late, through the insistent work of Richard Rohr have I begun to think differently about the Trinity and even Creation. Who are these three beings, surely not like we who are “lower than the angels?” Apparently, there is some pecking order in the heavens of which we are the least. In fact, “Franciscan theology on the whole . . . emphasized the incarnation as the love of God made visible in the world. [Bonaventure] did not consider the incarnation foremost as a remedy for sin but the primacy of love and the completion of creation. He recapitulated an idea present in the Greek fathers of the church, namely, Christ is the redeeming and fulfilling center of the universe. Christ does not save us from creation; rather, Christ is the reason for creation. . . . Christ is first in God’s intention to love; love is the reason for creation.” 1
Was Creation solely about the Christ, a manifestation of unadulterated love in front of fallen angels, rather than some attempt on God’s part to establish a Universe, only to have it be overpowered by a Fallen Angel, thus requiring His rescue? Really, and worse yet, was the fallen-ness of these creatures a great source of anger, even rage from Father God, requiring the blood of His Son as the only sufficient means to appease that anger? If so, how does this contrast with the loving nature of Christ, whom we claim to be the manifestation of God in the flesh, let alone the Prodigal whom Jesus spoke of, “his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck!”
If I may turn a corner here as we head toward my point, one of my favorite stories in the Bible is that of the three Hebrew children, children of the king’s seed, sought out by Nebuchadnezzar for their academic prowess. Yet, when they refused the diet recommended, let alone later on, to bow down to the King, things got a little rough!
Actually there were four Hebrews, to include Daniel. It seems that after Daniel’s interpretation of the King’s dream, all four were elevated in authority within the province but apparently Daniel served in a different station than the other three. I say this because it appears that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego found themselves isolated in some way from Daniel and ended up facing the fiery furnace.
Most if not all, know the story of the King ramping up the furnace so hot, that it actually slew the men who threw the three Hebrews in!
However, in the midst of the fire, a FOURTH appeared and by the King’s own admission, that was likened unto a “son of the gods!”
This is a quantum leap from Sunday School, but is there a message here for the believer willing to step into the fire of this great transformational shift occurring in today’s world? Is there a place for a fourth in the Trinity by way of the Holy Spirit, so invincible that even the flames of this great cultural shift cannot harm us? We walk around in the fire while not even the hint of smoke attaches itself to us?
My point this morning, has less to do with the commitment of these young boys, than the faithful companionship that drew God into their fire, appropriating such an invincible nature by way of this fourth man. Surely there is a compounded message beyond the fact that these three boys were saved, or even elevated once more by this fickle King?
Was the Son of God actually modeling a walk that is now possible for mankind? Was it this mystical relationship which afforded the Hebrew heroes of the faith, along with the martyrs of the gospel since, to endure extreme hardship? Is there a place in the Trinity for a fourth, the Bride of Christ, and could this afford such an invincible walk that even in the fire of this present cultural shirt, we are not burned. Was there a Trinity message for us in that fire?
Have we accepted a lesser message in our brokenness, believing this whole thing is about us, rather than some greater drama being played out the lesser stage of this small globe; and yes, before an audience of spiritual beings much more powerful than ourselves. Is that message about the empowerment of love?
This by the way, at least in my eyes, now justifies the shed blood of Christ, for I can now envision a Tri-part Being who is so forgiving and all knowing that even before we fallen creatures were made, it was foreordained that He would show up in our fire. Even at a time when crucifixion was the highest penalty for breaking the law, knowing that our sin, not His wrath, would bring such guilt as to demand blood sacrifice, the highest cost to mortals, the shedding of blood, His blood! This penalty, even the blood of a lamb, mysteriously reinforced in religion, would culminate in a moment like no other, communicating what true love is…for God is love!
 Ilia Delio, Christ in Evolution (Orbis Books: 2008), 6.