Triune Over Easy | UMC YoungPeople
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May 2018

Triune Over Easy

By Neal Bowes

One of the amazing mysteries of God is the Holy Trinity. We recognize God in three persons; we experience God in three distinct roles. Two of the persons of the Trinity are fairly easy to define.

God reigns from Heaven. From an early age, we learn about God speaking creation into being–the power of God’s words made all things possible. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present in all times and places.

Jesus is also God, but God in the flesh. We use a fancy word for that: God incarnate. God became flesh to live among us. Jesus demonstrated what it meant to love God and love one another. Jesus also sacrificed his life to pay the penalty for our sins and restore us to good order before God. He also arose from the dead, proving that God has power over death and assuring us of life eternal.

Then, there is the Holy Spirit, who is also God, but somewhat more challenging to define, because of the deeply personal nature of the work being done. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to God’s people, like the ability to serve, teach, lead, and heal, to name a few. But not everybody has the same gifts, so the Holy Spirit working through many different people will look like many different things. The Holy Spirit also guides, encourages, and comforts all of us, but that can be a different experience for different people. Some might hear a voice while others just have an overwhelming feeling of God’s presence. The Holy Spirit also reveals God’s nature to us, but not everybody gains the same insight at the same time. So, you see, the personalized, intimate work being done makes it more challenging to clearly define the Holy Spirit.

Bring some hardboiled eggs to your group. Allow them to crack and remove their shells. (You might want to have some paper towels and plates on hand.) Allow them to cut them open with a butter knife and ask them to separate the yolk from the white. Then ask, “Which part is the egg?”

  • How would you describe each part?
  • What is the purpose of each part?
  • How is this like the Holy Trinity? (Our purpose here is not to assign parts of the egg to persons of the Trinity, but to reinforce that while each part is different, and each part has a purpose, the three parts together make up the one egg.)

Another object lesson is an ice cube and a cup of steaming water (being sure to keep it at a safe distance from the youth). Here we see water in the forms of a solid, liquid, and gas.

  • How would you describe the physical properties of each state?
  • How does the chemical compound–the essence–of the water change with each state? (It doesn’t. It’s always H2 We experience all three persons of the Trinity differently, but each is still the one God.)

Or, bring your class some Neapolitan ice cream. As you scoop, make sure everybody gets each of the three flavors. While each flavor tastes different and has a different color, it’s still ice cream.

  • How is the Holy Trinity like Neapolitan ice cream?
  • Who runs the coolest Bible study? (Obviously, you do–you give the kids ice cream.)

None of these metaphors fully describes the Trinity, in fact in some way the very act of trying to make it easily understood will cause us to compromise some of the mystery. Make sure that as you discuss these you point out the ways in which they fall short of describing the Trinity

Neal has had the privilege of being in ministry with the youth at Jesse Lee for the last 15 years. He also works through the New York Annual Conference to train and support volunteer youth workers in local churches. He loves speaking at youth gatherings--group retreats or conference-wide events.