Once More, with Feeling

Happy Trinity Sunday everyone! Almost forgot about the annual posting of “Apples Are Apples.” I meant to publish it as a picture book by this Sunday, but today is not that day. Maybe next year, Aragorn.

Apples Are Apples

The teacher was young, pretty, bright and unpaid;
She volunteered Sundays to teach second grade.
With felt board and markers, activities, more,
She’d gone through the stories they’d heard of before,
At length thought she’d tackle mysterious this:
That God is three persons, three persons He is.

“Good morning,” she started, “I know that you know,
“There’s only one God to whom we can go,
“That one God is greater by far and by most,
“Called Father and Son and also the Ghost.
“So we say there’s one God, yet we pray to all three –
“Can anyone try and explain that to me?”

Silence first greeted her as she expected,
As five pairs of eight-year-old hands lay neglected.
Then one hand in front, with cautious progression,
Raised slowly, like maybe she’d asked a trick question.
Her encouraging “Yes?” got, “It is what it is?
“God is three persons, three persons He is?”

“Good,” she said slowly, but didn’t quite mean it,
And pulled out an apple to get them to see it:
“An apple is made of three parts, that’s the key,
“The peel, and flesh, and seeds to make three,
“And yet though all different they all make up one –
“Like Father and Spirit and Jesus the Son!”

She waited one moment and then all en masse,
An “Oh” went around through most of the class.
She’d known it was in her to break it down low
To eight-year-old levels with language they’d know.
Quite pleased, she then called on a hand from the back,
Which answered, “So God is in pieces, in fact!”

“Uh…” said the teacher, but jumping right in,
The kid from the front said, “Three bits in one him!”
“I see!” cried a girl, but the teacher said, “Wait –
“You’ve misunderstood, you must get it straight,
“Though all three are different, each are full God,
“Not pieces nor bits nor three peas in a pod.

“You see,” she continued to fix what she’d taught,
“Each person’s full person not thirds like you thought.”
She paused with the hope that they’d understood that,
Waited to see if they got it down pat,
Then: “Huh,” said a boy, “So it is what it is?
“God is three persons, three persons he is?”

“Well…yes,” said the teacher, “But let me make plain –
“The apple was not the best way to explain –
“So here,” she said moving the apple from sight,
“An egg has a shell and a yolk and a white,
“And—wait,” she said seeing the same problems here,
“A shamrock…no, pretzel…no, water, my dear!

“Now water, yes there is a three-things-in-one.”
There, she thought calmly, I won’t be undone.
“Water is something we see every day,
“Can anyone tell how it lives in three ways?
“You can’t? Well I can, and I’ll say in a trice:
“Water is liquid or steam or it’s ice.”

But once again from the front row came a thought:
“So God changes forms for each name that He’s got?”
“At last it makes sense!” called a voice from the rear,
“So He’s not bits and pieces?” a boy said, unclear.
“No, sometimes He’s father and sometimes He’s son,
“And sometimes He’s—” “NO,” said the teacher, undone.

“God’s always Father and God’s always Son
“And God’s always Spirit: three persons in one.
“He doesn’t change into each one as he likes
“He’s always each one, yet separate alike –”
But jumping the gun, one girl cut in: “He is?
“So God is three persons, three persons He is?”

The teacher sighed loudly and blew out her breath,
Wracking her brain for a sample they’d get,
Then turned to the board, pulled the cap off a marker,
And drew the sun sharply, her face and tone darker.
She held up a hand just to take a time out,
Then faced them still smiling; quite grimly, no doubt.

“Now here,” she pushed onwards, “You see what I’ve drawn.”
“A sunset!” one said, though another cried “Dawn!”
“Close enough,” said the teacher, “And now I’ll explain:
“The Father’s the sun, and the sunshine – it’s plain –
“That’s Jesus, and heat’s where the Holy Ghost’s at.
“Now tell me, please tell me, you understand that.”

First quiet then, “God is just offshoots of God?”
“I guess,” spoke a boy with a mystified nod.
“Well that can’t be right,” the front boldly declared,
“It must,” said a girl who knew teachers prepared.
“Not a chance,” scoffed a boy, “Yes He is,” she sneered back,
And teacher, poor teacher, her expression turned black.

“Fine,” snapped the teacher, “I don’t understand,
“It makes no more sense than a God who is man,
“Or a Word that can make into being what’s not,
“Forming the world like a potter his pot,
“Or wine that is blood and just ‘cause he said,
“With body that’s in, with, and under the bread,
“An ‘is’ that means ‘is,’ no matter how dense
“We sinners as sinners can’t make it make sense,
“And who here has seen someone raised from the dead?
“Put your hands in His side or seen where he bled?
“So, no, I don’t get the impossible math,
“How three can be one and one in three hath
“A wrath taken on by a three in the one,
“Or that then a three of the one – not the Son –
“Proceeding, creates in me faith in a one
“But also in three (impossibly done),
“And yet here I am and I’m saying to you:
“In unity Trinity, fully God through.”

Deeply stunned silence was all that they had
For the teacher they clearly supposed had gone mad.
They made not a peep, she shared not a grunt,
When “Oh!” went that kid, the one sitting up front,
“You’re saying you mean that it is what it is,
“That God is three persons, three persons He is.”

Beaming, the class sat with backs proudly cast,
Glad to have answered her question at last.
“Yes,” sighed the teacher in quiet defeat.
“Oh good,” said a restless girl, tapping her feet.
“Is it time for the craft?” one went on to add,
Unaware that they’d trashed every project she had.

The teacher peered into the bag she had prepped,
Past clover green paper and ice as it wept,
Past glue for the yellow yarn meant for the yolk,
And all of her samples the Godhead just broke.
She finally said, “I’m afraid not today,
“Let’s go get some sunshine, let’s go out and play.”

And later they all ate the fruit she had brought,
For apples are apples and aren’t what they’re not.

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4 Responses to Once More, with Feeling

  1. Mark my words says:

    A thoughtful, creative verse. On a subject believable and confessable yet inscrutable this side of the Church Triumphant. Spacing the stanzas into pages with the illustrations in your book will help us children of all ages absorb the concepts. Go for it.

  2. Your Local Friendly IT Guy says:

    Always fun to read this again. And impressive that you’ve managed to even beat the Athanasian Creed in length. (But maybe not surprising.) 😛

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