Trinity Sunday is often a Sunday that clergy try to get someone else to preach. I haven’t managed that this year, as you can see. So what to say about the Holy Trinity?
In writing this sermon I began as I always do by reading the lessons set for the day in the hope that they might give me an easy answer as to what the Trinity is all about. No such luck! I ended up confused as to why today’s readings were chosen in the first place.
We have the piece from Isaiah, which I can only think is trying to refer to God, the Father, but quite where the ‘tongs and hot coals’ come in are beyond me. The second reading an all too short piece from Paul in conversation with the congregation in Rome doesn’t help to explain the Trinity AT ALL as far as I can understand. It does, however, tell us that we are God’s children and siblings of Christ. So perhaps it is hinting at the Son. The Gospel reading from John’s account of the life of Christ remains as confusing as the event it records. How is one born of the Spirit?
The Trinity has never been an easy doctrine to comprehend or explain and the longer I ponder on it the worse my comprehension becomes. I can remember almost 30 years ago back at Theological College thinking that I was sure the Early Christians didn’t tie themselves up in knots trying to explain the Trinity. I also wondered if I could get away with leaving my paper blank except for the sentence; ‘It’s a mystery’ for essays and exam questions on the Trinity as I thought the blank paper would make as much sense, if not more, than my jumbled words and thoughts might. In fact a blank page may speak more truth than I could ever discover, simply because the Godhead, the Trinity is actually a mystery. For how can one God be three persons and not be three Gods but just the one?
After thinking about the Trinity, when I actually began to write this sermon I suddenly wondered if I’d been going about trying to comprehend and explain the Trinity in the wrong way. Rather than trying to rationalise and theorise on the Trinity wouldn’t it be better and make more sense to try and explain it by starting from what one already knows about each of the three godly manifestations of the whole.
Firstly, God the Father (or Mother, Creator, Parent) is the pre-existing, before time began, eternal God. God who is the essence of the Universe and the creator of everything that is. Everything we see and know is of God and from God the ultimate Creator. God is quite literally everything - big bang, the universe, and us!
Secondly, Jesus: Jesus is the human face of our Creator, parent, God. God chose to become human and to live a human life, just as we do. He did it in order that we might come to know him better and so that he might be able to show us who he is. Jesus, true God and true human being both divine and human is probably the one person of the Trinity that we can perhaps understand best. Simply because he was as much like us as he was like God.
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit, the invisible power, medium of change, life force of God that can go anywhere and do anything. From hovering over the beginning of Creation to raising Jesus from the dead and renewing our souls on a daily basis. When we pray to God, we are asking God to send the Holy Spirit into our lives or the lives of others to effect change. And hopefully change for the better.
Praying for the Holy Spirit to do things is a dangerous business for the Holy Spirit cannot be controlled by us. The Spirit does as it wills but because we have a God who listens to us and who knows us and what are true needs are the things the Spirt does may not be what we expect but is rather what we need.
So what of the Trinity?
God as parent, Creator; Jesus the Son and the Spirit as the life force and agent of change. Three distinct persons each with their own personalities and actions but all the same God, one God.
As I have written this sermon the more I have relaxed in my thinkings about the Trinity and its complexities. In fact the more words that I have spent or wasted, the more I have come to realise that trying to fully and utterly comprehend the Trinity is probably not that important. To fully understand the Trinity is I think impossible and unnecessary? Perhaps?
In coming to this realisation I was thrown back to a few words from the first reading from Isaiah:
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said;’Here I am send me’.” Isaiah 6:8
Rather than trying to explain away God, I have realised that it is better that we try to use what we know about God, Jesus and the Spirit from our own experiences to live lives that seek to make the lives of others better. That we seek to follow and live out the essence of the Trinity rather than explain it and the essence of the Trinity, of God is simply LOVE. And God, in whatever person we encounter him is simply a different way of loving. Let us use our knowledge of the Trinity that we have learned from God loving us to use it to love others and let’s not spend time trying to explain God away and to confine him to mere words.
Here we are God, send us.