Photo by A.Davey / The Trinity, National Museum, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Trinity Sunday 12 June 2022 / St Edward’s Church
Readings: Psalm 8, Romans 5:1-5, John 16:1-15
Do you know in 6 years of ordained ministry, 10 years in church leadership I have never preached a Trinity Sunday sermon. I don’t know how I’ve managed to get away with that so long – so today is my first!
Often I think people get their knickers in a twist about Trinity Sunday or about having to explain the Trinity, but it doesn’t have to be too complicated really – I hope I can talk about it simply today.
Essentially the Trinity means that we believe there is one God, but that God exists as three distinct persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each person of God does not exist separately outside of the Trinity, and each person is not like another person in the trinity, but they are all God.
You may know this well known graphic which shows for example: God the Father is not God the son. Neither is God the Father, the Holy Spirit etc But, The Son is God; and the Holy Spriti is God; and the Father is God.
According to the Bible:
the Father sent the Son into the world (John 3:16), so he cannot be the same person as the Son.
Likewise, the Son returned to the Father (John 16:10 as heard today),
the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit into the world (John 14:26; Acts 2:33).
So the Holy Spirit must also be different to the Father and the Son.
Over the years people have used various analogies to help us understand the Trinity – for example water. Water can exist in 3 forms – ice (solid), steam (gas) and (liquid). All three are essentially water, their content does not change but they can take different forms.
Another way of looking at it that I have heard used before is thinking about a portrait of God [I’m grateful to another member of clergy for sharing this idea]
If we think about famous portraits painted of people – or perhaps you have had your portrait painted? How do people decide what to include, what pose to take? What will be in the background? During the days of Gainsborough and others, they often included animals like dogs as symbols of loyalty and faith, for example. Or had a family home in the background. People chose different poses, different facial expressions
But the point is, a painting or a photograph, can never show the full identity of a person can it? Just as saying ‘God’ alone cannot fully explain who God is.
I know we all loved the Queen and Paddington bear in last weekend’s celebrations on TV – and I think we saw a different side to the Queen, playful almost, cheeky – showing a sense of humour – in all the years she’s been on the throne I’m not sure we’ve seen that displayed in such a way. And she has had, according to the National Portrait Gallery 967 portraits produced of her (some painted some photographed).
So how can it be possible to pin down the fullness of God in a short description?! in a way each person of the Trinity needs their own portrait and that’s why we bring together the descriptions of God through scripture to help us build a full portrait.
But essentially we do have to accept that there should be a bit of mystery about God – after all if we could fully understand God, would we not be like God ourselves?
The Trinity was actually first talked of as a way of understanding God more fully, not to try to confuse! The Nicene Creed we say together on Sunday was put together in the 4th C as an attempt to bring together all these experiences of God to create a fuller picture, distinct but united. It took 50 years to complete it.
In our readings today we see different elements that might make up a portrait of God – The Trinity. In our Psalm we heard of a majestic God, a Father, overseer if you like, who created the world and all in it. In Romans 5 we heard of how our relationship with God is through Jesus Christ – the son. And in John 16 we were reminded of the gift of the Holy Spirit – as we remembered at Pentecost last weekend – given to us as promised by Jesus, when he ascended to heaven.
Each of these persons of God have different attributes and may also help us to connect with God in different ways and in different seasons when needed. We may have a personal preference, but all three are vital to our faith. We declare every week in the creed our belief is in: the Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit.
For example, for me personally those verses from the Psalm really speak to me – I often find I feel closer to God when out in creation. And these verses remind us of God as Father of creation of you like – with created order, authority, in majesty.
And yet they relate humanity to that too –
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honour.
Psalm 8: 3-5
As human beings we are part of all this, children of this all powerful, majestic, mysterious God.
But perhaps this picture of God is hard to relate to for some of us? I know for some who have not had a loving Father or have a difficult relationship with a parent, it can be hard to relate to God in that way.
In Romans 5 we are reminded that through grace and faith we can have peace with this God, through the son – through Jesus Christ
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
Romans 5: 1-2
Paul’s words telling us that through Jesus we can connect with the fullness of God. Through Jesus we have access to the grace of God and all that entails. Through Jesus grace is poured out into us and we receive all that is promised – forgiveness, love, an eternal future.
And Paul goes on (with an interlude about suffering) to say: v5
God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Echoed in the words of John too:
All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.
John 16: 15
So that the Spirit is the power behind us receiving this gift from God – it is in the authority of the Father, through the role of the Son, and the power of the Holy Spirit – a beautiful picture of harmony, the persons of the Trinity working together, but in unique ways.
To see and to know the fullness of God, to build up this full portrait we need to understand all three persons of the Trinity, we cannot have one without the others.
So, I want to challenge and encourage you today to think about your own relationship with God – do you find it easier to connect with one person of the Trinity? Or is there one you find hard to relate to? Ask yourself why is that? What could you do to explore a fuller picture of God? You might like to take a look at the Creed this week, reflect on it and think through what it means to you to say those words?
I encourage you to seek to know God as a loving Father, to seek to follow God in Jesus’ example, and to be led by God the Holy Sprit in all you do.