Today we celebrate the revelation of God as an eternal fellowship of love, three persons equal in majesty, undivided in splendour, yet one God.
The doctrine of the most holy and undivided Trinity is challenging, relevant, intriguing and essential – four headings to steer our delving this morning into foundational truth and life.
Firstly it’s a challenge. Reason takes you so far in Christianity. We could never have invented God in three persons, it’s revealed truth. Then you have the question of weighing other revelations – Islam and Hinduism besides the Judaism from which the Trinitarian revelation came.
Preachers go on leave this Sunday for fear of a seemingly cold, calculated, mathematical doctrine. Three in one and one in three. Why three? Why not one, says Islam, why not more says Hinduism, why not none says the atheist mocking our feeble attempts to get our mind round God three in one.
There’s the challenge set before us in Trinitarian faith but that challenge comes from historical events. These clearly reveal the nature of God in the coming of Jesus, whose death and resurrection we've been following up to Ascension Day, and the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost day. It’s a challenge that might lead you to the church library so you can better answer for your faith to those who believe in one God, no God or many gods as opposed to one God in three persons.
Secondly the doctrine of the Trinity is utterly relevant. I was thinking this week as Parliament moved us towards same-sex marriage that marriage is a union of life-giving love because human beings are in the image of God who is himself a union of life-giving love. Keeping true to ourselves as human beings, and true to the life-giving nature of marriage is keeping true to God no less, God as he has revealed himself to us.
The world, all of life sprang from him – notice we talk of God with a single pronoun despite his three persons, also with a male pronoun on account of Jesus. The feminist rewriting of God as the Mother, the Daughter and the Holy Spirit may be attractive to some but is actually an irreverent rewriting of how God speaks of himself in revelation. Rewriting the Trinity as creator, saviour and sanctifier achieves inclusive speech but at the cost of depersonalising God.
God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is supremely personal. At our beginning and at our end there is God and there is love because God is love within himself. How could God be so without the distinction of persons within him? How do we know all of this – we do so from Christian experience as our second reading reminded us. St Paul writes we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith…God…who has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5) The doctrine of the Trinity is true and relevant to our experience by which the coming of Jesus and the Spirit help us know God as loving Father.
Challenging, relevant – thirdly the doctrine of God should be intriguing. The eternal fellowship of love that is God draws us in to himself. What after all is the Church for other than to serve God’s purpose to bring as many souls on earth as possible into fellowship with him?
The doctrine of the Trinity is revealed first of all in Our Lord’s coming into a human family with Mary and Joseph, into village life in Nazareth, then into the missionary partnership of the disciples. That divine society continues after his resurrection and the gift of the Spirit as one, holy catholic and apostolic church which is God’s never-ending family! Joy is its characteristic, out-of-this-world joy, that’s the most intriguing of all qualities. In the presence of the Lord there is joy for evermore writes the Psalmist.
How intriguing God is, and we are. If you want evidence for God look in the mirror and read Psalm 8 what are mortals that you should be mindful of them, mere human beings, that you should seek them out?
St Nicodemus writes of each human as being the macrocosm compared to the microcosm of the cosmos. In mind and spirit like God we can contain the universe. Being in God’s image we too are intriguing – we point beyond ourselves. O Lord our governor, how glorious is your name in all the world. You have made (us) little lower than the angels and crown (us) with glory and honour. (Psalm 8)
A human being in isolation isn't a true human for, in John Donne’s words, no man is an island. What’s intriguing about God as divine society mirrors what we find intriguing about ourselves, namely our desire for society and friendship. This desire will be fully satisfied only in the communion of saints who can be thought of as standing near God as a corona or crown around the sun.
Challenging, relevant, intriguing – lastly the Trinitarian doctrine of God is essential.
It is essential because Christianity is a religion of salvation and that salvation stands or falls on the divinity of Jesus Christ. We read Jesus words in the Gospel all that belongs to the Father is mine…the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you (John 16:15) Does my eternal destiny depend on my own good works, lacking as they are, or on a relationship freely offered me by God in his Son? In Jesus do we really meet with God himself? That, as they say, is the twenty four thousand dollar question hidden behind keeping a feast day for the Blessed Trinity.
This doctrine might sound cold and mathematical but it follows a logic of love, love beyond all measure, extravagant, unconditional love for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son Jesus Christ so that all who believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) To believe this is to believe God isn’t One but One God in three persons.
The essential truth behind today’s Feast has been told from Advent to Pentecost to reach its summary on Trinity Sunday.
It’s challenging, of course – God is God and has revealed himself this way and not another way.
It’s relevant - the way we see God affects the way we see ourselves and steers us from unworthy pursuits.
It’s intriguing because the loving fellowship of God in three persons chimes in with our sociable nature and would draw it to joyful completion in the communion of saints
It’s an essential doctrine because without it the divinity of Christ falls, the word of God is emptied of power and the sacraments become empty ritual for God’s coming to us in Jesus and the Spirit is denied.
Truth and life and worship are all thrown together in Christian religion so if we would live our lives best we should always take heed of revealed truth, however hard to grasp, and to worship which is our real grasp of it.
As Michael Ramsey wrote The Church’s perilous office of teaching is inseparable from the Church’s worship of the mystery whereby it exists.
May all I have shared serve that worship of God we now enter at the eucharist through Jesus Christ, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be all might, majesty, dominion and power now and for evermore. Amen.