Sermon St E Sunday 8am, 9.45 12 June 2022 Trinity Sunday
Psalm 8(Responsory) Proverbs 8v1-4, 22-31 John 16v12-15 Romans 5v1-5
Let us pray:- Father, Son and Holy Spirit open our hearts and minds this morning to the great mystery of your Trinity. Amen
Can we ever expect to understand the mystery of the Trinity? I guess that most people would reply “probably not, or not in this life”, but that has not stopped some Christians from at least trying to explore the depths of this holy mystery in one form or another. So do not expect too much from me this morning for it is the one topic many hope never to preach upon.
You will have noticed that in our two readings this morning from the New Testament there was a common link, that of mentioning the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. From John’s gospel we read, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth, and will declare to you the things that are to come.”
It is said that the Holy Spirit glorifies God the Son, our Lord Jesus, who in turn owes all to God his Father and lives to glorify Him.
Saint Peter in his second epistle (2Pt1v4) declares to us a great mystery. A mystery that God has drawn us believers into the same unity of love that is present within the Holy Trinity. Peter gives to us who believe in the one true and living God the amazing promise of becoming ‘partakers in that divine nature’. Now that is a life transforming thought if ever there was one, and deserves of our time to seriously meditate upon.
At the last supper Jesus told his disciples that when the promised Holy Spirit was to come later at Pentecost, the event we celebrated last week, he would guide the disciples, (John 16v13) and I believe that also means us, ‘into all truth’. Even so the nature of the truth of the Holy Trinity still remains a tantalising mystery.
Yet the promise from Jesus of the Holy Spirit declaring to the disciples ‘the things to come’ was also shared in the experience of the Old Testament prophets, and one that the prophet Zachariah experienced many years earlier. He spoke an interesting prophetic word upon his return to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon around the year 520 BC, and one which I see as referring to this holy mystery of the Trinity. Speaking of a time yet to come, Zachariah wrote some very Trinitarian lines, (14v9 NRSV) “And the Lord-Yahweh-shall become king over all the earth; on that day the Lord will be one and His name one”, or as an alternative translation taken from the Hebrew bible, the Tanakh says, “The Lord alone shall be worshipped and shall be invoked by His true name.”
I am sure we all appreciate just how much of a person’s character is meant to be revealed within their given name, and this is seen so many times throughout the Bible. If we look at the name Mary, the mother of our Lord, her name originated in Egypt to become the Hebrew Miriam, meaning ‘beloved of God’. And that seems to me a most appropriate name for the one who was to become the mother of God’s Son.
Or the name Jesus. When we use his true Hebrew name of ‘Yeshua’ it is of no coincidence that the meaning is ‘Salvation’.
So what is that prophecy of Zachariah telling us? It is that when the time comes God will be invoked by His true name. At that time I believe we shall then receive a revelation as to the deepest and fullest nature of our Triune God through the revealing of the meaning of His true name.
In the meantime what may we say on this Trinity Sunday?
When we introduce the start of our communion service, we use the two commandments upon which ‘hang all the law and the prophets’. The first is a quote of the Hebrew Shema, the Jewish statement of faith taken from the book of Deuteronomy (6v4).
This statement seems most fitting for today’s Trinity celebration. “Hear O Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is One.”
So you will want to ask the age old question, how can there be three persons within One God? Just what is the Trinity all about? That of course is the conundrum, and it is what has divided Christians and Jews for nearly two millennia. One God yet three persons, how can that possibly compute?
I am sure you have heard many people try to explain this mystery using various very inadequate analogies. Water, H2O, one substance can be in three forms, solid as ice, then as liquid and also as gas or vapour, but that, together with any other example, to my mind does not really help us. Why? For we are looking for a simplistic explanation of a holy mystery, and so coming at it from a completely wrong perspective.
There are a few other three in one similarities that we can also find in our natural physical environment. As a Physicist I particularly like the example of the atom. Generally regarded as constituted from three entities electrons, protons and neutrons, and those protons and neutrons also themselves composed of three fundamental particles called quarks.
But I do not see these as trying to explain the nature of the Trinity, I see them rather as crying out to us that our Triune God has written His very nature into the imprint, into the very fabric, of His created universe.
It seems to me God is crying out to us, “I am there for you to see me, just look, you cannot miss me, look at the way I have created things.”
Perhaps king David could see that when he wrote in psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God, the sky above proclaims His handiwork which goes out through all the earth.” Just go and stand on Dartmoor on a cloudless night and see how the sky declares the beauty of our created universe.
So as we await that revelation of the true nature of our one God Yahweh, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, let us not spend our energies on trying to fathom out the depths of the Trinity. Rather may we let God’s nature of transforming love transform our lives as we seek to live for Him, and live to build His kingdom as we await his revelation, the coming return of Jesus our Messiah and King.
As God the Father has gone to the extreme cost of sending His Son our Lord Jesus to reconcile us to himself, and through our trust and belief in him has given to us His indwelling Holy Spirit, it behoves us to ask, ’how are we to walk our pilgrim lives here below?’
I would suggest it is in the way that we live out our lives as the ‘salt and light’ (Mtt 5v13) that Jesus has asked us to be to our world. We do that by taking responsibility within our present society for this our hurting world. Since God has redeemed us, how may we help in redeeming our environment, working for peace and goodwill between all? Be that locally, nationally or even on an international scale, all are part of God’s creation.
One thing we certainly cannot escape from at present is the dire need for our prayers during this time of international uncertainty, and for our prayers for deliverance from the increasing persecution of our brothers and sisters from unholy regimens. Prayer is one thing we are all called to participate in, but search your hearts as to other ways that you may also serve God, and we have a great opportunity ahead of us to build God’s kingdom here as we support Matt and his family when they join us.
Our hope is to be with God the Father when the kingdom is finally realised so let him now continue to transform our lives by his Holy Spirit in us.
It is God’s desire, and another mystery, that we may become like his Son our Lord Jesus. And that transformation is to be a sign to all around of God’s great love and mercy for them as well as us. In holding fast to that knowledge and hope in God’s transforming grace, Paul assures us that God is not going to disappoint us, there is far more ahead which exceeds anything that you and I can possibly imagine for those of us who love him.
I end with a this little story from Alice in wonderland that I have told before, but it fits so appropriately with the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and to what God has promised for us.
“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
So have I given you this morning a number of impossible things for you to try and imagine before lunch? Not just ‘the mystery of the Trinity’, but what awaits us in God’s promised new creation. One thing is for sure, as Paul said to those Roman Christians, ‘we shall not be disappointed’.
Let us pray:- the shorter Collect for Trinity
Holy God, faithful and unchanging:
enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth,
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love,
that we may truly serve and worship you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, now and for evermore. Amen