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Trinity Sunday 2021

Isaiah 6:1-8     Psalm 29,     Romans 8:12-17,    John 3:1-17.

I posted on Facebook a video of an animation titled ‘St Patrick’s Bad Analogies’, with a statement below the video that says, ‘the problem with using analogies to explain the Holy Trinity is that you always end up confessing some ancient heresy’.[1] For those of you with internet, it is worth taking a look at. The video may make humorous the fact that trying to explain the Trinity using analogies, is quite a difficult task to do and we run the risk to falling into heresy without even realising it. So, no, I will not be bringing any analogies on the Trinity today.

So then, how do we approach speaking about the Trinity. One approach we can take when speaking of the Trinity, of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is to see and to sense the wonder that God is three-personned love.[2] For by the love of God, the world was created and all that is in it.  By God’s love, Jesus was sent into the world to preach the good news and because of God’s great love of Jesus, Jesus returned to the Father in order that Jesus could send the Holy Spirit to the Church. By God’s love we are welcomed into the body of Christ into God who is three-personned love.

We learn about the Trinity through the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds. They are used in services of baptism, at Morning and Evening Prayer, and in the Eucharist. We are baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Perhaps less known is the Athanasian Creed which is found in A prayerbook for Australia on page 487. I would encourage you to take some time to read the Athanasian Creed. In it we read these words,

            And the Catholic Faith is this: that we worship One God in Trinity, and

 Trinity in Unity.[3]     

By Catholic Faith, we mean the universal Christian faith. There are some key words for us here. The Catholic Faith is this, that we worship. One of the hallmarks of our faith is that we worship God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One only needs to go through our prayer book to see how often the phrase Father, Son and Holy Spirit to realise our faith is Trinitarian at heart. But more than this, we worship a Trinitarian God. Worship means that we bring our hearts and minds, our strength, our souls to God. We bring all that we are before God and we do it through prayer, through praise and thanksgiving.

In Henry Nouwen’s book, Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with icons, he describes how the ‘Russian mystics describe prayer as descending with the mind into the heart and standing there in the presence of God’.[4] Prayer becomes the place where heart speaks to heart. By that he means where our hearts are joined with the heart of God through prayer.

How do you and I come to know the heart of God? By having a relationship with God through prayer, through talking to God, through morning or evening prayer, in your petitions and requests but also through listening with your heart. Meditating on God through scripture or praying the Jesus prayer, or praying Our Father. Prayer is the place that we come into a deeper relationship with God. The closer we come to God, the greater the love of God grows in our hearts if we remain open. ‘Thus knowing God becomes loving God, just as being known by God is being loved by God’.[5]

The New Testament tells us a lot about the relationship between the Trinity. AT Jesus baptism, God declares his love for Jesus saying, ‘This is my BELOVED Son’ and the same words are said at Jesus Transfiguration, ‘This is my BELOVED Son.’ In my sermon at Ascension, I spoke of the love that Jesus had for the disciples and why it was that he needed to go in order for the Advocate the Holy Spirit to come. That relationship between the three points us the very real need for us to remain connected to God in prayer. God brought Jesus, and in turn Jesus went back to the Father so that the Holy Spirit could come. ‘One God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity’.

None of us should feel ashamed that we cannot describe what we mean by Trinity. Sometimes it is worth leaving with God the difficult questions that we feel are too great for us but rather that we draw closer to God in relationship. Wanting to know God, spending time with God, heart to heart. I encounter God as Trinity every time I pray.

Henry Nouwen speaks of another Russian Icon, ‘The Descent of the Holy Spirit’ created near the end of the 15th century, stating and I paraphrase here, that our life in God, (as -three personned love,) is also bound by community. ‘The Descent of the Holy Spirit’ It is a Pentecost Icon which is fitting as we have just celebrated Pentecost last Sunday. Nouwen says, ‘That God reveals the fullness of divine love first of all in community’. God’s love is evident in the life of the community, in the body of Christ. This also means that our focus is not so much ‘how do I improve my spiritual life’, but ‘where do we find the community of faith to which the Spirit of God descends and from which God’s message of hope and love can be brought as a light into the world’. Just as none of us can separate out God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, once we grasp that we cannot separate our spiritual life from the life of the community, our lives are shaped  by belonging to God, belonging to one another and seeing Christ from seeing one another in Him.[6]

This Icon celebrating Pentecost also reveals something else to us about the Trinity. If we recall the story of the Exodus, we discover that God is revealed as God-for-us, guiding the people of Israel by a pillar of cloud by day and with a pillar of fire by night (Ex 13:21). In the New Testament we discover Jesus as God revealed as God-with-us. At Pentecost, God is revealed as God-within-us. And so it is at Pentecost the mystery of God’s revelation as Father, Son and Holy Spirit bring us, invites us, calls us to become fully part of the inner life of God.[7] This is what Nouwen means of God’s heart and our hearts being joined. This is what it means for us to worship God in Trinity, to worship God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We worship God in community, with God and with one another.

The Video link I have shared with you is a spring board for us to begin to think about why we struggle to intellectually engage with the Doctrine of the Trinity. Perhaps some things are too high for us and can only be discerned and known with the heart. God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, ‘One God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity’  calls us, beckons us into a life of worship and prayer with, together, in community. For me, this is what lies at knowing the Trinity, that we worship God in spirit and in truth, with all our hearts, minds, soul and strength, recognising that God is for us, with us and in us.

Today we may be in lockdown but God is not locked down. We are free to worship God in spirit where our hearts and minds may be deeply touched by God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQLfgaUoQCw

[2] Credo: Preaching at the Away Day Eucharist, p. 66.

[3] The Athanasian Creed, APBA, p. 487-488.

[4] Henry J. M. Nouwen, Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with Icons, Fourth edition, 1991, p 22.

[5] Nouwen, Behold the Beauty of the Lord, p. 22,23.

[6] Nouwen, Behold the Beauty of the Lord, p. 60.

[7] Nouwen, Behold the Beauty of the Lord, p. 62, 63.


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