Today is Trinity Sunday. The Sunday that has struck fear into many a curate’s heart when they realise it’s their turn to preach! I wonder how many of us scratch our heads and wonder how to explain the Holy Trinity when somebody asks about it who is curious about our faith and our teachings?
A member of the congregation’s invited to come forward to tie a set of ropes alongside the preacher’s ropes.
Today we are going to use these ropes to try and help ourselves have a little bit deeper understanding. Like all different visual aids to explain the Trinity there are always flaws. But let us see what these ropes reveal about the Trinity.
The bible tells us that God always was, always is and always will be a bit like a perpetual circle. Let us imagine that this rope with the red ends represents God the Father and tie a knot in that and put that circle to one side for the moment.
Then let us think about God the Son. The bible tells us He was with God the father in the beginning and came and lived amongst us then rose again to be with the Father. God with us yesterday, today and tomorrow like a continuous circle that never ends. Let us tie the rope with blue ends to represent Jesus.
Then, of course, we have the Holy Spirit. Our yellow rope reminds us of God in us because of the gift of Jesus and what he did. Through his death, resurrection and ascension to the Father we can have eternal life represented by this continual circle.
Invite assistant to hold up their 3 hoops – they have ended up with 3 separate hoops.
When we think about the Trinity as separate parts we have a problem because our faith tells us that that although we talk about God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit they are three in one.
Reveal my large hoop.
It’s a mystery how that can be…..but what we have is just one God who is eternal and everlasting. That is good news.
Visual demonstrations like this can, in some ways, be helpful but risk trying to tie down the majesty and mystery of God into some form of neat diagram or theory and, in doing so, lose something important. In training, as we discussed the Trinity, we soon learned that to try to understand the Trinity was a bit like trying to catch a slippery eel. In one sense, how could we even hope to pin down our awesome and mysterious God into some form of human idea?
It is interesting that our readings for Trinity Sunday this year don’t even try to do that. Instead they point very clearly to human beings themselves and the impact of the Trinity in our lives and the lives of others. What the passages appear to be telling us is that the depth of our knowledge of the Trinitarian God is in our ENCOUNTER with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We EXPERIENCE the Trinity as we open our hearts to God.
This is an amazing thing to consider. In our first reading, Isaiah reflects upon how insignificant we humans are compared to God and wonders why God would be interested in us at all? He was talking to people who had recently been in exile and reminding them that their God and Creator who, in his wisdom created the world, could not be pinned down with human understanding.
Yet, our seeming insignificance is held on the one hand alongside the knowledge that God has chosen to make his children highly significant on the other. He chooses to know us intimately and be concerned with every detail of our lives. That is a wonderful thing to consider. How does he do that? By drawing us into encounter with the Trinity.
For Isaiah’s listeners then, the thought of being granted the strength to get home was a joy to hear. That joy is there for us too as he gives us strength, Strength that we experience through the Trinity that draws us deeper into relationship with the Father and strengthens and guides us towards our spiritual home.
That strength comes from the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus as he lived amongst us revealing God’s glory in the world and teaching us how to relate to God in a new way. This was not just for us to enjoy as our own private relationship with God. It was part of God’s call to share in Jesus’ ministry as part of the community of believers and drawn others into that community of faith. We are the family of those who believe and have a mandate from Jesus, as Matthew says, to teach “them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:29).
Through the generations this call to be the family of Christ reaching out and drawing others to join us and know our Heavenly Father is just as strong. This compulsion to share the Good News stems from personally knowing that Jesus Christ is in us and for that knowledge to naturally pour out to others. It is our encounter with and experience of the Trinity that sets our hearts on fire and makes us strive heavenwards.
Day by day we encounter the living God through knowing the incarnate Jesus and the movement of the Spirit in our souls. Through the sacraments, the stirring of the Spirit as we pray to the Father through Jesus, as we respond to Jesus reflected in those we meet and listen to the Spirit stirring our hearts to respond ….this is the mystery, the majesty and the energising of the Trinity in our lives.
Perhaps the more helpful image image of the Trinity than our rings of rope can be drawn from our reading from Isaiah today and reflecting upon our experience of the Trinity:
“Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint”.’
An eagle, as it takes takes off soars heavenwards, reminds us that we orientate ourselves towards God. Jesus is the one who teaches us how to fly Godwards. It is the Spirit that provides the wind beneath our wings, stirring our hearts to hear the voice of Jesus in our hearts calling us deeper into relationship with Him and, through Him, the Father. As majestic eagles we learn the power and love of God in our lives through encountering the Trinity in relationship with Him. Our eagle is just one creature that is encountering the Trinity in different ways.
Our prayer today, on Trinity Sunday, is that through that balance of encounter with Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we, too may soar heavenwards and ever deeper in relationship with our Creator and Redeemer.
Let us return to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that brings us those familiar words of The Grace and say them together as an expression of our heart’s desire:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and evermore.