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Trinity Sunday Sermon 2017

Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Jesus used the words of the Jewish Shema to say what the most important command was

‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God , the Lord is one and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.'

The Lord is one

For the first five hundred years the church debated and wrestled with how Jesus could be human and divine, whilst still wanting to remain a monotheistic religion.

So we have a doctrine of the Trinity. I don’t like doctrines really because they are intended to make sure people believe things which someone else has told them and which they sometimers do not understand and we should instead be encouraged to think through stuff ourselves. If we had done that more often then perhsp we would have challenged the status quo more readily on issues like slavery, sexism and homphobia.

However today is that special day in the church year when we think about the Trinity. It is a very hard Sunday because you have to say something about what it means without committing a heresy.

A heresy is when we say something which the doctrines of the church disagree with.
Sabellianism, Arianism, Modalism, Subordinationism, Docetism.

They all sound like something horrible for which you would need to go to the doctor and ask for a course of antibiotics. Actually these are just a few of things which have been regarded as terrible doctrinal mistaken ideas which people have had about God which have got them burned over the centuries by those in power at the time.

Now I have listened to some sermons where preachers have tried in good faith to explain the trinity is easy terms

  1. The Shamrock
  2. The triangles with three sides
  3. Sometimes the one with H2O which can be ice, steam or water !

I have to tell you that they all fall into one or other of the unspeakable heresies over which preachers and theologians have lost their lives.I can almost guarantee that as somebody leaves church this morning they will whisper some obscure illustration which they have found helpful - which in days gone by could have resulted in death. Why are you trying to lead me astray! Have you no regard for my safety !

Thankfully it is not so serious now and it is very unlikely that anybody will come knocking on my door later on to have me arrested and carted off to await trial. The truth is that there are no clever illustrations which work. That is because the Trinity is beyond common sense

Trinity Means One being, three persons, unity and distinction, equality and order. The fact is that something cannot be three and one at the same time

Blame a lot of old theologians and the Emperor Constantine as they put together creeds of the church to explains how Jesus could be both human and divine
The Council of Nicea AD35 = Nicene Creed - Jesus Equal
Council of Constantinople AD381 Included the Holy Spirit
By the end of the 4th C Byzantine Emperor Theodosus declared the Trinity to be the official religion

Martin Luther the great theologian of the reformation said
“To deny the Trinity is to risk our salvation; to try and explain the Trinity is to risk our sanity.”

That is the truth of course, burning at the stake unlikely, but the risk to one’s sanity remains.

The doctrine of the trinity is but a feeble attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible mystery of the very nature of our God. We can echo all the creeds of Christendom with as much confidence as we can muster, and as enlightening as some of those creeds may be, they cannot begin to unravel the mystery of the creator of everything that ever was and ever shall be, nor can they fully describe the magnitude of the revelation provided in the life, death and resurrection of the one we call Christ, and when it comes to the power of the Holy Spirit, all our creeds together cannot tell the story of her wondrous beauty.

The doctrine of the trinity is just a tool to help us along the way, the trinity is not God, nor is God the trinity. The trinity is merely a way to speak of the unspeakable.

Trying to understand the very nature of God, is, when you think about it actually an arrogant thing for simple creatures such as we. We cannot hope to understand the nature of God. So perhaps the most faithful sermon on the Trinity is one that acknowledge that as the Apostle Paul says we see only through a glass darkly

In our service today we said a creed which might be helpful

 

Firstly
We believe in God the Father, who created all things: for by his will they were created and have their being. We believe in God the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named

This reminds us that before everything there was God who created us. As we look at the design behind the world most of us cannot help but come to the conclusion that this amazing world could not have come about as an accident. Messed up as the world so often is, often by our own making, and we are doing a pretty good job of polluting and destroying it. Nevertheless we see behind creation an amazing creator. This recognition is not peculiar to us, it is something which tribes and nations from across the world, at all times have acknowledged in their religions which have so much in common. We have a spiritual part of ourselves which misses God and that is expressed in all of the religions of the world, because all people are created by God to know God.

Secondly
We believe in God the Son, who gave his life for us and call all people from every tribe and language, from every people and nation.
We believe in God the Son who lives in our hearts through faith, and fills us with his love.

Those engaged in philosophy of religions across the world will sometimes say that religions are like blind men who find an elephant. One blind man finds the tail and he say that God is like a rope. Another finds the ear and says that God is like a rushing wind, another finds the trunk and so on. I find that quite helpful and it reminds me that many religions have things from which we can learn a great deal. Religions like Hinduism, Bhuddism have been around for a very long time, as has of course Judaism which is the root of our own faith.

But of course the Trinity reminds us that we are not like blind people when we come to speak of God. In Jesus God became human. In his life and death he showed us what God is really like. There is no need to grope around in darkness because God has revealed himself in a way that we can understand.
Jesus teaches us what God is like, how he wants to seek us out that we might know his love
Jesus also teaches us what God wants us to be like, how we need to treat all people as brothers and sisters, children of God. How we have to care especially for those who are weak, poor, sick etc.
And of course Jesus shows us by his resurrection that God offers to us the answer to our greatest human need the way through death to know his everlasting life.

Thirdly
We believe in the Holy Spirit who strengthens us with power from on high. We are called by him from every tribe and tongue and people and nation a kingdom of priests to serve our God.

When we think of the Holy Spirit we are reminded that the Christian faith is not like an Religious Studies. God is not to be studied and learned about. The Christian faith is to be known and to know the love of God. In English the Holy Spirit has been called the Comforter, but that is a really misleading word. The Holy Spirit does not comfort, and it is bad transaltion Comfotare in latin means to strengthen and in Greek the word is Paracletos which means somebody who stands by you and both those titles are good ones. The Spirit will stand by you and strengthen you but the spirit makes you face uncomfortable situations
The Spirit is the spirit of truth and so the Spirit moves us to face those things which we find difficult. But the Spirit assures us in our core being that we are God’s and that he loves us

I am going to finish this morning by reminding you of the last words in our Bible readings today, from Matthew and that great commission of the disciples. Matthew finishes his Gospel with a Great Promise to us from Jesus
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Jesus is with us now, in our struggles and worries and the confusion in our church and society.
Whatever you face, Jesus is with you and the doctrine of the Trinity tells us that this is something which is not only true but we can know for ourselves to be true. God is with us and His Spirit is with each one of us, that was the promise which Jesus made to us.

So today is an invitation to know more deeply this promise to be true,
To ask God to help you to know more deeply his loving presence with you.
To challenge yourself to live knowing that God was alongside you in all that you do

May we all know One God true God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen