Summary: A sermon for Trinity Sunday recognising that the importance isn’t complicated analogies, but recognising God’s glory.
It always seems to be that as reach Trinity Sunday each year, we’ve reached the last ball of the season – the end of a long liturgical mix of preparation-celebration-penitence and finally more celebration that began back on Advent Sunday the previous year and which has led us gradually through the story of Jesus and through the story of God’s salvation plan for us.
It is always with a certain amount of fear that I reach Trinity Sunday for as I’ve already written elsewhere recently, it is the Sunday more than any other where preachers play the dangerous game of ‘dodge the heresy’, as we try to come up or justify elaborate analogies in order to try to explain the unfathomable, the doctrine of the Trinity. I’m glad that in recent years that there has tended to be a turning away from this method of preaching, a recognition that we don’t have to explain or justify the Trinity to our congregations once a year, and a recognition that a large part of the value of Trinity Sunday lies in its liturgical placement and in what it ultimately signifies, the majesty, glory and plurality of God.
In celebrating Trinity Sunday, we are celebrating the ways in which God has revealed himself to us through time, since creation, through the life of the people of Israel, through the coming of the saviour Jesus and his life and purpose, and through the coming of the Holy Spirit and the special role the Spirit plays in the inspiration and continuation of the Church.
In celebrating Trinity Sunday, we are celebrating each part of the triune Godhead both separately and together, recognising their oneness together – one in three persons - explicitly in the same way that we celebrate their oneness more implicitly throughout the liturgical year. This is what makes the monotheism of Christianity unique compared with the monotheism of other religions such as Islam.
There are those who would deny the doctrine of the Trinity – including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Unitarians, all of whom would recognise the oneness of the Father within himself, but not recognising the deity of Christ or of the Holy Spirit. One argument sometimes put against the doctrine of the Trinity is of course the fact that we don’t see the word Trinity expressed in the Bible, but of course neither are the words, Christmas, Bible, Christian, or, except in one notable case, Easter – yet non of these are in as serious doubt as the word Trinity.
The danger of all these arguments is that they can distract us from the our central purpose – which is, as always the worship of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that we recognise in the Christian church as the way in which God has revealed himself, This triune philosophy of the doctrine of the trinity is soaked deeply into our liturgy and forms part of the central core of our doctrine of baptism – we recognise those as baptised as those who have been baptised in the name of Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Of course the doctrine of the Trinity is imperfect – we are imperfect humanity trying to come terms with a perfect divinity, and of course our analogies will fail. What the doctrine of the Trinity should imperfectly point us towards is the working God throughout human history for the sake of humanity, and that working being shown through the work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
We see that working out through our readings. In the reading from Isaiah and from the psalm, we are introduced to the might and the majesty of God as celebrated by the Jewish people. Isaiah receives a vision of the might and majesty of the LORD almighty, seated on his throne, the train of his robe filling the temple and the earth filled with his glory. Faced with this vision, Isaiah’s only response can be to volunteer to be a messenger for the Lord, ‘Here I am, send me.’
Psalm 29 is a call by the psalmist for the glory and honour that is due to God to be ascribed to him, ‘The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King for ever. The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.’
Set against these two grandiose visions of God are placed two more intimate insights into the role and purpose of the Son, Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit.
The vision of the Spirit that we see in the passage from Romans gives us a clear indication of the Spirit’s purpose, to be with us in the journey towards holiness, changing and transforming us to become God’s children – and the Spirit in us being evidence of our sonship as God’s children, and our relationship as heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ actually involves us personally in the relationship dynamic that is going on within the Trinity.