Sermon for Trinity Sunday
Given by Archdeacon Ambrose Mason, at St Thomas Overmonnow, 16th June 2019.
Today is Trinity Sunday. It is one of those aspects of our faith which is very difficult indeed to understand. Theologians have spent a huge amount of time on it. It seems to be like trying to work out the pattern of a Tapestry from the back – very difficult.
Three persons in one God. It isn’t something that is spelled out to us in Scripture. It took a long time to discern it through many scriptural writings. It took even longer to begin to grasp some of the reasons why it was important to us believers. I drive a car without having much idea of what is going on under the bonnet. Why do I need to know about the way God is in himself?
But this Sunday our Readings tell us quite a lot about God and we are given some insights into him as God-who-is-three-persons.
Perhaps the challenge of Trinity Sunday is not to be dismayed that we cannot understand fully, but to be reminded to trust, and to receive, and to rejoice again in the relationship of love which God holds out to us.
So let us look to be encouraged from each of our readings – and see again the picture that together they build up for us. I think you have them on the weekly sheet so do please have them in front of you as we go through.
First let us look into the reading from Proverbs. We are familiar with the concept of wisdom. Some of us have longed to have some of it for a long time. Too often it is elusive!! Even more of course, we long to see more of it in others – especially in these days of political, economic and social confusion.
The reading from Proverbs is almost unique in scripture in that it seems to make wisdom into a person. Wisdom has her own voice. Wisdom is a ‘she’ crying to ‘he’s’ – and to children. (Those of us men here who are married understand this.) But then the passage goes on to describe wisdom as, a first creation of God, and as part of God’s intention and ordering of creation ‘like a master worker’ – and then – God delightedin her. She rejoicedin the inhabited world – and delightedin the generations of human beings.
So we have a picture of an eternal heavenly accompanier of God. But importantly, one who has a particular interest and delight in human kind – a glimpse of Earth from Heaven
Is this personification of wisdom perhaps a hint of Trinity?
Then Psalm 8 explores the relationship between Heaven and Earth from the other perspective. It is a well known Psalm. The Psalmist has a sense of astonishment that God (‘how majestic is your name in all the earth’) should concern himself at all with human beings. And yet – God isn’t just concerned, he has raised human kind into a highly elevated position with power and oversight. The one who is ‘Majestic in all the earth’ has chosen personally to engage with humankind. God’s relationship with human kind is not remote – it isn’t boss and employee. It’s about God trusting human kind with what he has created.
So far we have a glimpse of God in eternal relationship and God in relationship with human kind; wisdom rejoiced in the inhabited world – with human beings, and mankind realised what God has entrusted to him. Two pictures; earth from heaven and heaven from earth.
Now, in our Gospel we have a small portion of that very densely written part of John’s Gospel. Jesus’ teaches about his relationship with God the Father, the Spirit of Truth and also human kind. It is vital to remember that all these 3 chapters, 15, 16 and 17, begin with that well known declaration of Jesus that he is the True Vine and we, his people, are the branches of that vine. This whole section is about the closeness relationships within the Godhead and of the closeness of our relationship with God and our absolute dependence on him.
In our short Gospel reading this morning Jesus promises that the work of the Spirit of Truth is to guide believers into all truth.
Jesus declares that Truth comes from the Father – it belongs to Jesus – and it will be shared with us by the Spirit. It is one of the clearest declarations of the Trinitarian life of God in Scripture. And it describes God the Trinity as being focussed on us.
We see a further outworking of that special relationship between God and humankind that we have glimpsed already. The Psalmist wondered at it and the writer of Proverbs declared that Wisdom rejoices in it Can you see the thread? God and us.
Our final passage is from Paul and is an extract from the beginning of a major section of his letter. Paul has already reminded his readers of the sure foundation of their relationship with God. In the reading we had he is just beginning to describe to his believing readers what their new life in Christ is going to be like.
Remember Wisdom’s enthusiasm for human kind in the Proverbs reading we had?
Remember the Psalmist’s wonder at the status of human beings before God?
Remember Jesus declaring that the whole Trinity of God works towards the strengthening and deepening of our relationship with him?
The very first thing that Paul wants to affirm to his expectant believers is that they have Peace with God. Lets put ourselves in their place and hear what he says as to us. God is on OUR side now. There is no condemnation – no writing us off – we are not in the business of currying favour with God. We do not earn brownie points – build up a credit balance which might or might not be big enough to by us an annuity into Heaven.
None of that. We have Peace with God, declares Paul.
We can clear our minds of all doubt, all negative thoughts about our relationship with God, all uncertainty. Having entered into the life of faith, God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all on our side – all wanting us to be free from anything which would harm or distort our relationship with God.
Paul earths it all in human experience. He knows profoundly that life is not easy – it cannot be when we continue to be in a world where there are those who ridicule and dismiss, and where there are vested interests so opposed to the Gospel of Love.
So he can write confidently and hopefully that ‘suffering produces endurance; endurance produces character; character produces hope and hope won’t let us down because the Holy Spirit has already poured his love into us. He is saying that we have some experience now (a taster if you like) of the glory that will be fully ours when we enter completely into the life of the One who is Love – without anything in the way.
So, the message of this Trinity Sunday is this.
God is for us – he is the permanently safe place for us to be.
As branches of the vine we are indelibly linked into the very being of the God who is love. His life flows into us. Our readings today remind us that whatever the Trinity who is God is actually like in Himself – he has chosen to focus himself on us – to make us what he wants us to be.
Rejoice then, for our life of faith is unmovable and secure – not through anything we have done but because of God. Live! Rejoice! Share God’s love freely and actively – because that is the fruit of the vine – and it will survive everything else!
Be who you are in God’s life because that is what the God-who-is-three wants for you.