Today is Trinity Sunday and, apparently, a day when some people do not like to preach. I am not one of them. There has, for some time, been something of a reticence in the West when speaking about the Trinity. God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — Three persons, one God. Some people are afraid in case they say something wrong, or that those listening to them will not be able to understand what is being said. But it is important to talk about the Trinity — one of the key beliefs of the Christian faith.
The service this morning began with the words ‘Yn enw’r Tad, a’r Mab, a’r Ysbryd Glân, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.’ Eucharistic Services have begun by invoking the name of the Trinity, and making the sign of the Cross, for as long as we have texts for them, about 1700 years. And 1700 years ago, this morning’s first reading was one of the most controversial passages in Scripture:
“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.” (Proverbs 8:22)
In the Greek text of Proverbs used widely around the Mediterranean, the verb translated as ‘possessed’ was one that meant ‘created’. This lead some people to argue that this passage means that the Wisdom of God, taken to refer to Jesus Christ, the Word of God, was created and not begotten. This would mean that Jesus had a beginning in time, and was not eternal, and was therefore somewhat lesser than God the Father. Church Councils were called, at Nicaea in ad325, and Constantinople in ad381. These gave us the doctrinal statement known as the Nicene Creed, which we will say together in a few minutes time. Our faith, as Christians is rooted in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Creed is made up of three sections: it begins with what we believe about God the Father, moves on to what we believe about the Son, and finishes with the Holy Spirit. What we believe and how we worship God matters, it helps to form what we believe.
Last Sunday we celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples in the Upper Room, fifty days after Easter, and ten days after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, we see the fullness of God. As St Paul puts it in his Letter to the Romans:
“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)
As Christians, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, a spirit of love and joy. This allows us to experience God as He is: the Father who created all that exists, the Son who redeemed humanity, and the Spirit who sanctifies and encourages the people of God. God calls us into a relationship and we respond with worship which honours God. We do this not because God needs our worship, but because we need to acknowledge our dependance upon Him. God loves us, and because we are loved, we respond with love.
In today’s Gospel Jesus promises His disciples that,
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (Jn 16:13)
God gives us the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. We are invited into a relationship and a journey of faith where we can grow and develop. As Christians we worship One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are not three Gods, but one God. That the three persons of the Trinity are one God is itself a mystery. The mystery of God’s very self: a Trinity of Persons, consubstantial, co-equal and co-eternal. Consubstantial means ‘of one being’, co-equal means that the persons of the Trinity are equal to one another, none is greater or lesser, and co-eternal means that all have no beginning in time. We know God most fully in the person of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, born of the Virgin Mary, who died upon the Cross for our sins, and was raised to New Life at Easter, who sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In Christ, God discloses who and what he is. We know Him as someone who pours out love, who desires reconciliation.
The wonderful thing about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is that it enables us to encounter and experience God in a deeper way. We can know Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh who speaks to us in Scripture, and who comes to us in the Eucharist, so that we may be nourished by God. We are filled with the Holy Spirit, who transforms us, by the power of God. It is not an abstract concept that we are celebrating today, but rather a generous and loving God. The Christian understanding of God is not of a remote being, but rather is one who makes His home with us, gives us His life, and transforms and heals us in love. This is all possible through the relationship God has with us, through His Son and His Spirit, which is personal and real.
In Christ, God becomes human, allowing Him to understand us from the inside, so to speak. This is not a distant, impersonal divinity, but one who lives a human life. One who understands our frailty, and who loves us. God sends His Spirit so that we may be encouraged and led into all truth, in the Church. We will face difficulties and hardships. Christ promises us no less, as does St Paul in our second reading. But the point is that these experiences, while difficult to endure can also be positive: we grow and develop through them. Through suffering we become more loving and forgiving. We are transformed into what God wants us to be, so that we can be made new by His redeeming love. God offers us all the opportunity to be something different, something more than we are, if we let Him change us. If we co-operate with His grace. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and nourished by Word and Sacrament, God is at work in us, transforming us into His likeness. So, as we celebrate the mystery of the Holy and Life-giving Trinity, let us pray that we may be changed by God’s love, and share this love with others. So that they may come to believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. To whom be ascribed as is most right and just all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever. Amen.