Last week in the Gospel for Pentecost Jesus said ‘the spirit will lead you into all truth’. The Holy Trinity, three persons and yet one God which we celebrate today is surely one example of what that means because there is of course no mention of it in the New Testament.
The three persons are there, Father, Son and Holy Spirit but the idea of the Holy Trinity was something that was worked out in the early centuries in the life of the church, in response to differing ideas and truth claims surrounding what we believe about the nature of God.
So there we have it, easy. Well yes and no because if you spend any time reading about the trinity, about “perichoresis” and “ousias” and all that before long your head will start to hurt – in simple terms it’s not easy to get your head round the trinity.
I used to visit a lovely chap as a curate on Walney Island. He never came to church but was widely read and for him the trinity was a great stumbling block “three persons and one God” he would say shaking his head and walking off. I fear my responses weren’t very helpful to him, too many “errms” and “hmmms” but I’ll return to Bill at the end.
I suppose he wanted a neat and tidy answer. Maybe an image like the one on our banner, but though that might be tidy and neat, there is more to the trinity than that.
Instead I’m happier beginning with that great Orthodox Bishop, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. I once heard him speak on the Trinity.
The first thing he did, gazing out to his audience with his wonderfully holy face and a glint in his eye was to say, “the Trinity is a Mystery”.
And for me that is where we begin and end today. A mystery is held before us(1), something we can never fully understand or comprehend and like so many things to do with faith, it’s only when we stand before it; pray it and perhaps most of all live it that it begins, just begins to make sense.
It’s a bit like swimming, we cannot swim unless we dip our foot in the pool and so with things like the trinity, we cannot understand them from a distance they have to be for us a living reality. And each of us needs to find creative ways to engage with this holy mystery.
And so images and pictures do help with that, works of art that help us enter the mystery and unlock our imagination perhaps that is why Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity is possibly the most famous icon painted. You’ve likely seen it even if you don’t think you know what I’m talking about.
It’s always interesting to me that Jesus used metaphors and images to help describe the nature of God. He didn’t invite folk to a lecture. One image of the trinity I have found helpful over the years is to think of the three persons of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit being bound together as a creative community.
In this community, we call the trinity each person needs the other, without each other they are diminished, with them they are enriched.
So in my little mind I picture the trinity as a swirling whirlwind where creativity and life flows from one to the other and then overflows onto us and into the world. The trinity as a creative community fashioned by love, now that I can hold onto.
But what does that mean for us? Well the more I have thought of it, the more I think of the trinity being a model for what our life as a community is all about. We are a diverse bunch and each one of us brings something into this creative melting pot we call the church here at St. Mary’s.
And we are called to live out the Trinitarian life as a creative community where we feed, sustain and enrich each other and that life then overflows to others. We wouldn’t use those words of course they’re too theological we are busy just getting on with it.
A couple of weeks ago I spent a bit of time working out our PCC subcommittee structure and membership, I shared it with our PCC last Tuesday night.
In some ways it feels like I am making more work for myself and others, more meetings to attend, I think that’s probably how the PCC felt – that and a bit confused.
And yet since putting those documents together, our PCC Meeting and then writing this sermon I have come to see that the work of those committees as Trinitarian in nature for they exist to be dynamic and creative, even amidst all the necessary stuff of running this church.
In some way those committees are living the trinity out.
But aside from these formal structures as God’s people here, we are all called to live into the trinity and grow a community overflowing with creativity. One thing is certain our life together should never be dull, if it is we’re in trouble.
Just take a moment at some point to look around you for in this church this morning are gathered a remarkable group of people. There is so much creativity and experience in our midst, so much love and care, so much potential to change the world around us for the better. The only ceiling to what we can be or do is the one we put there.
And so if I had my time again when talking to dear Bill back on Walney, to give him a sense of what the trinity is about I’d simply say, come and see, see the trinity at work amongst us.
So on this Trinity Sunday we stand before a mystery, but a mystery that in some way is revealed in our life together.
May we always remember that the roots of our community are nourished by a God of community, a trinity overflowing with love.
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|1.||↑||1 Corinthians 15.51|