Corinthians 13 : 11 to the end.
St Matthew 28 : 16 to 20.
Revd. Tom Munford
May I speak in the name of the Triune God that is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
I think that Trinity Sunday is at a silly time in the Church year. It comes to us, long after Advent Sunday, long after the feast of the Incarnation a Christmas. It’s after Easter, after the Ascension. Even after Pentecost. If you looked at the Church year, saw where Trinity Sunday was, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Trinity was something that needed piecing together or completing, like a jigsaw, or a bingo card. It’s as if the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the final piece in the puzzle, or the last number in a full house. “We’ve had the Father, we’ve had the Son, and bingo: now we’ve got the Holy Spirit!” “The Trinity must now be complete!”
But to me, this just doesn’t make sense. The Church year is in the wrong order To me, if we need to have a Trinity Sunday at all (and that’s a discussion for another day!), it should be the FIRST feast of the Church calendar. The thing we celebrate and mark before all else. Why? Because the Trinity is not just some add on, not just some afterthought, the Trinity is who God is. Some of you may have been thinking this morning that at a time when the country is in the midst of an epidemic, the economy plummeting into recession, and most of us still in lockdown, there must be something more important to celebrate than a doctrine. Perhaps you think the Trinity is just a bit irrelevant? Or perhaps a bit dull?” Well, I’m here to tell you it’s quite the opposite. The doctrine of the Trinity is actually one of the most amazing and exciting things ever, AND the most relevant thing you could possibly even contemplate right now… Bold claims, I know. But I mean it! Why is it so amazing and exciting? Because it is who God is. Why is it so relevant? Well because there is no better time to delve deeper into who God is, than an uncertain time. When we do so, we find in God an anchor, a home, a reality, and a truth that is unchanged, despite the chaos we see in the world. As we hear in the Gospel reading today, God says to us in Christ: ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age.’
We also hear in today’s gospel reading, utterances of the Triune shape of God, and how this is intimately linked God’s never ending presence with us. It is written: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We see, then, that God isn’t either the Father, or the Son or the Holy Spirit. Sometimes our talk about God slips into that, but it’s not true. (I promise you, the answer isn’t always ‘Jesus’.) No, God has always been both Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And God is these three persons all at the same time. God is one. In other words: every action of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is the action of God. And it is always one action, always one effect, always the Triune God. And so what the Triune God show us, is that he is not some far off bearded white man, sat on a cloud, leaving us to fend for ourselves. On the contrary. God is who created us, willed us into being, holds us in being, wants us. Our very existence is the evidence of his reckless love for us, to which we can only respond with everything we are.
But more than this, it tells us that by God we are also understood, deeply known, more than we even know ourselves. This is because the Triune God shows us that he isn’t distant. But instead comes alongside us, to live with us, to love us, to save us. We may not fully understand how, but he facilitates our comprehension. This is because God translates his infinite and unknowable love and life, into finite, knowable things: Into the water of the font that gives us new life in baptism, for example. Into bread and wine that human hands have made, that gives us new life in the Eucharist around the altar. God even translates his infinite and unknowable love and life into us, into human form. Most perfectly he does this in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. God in human flesh. The body language of God’s self. We know ourselves to be understood, to be loved, to be wanted through the life of God in Christ, the second person of the Trinity. Because just as the father runs to the son in the parable of the prodigal son, so God runs to us in the incarnation. But not only does he run to us, with his embrace he forgives us, despite our many failures, despite our nailing him to the cross. And in his resurrection he rescues us. Clinging to us, he then draws us up into his life in the Ascension. There is no love greater than this.
And so pervading, so permanent, so permeating is that love, that as Christ draws humanity up into the life of God, so does God in the Holy Spirit breath back into the life of the world. From the beginning of time, all is marked and literally inspired by God as the Holy Spirit - the life force of God, that which acts and creates and transforms. Yes, it descended upon the apostles at Pentecost, but it also came upon Mary, upon John the Baptist, upon Jesus himself, and everyone and everything before him. The Holy Spirit isn’t the final piece of the puzzle, the Holy Spirit is God, just as the Father and the Son are God, all existing before the world begun. And because this is so, because every action of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is the action of God. And because their action is always one action, always one effect, always the Triune God, God shows us that as Trinity he is also perfect community.
Within God this means that the Father gives birth eternally to his Son, and breathes forth eternally the Holy Spirit. The three weave through one another forever, in an unending circle of self-giving love. In God, then, there is no such thing as ‘individualism’, the self-centred sort that inflicts our society today. Instead, there is only the gift of self, and the discovery of self, in the loving face of the other. But the doctrine of the trinity doesn’t just tell us about who God is, it also tells us about who we are. Or what we will be. Like the God in whose image we are made, we human beings are not made to be separate individuals in relationship with one another in a purely external way. Nor are we called to exist just as a ‘collective’ without any sense of personal standing or integrity. No. Like our Creator, like our Triune God, we are to be persons in community, in a sense distinct, but called to a perfect union of being and action, most fully and highly expressed in love.
What does all this look like? Well it might sound complicated, but actually, as our first reading puts it, it just looks like peace. It looks like harmony. A sense of at easement. An escape from ego. An escape from too much self-importance. And this peace expresses itself in forgiveness, in hope, in joy. As a Church I dream for it to be so clear, so attractive, that people can’t help but find it compelling, can’t help but be drawn into our communal life. This must be our goal, both as individuals, and a group of Christians in this parish. And how do we get there? Well, we can only start as we are doing now: in worship, in prayer. And every time we do, together or apart, we continue this work. We get there through a constant turning to God and away from selfishness and self-interest. We get there through loving one another, through service, through commitment to the common good. We get there by stepping into the sunbeam of God’s love and life, and by bathing in his glow. But this is lifelong process, a journey. So this Trinity Sunday, let us commit to do so together. Let us be enfolded by the love and life of God, let us be transformed into the people and community God calls us to be, let us be people of prayer, people of love, people of God.