Rev. Canon Cheryl Collins
May I speak in the name of God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit There are times when it’s hard to have hope. Times when we feel so battered and bruised by the news coming from our TV screens and newspapers, times when the circumstances of our own lives or those around us seem bleak, times when even the minor slings and arrows of life feel like just too much, and seem to lead us away from hope and towards despair, away from trust and into fear.
Although the theme for today, Trinity Sunday is that of God the Holy Trinity you could say that there’s an underlying theme of letting go of our fear and learning to live in trust towards God the Trinity. St. Paul encourages his readers by reminding them that ‘you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption when we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ Those who live according to the flesh as he puts it are prone to all the weaknesses that flesh is heir to, spiritual as well as physical. They try to cover up their fear through aggressive behaviour, they try to protect themselves by grabbing as much as they can, they try to distract themselves with bodily indulgences. Paul tells us that such things are worse than useless; instead, we need to listen to God’s spirit at work in our spirit, offering us real security, even in the midst of our suffering and fear.
In our reading from John’s gospel Nicodemus is too scared to come and hear this new prophet during the day, when others can see and judge his actions. He sneaks in by night, in the darkness. Once the conversation gets started Nicodemus is thoroughly confused by the idea of being born again. For us this second birth is the realisation that we are indeed God’s beloved children and may call out to him, Abba! Father!. For in the end there is nothing complicated about John’s message, distilled as it can be into the most well known verse in the Bible- God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. God loves us by giving. This is the truth that the spirit reveals, the truth of God’s love for each of his children and the way that love is revealed in Jesus Christ as the one who shows us how to live life as a child of God; secure enough in that love to live freely and full of joy and to give his life away that we might share such freedom and joy. And we are invited to join him, to be the community that belongs to God the Holy Trinity.
What kind of a community belongs to God the Trinity?Let’s start with the Father. We call God our Father, and this reminds us that God made us and everything around us. From the intricate, invisible spirals of our DNA to the delicate, disposable lace of the cow parsley along the road. But Fathers aren’t just the ones who made us. In his prayer, Jesus taught us to call God Daddy, and, if they are living up to the name, a Dad is the one who cares for you, gives you a home and security, nurtures you as you grow up, teaches you about the world. Dad loves us, and we know it. So, the community which belongs to God our heavenly Dad, is a community which feels secure. Knowing that Dad is there for us, that we always have a home with Dad to go back to means we don’t have to put our trust in anything else. We don’t have to prove ourselves with guns or money, or wild living, we know who we are. We’re the children of Dad.
But we also remember that everything in our world was made by Dad, so everything and everyone deserves our respect and our care. The people who belong with Dad are the kind of people who welcome the stranger as a brother or sister they just hadn’t met yet, who respect the gifts of Dad all around us, who invite and include others so that they too can come to know that they are part of Dad’s family. Yet we also know God as Son, as Jesus. Jesus the Son reminds us that God is often surprising and not what we expected. We expect God to come among us as a powerful king or a mighty warrior. Jesus did so, but not the kind we were expecting. Jesus is the king not of a country but of love, he is a mighty warrior against injustice and hatred and evil, which fall to the power of his overwhelming love. God the Son shows us that love is prepared to go all the way for us, to the very end, to the cross. So, the community which belongs to God the Son is a community which shares, includes and reaches out, not a community which dominates and disowns. As the Son, God takes on everything about being human, so we can accept that everything about us has been made holy by God. This includes our doubts as well as our certainties. We are called to follow Jesus in love and in fighting against injustice, hatred and evil. And following Jesus prepares us to find God in surprising places and surprising people.
Thirdly, we know God as Spirit and perhaps this is the person of the Trinity that we find hardest to grasp. God as Holy Spirit is the sense we have of someone being there with us in moments of crisis. The Spirit is the one who takes our jumbled longings and hopes and fears and expresses them without the need to find words. The Spirit is the power which heals our wounds, changes us, and gives the knowledge of God with us, God even within us.So, the community which belongs to God as Holy Spirit is a community which knows and accepts that we haven’t got there yet, we are still on the way. Still growing and hoping and being changed, changed from glory to glory. As a community it is the Spirit which binds us together, making us one in diversity. It is the Spirit which helps us to interpret what belonging to the Trinity means for the way we live our lives. But the thing about God as Trinity is that you can’t keep Father, Son and Spirit apart, they belong together. Which reminds us that we are called to be together, sharing, communicating, eating. We are not alone, that is not the pattern of our lives in God. What kind of people does God the Trinity call us to be? A people who trust in the Father, who love like the Son, who share in the Spirit. To speak God’s language of Trinity we cannot become completely fluent from books, to speak God’s language of Trinity, to know the Trinity, not just as an idea, but as the reality of our lives, we need to live it. To speak God’s language of Trinity you have to allow yourself to believe in the love of God the Father, follow the example of God the Son and rest in the power of God the Spirit moving through your life. May we be drawn into the love of the Trinity and be part of the outpouring of that love to a desperate and fearful world. Amen