Today in the Church calendar is what is known as Trinity Sunday, a time when we can give some thought to the doctrine of the Trinity. When I was training in theological college, and we first began to study the Trinity we were jokingly told that once we got into curacy, it was more than likely that we as Curates would be asked to preach on Trinity Sunday because our training incumbent didn’t understand the Trinity. After some years of reflecting on this, I am not sure that anyone has sufficient mental capacity to say that they really understand the Trinity in all fullness. According to the Church father Augustine, anyone who denies the Trinity is in danger of losing their salvation, but anyone who tries to understand the Trinity is in danger of losing their mind! Even if we cannot understand in all fullness, there is nevertheless truth that we can take hold of which encourages, equips and builds us up.
In last week’s service for Pentecost we had time and space to reflect on the Holy Spirit, and invite him through prayer and reflection to come afresh into our lives. I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer recently, and have felt particularly moved to pray for this parish and the people in it – more so than usual. I tend to pray to our Heavenly Father in my most intimate moments, with that picture of a Heavenly Father in my mind perhaps with echoes of the Lord’s prayer and that sense of “Abba, Father”. In praying to Jesus, I am mindfully recognising the authority and power in Jesus’ name and what He has accomplished for us on the cross. In praying to the Holy Spirit, my prayer might be “Come Holy Spirit, Come”, praying that He might come into a situation and bring peace and the Fruit, that the Spirit might move, equip and enable and bring glory to God. Another way of looking at this is:
- There is exactly one God
- There are three really distinct Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- Each of the Persons is God
There are some common mistakes though. The Trinity is not:
- Three individuals who together make one God
- Three Gods joined together
- Three properties of God
The reality is that whether we pray to God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit we are still praying to the same God – one God in three persons. And yet which of the three persons in the Trinity we pray to at any given time might shape our prayer and perhaps how at any given moment how we see ourselves relating to God. You might think that this is strange or unusual. Yet, in psychology it is commonly recognised that we may relate to one another as parent, adult or child – we are still relating to the same person but the nature of how we relate might change. Think about those times when you are with family and friends and if you recognise moments when you find yourself relating in those different ways.
The truth is that Jesus was with God and was God from the very beginning, as was the Holy Spirit. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2)
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17)
God is always an inviting God and always a sending God. He sent the prophets, he sent the Kings, he sent of Himself through and in Jesus and then He sent His Spirit. No one can ever truthfully say that God doesn’t go the extra mile. The reason why he does this is because he loves his creation more than we can ever possibly imagine. He yearns to be in fellowship with us, constantly inviting us into that place of forgiveness, grace and relationship, into that place of unity and community. He does that knowing just how we are. Someone once said that God loves us just the way we are, but too much to let us stay that way. In that inviting, he invites us to a place of transformation, health and wholeness. He takes us to a place where our heart is softened to receive him if we make that step, that response to his invitation because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
The Anglican priest and missionary Henry Martyn said “The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.” A missional church is one that engages with what is sometimes known as the 3 P’s: Prayer, Presence, and Proclamation. In general, churches tend to be reasonably ok at prayer, and often have an established presence. A frequent challenge is to consider in what ways we have an opportunity to proclaim the Good News and become “more intensely missionary”. In this it is helpful to turn once again to the words of the Great Commission “Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” My brothers and sisters in Christ, the reality is we don’t worship God because he needs us to. We worship God because we need to. All that is required of us by God can be accomplished through Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Trinity we see a heart of fellowship, unity and community. I rejoice in the knowledge that we are invited into that, that we are not alone because, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” So not only do we have each other, warts and all, but we are children of God. Yes, there may be times when we face challenges and come face to face with the ugliness of this broken world. But the victory is Christ’s through what he accomplished on the cross and Jesus himself has promised to be with us always, to the very end of the age and all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter and our Advocate, who intercedes for us in heaven. Let us try to know the fullness of God as expressed in and through the Trinity that we might live our life and faith with boldness and confidence in the Lord. Amen