Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Scripture Readings

Today in the Church calendar is Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost. The doctrine of the Trinity has been developed since the early years, as the Church has thought together and argued a lot about the nature of God, eventually deciding for the most part on a Trinity of persons in a Unity of being. Some theologians might like us to consider aspects such as the homoousias and hypostases of God this morning. But we’re not going to do that.

Instead, I intend to heed the sage advice of Columbanus, a Celtic monk from the 6th century who insisted that “no one must presume to search for the unsearchable things of God: God’s nature, the manner of God’s existence, God’s selfhood. These are beyond telling, beyond scrutiny, beyond investigation. Who then is God? God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God. Do not look for any further answers concerning God.”

I’m not sure how much the doctrine of the Trinity tells us about the actual nature of God, but I do think it tells us quite a lot about the love of God and the ways in which God reaches out to us in love.

In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah has a vision in the temple of the glory and majesty of God. Encountering the holiness of God, Isaiah realizes his uncleanness and despairs of himself. But holiness, in the words of the Founder of our Order, is the brightness of divine love, and in love God immediately reaches out through a seraph to purify Isaiah of his sin and remove his guilt. This action of God makes Isaiah worthy to go and speak on behalf of God to the people.

The psalm appointed in response to this reading invites us to consider the glory and strength of God, to marvel at the beauty of God’s holiness. It ends with the assurance that God’s desire is to give strength to God’s people and to bless them with peace.

The consistent witness of those like Isaiah who have experienced it is that the glory of God can be quite intimidating and tends to obscure God’s loving purpose from us. And so, God took on the form of our humanity when he came to us in Jesus, to show us what God is like (and, perhaps, to find out what it is like to be us). Yet, the mystery of God is such that when talking about God’s kingdom and the need for a spiritual rebirth if we are to enter it, Jesus cannot help but confuse Nicodemus (and us).

As if to compensate, our gospel reading ends with the most plainly encouraging statement possible. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Having come to show us what God is like, and to save us from ourselves, Jesus in last week’s gospel reading tells his disciples that he must go away again in order that he might send the Spirit of truth from God the Father to teach us how to be like God, to enable us to love with the love that is from God. A wonderful thing happened when Jesus ascended to his Father and sent the Spirit to us from his Father. Jesus took our humanity into the presence of God, and his Spirit brought God’s divinity among us and even within us if we will receive the Spirit by faith.

In his letter to the Roman church, the apostle Paul teaches that living only according to mere human nature brings death to our souls. If we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit of God beyond our slavery to fear, we will know ourselves to be adopted as God’s children, being assured of this by the witness of the Spirit within our hearts.

Last week’s continuation of today’s reading from Romans recognizes that we remain weak in ourselves, groaning while we wait for the fullness of all that is promised by the coming of the Spirit among us, groaning at the miserable state of the world. But Jesus came among us to give us hope, and in hope we can wait with greater patience.

Sometimes our prayers are sighs, sighing at what seems to us to be the pitiful state of our hearts and with longing for a better world. What we don’t always realize, perhaps, is that those sighs might be the Spirit breathing within us, interceding for us with the God who searches our hearts. How marvellous a mediator the Spirit of Jesus is: on the one hand, assuring our spirits that we are indeed the children of God, and helping us to live accordingly even when we fear the worst; on the other hand, appealing on our behalf to the God whose holy love will not relent until we are all safely in God’s kingdom.

Thanks be to God.

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