A sermon given on Trinity Sunday at the 8am BCP Eucharist and 10.30am Choral Eucharist, by The Right Reverend Chris McLeod, Dean
God as Trinity
God as Trinity can be quite a confusing idea. Someone, borrowing some words from Winston Churchill, and originally said about Russia, described it as ‘a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma’. There is much truth in this. For most people God as Trinity is a very difficult concept to understand, and God is indeed a mystery with a depth that we will never truly fathom. Most of us understand that the Father is God, Jesus – the Son, is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, but bringing them all together can be a bit mind stretching. Simply put, however, we are saying the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are of the one Being or substance. The danger is always in trying to say too much, and then we get ourselves in a bit of a muddle. There was, and is, a great deal of debate about how God is Trinity, and the consequences of this doctrine for our Christian life.
However, what is important is that God is ‘persons in relationship’, as an eminent Greek Orthodox theologian, John Zizioulas, puts it. At the heart of God is relationship. God relates within Godself, and God relates with us as well. The Eastern Orthodox tradition speaks about us being brought into the Trinitarian relationship through the Holy Spirit. I like that idea! We are in God and God is in us. This is what Jesus was talking about in John’s Gospel, chapter 17 verse 21, ‘The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one’. There is a unity that is beyond our making. It is a gift given to us by God.
Last week we prayed for Christian unity, and for reconciliation within our nation. Thinking about God as Trinity reminds us of the unity that existed before we were even made. There is a unity in our common humanity, a unity with the rest of creation, and a unity in the heart of God. Living in the Trinitarian God can shape our prayers and actions. Rather than see God the Trinity as an unfathomable doctrine, or even a pointless, we can see God the Trinity as pure relationship. It is a divine dance in which we are invited to be partners! The Christian Faith is not so much a set of doctrines to be believed, but an invitation to live in the pre-existing relationships in God. And then we can agree with St Augustine of Hippo when we say’ the Trinity is our true country’.
Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
(John Donne – Holy Sonnets)