In his book Twelve Months of Sundays Tom Wright says that Trinity Sunday celebrates not a new truth “but rather what you see when the excitement and drama of Pentecost has made its mark and you pause to reflect on it all ...(it) is where you find yourself when, having been swept off your feet by the rushing mighty wind, you get up, dust yourself down , and survey your new surroundings. In other words the events of Pentecost and the coming of the spirit forever changed our relationship with, and understanding of, the great and eternal God and our place in the universe and we need to know how to live in this reality. He goes on to say that “in the New Testament the Trinity isn't an abstract theory, its where you live”,which is a challenging idea as I am sure that many of us might feel that it is an abstract theory and have difficulty explaining the concept of the Trinity or Triune God to those who have never experienced it.
By saying that God is Trinity or that God is a Triune God we mean that the one God comprises three distinct components that have eternally existed together but also have distinct roles. Genesis Chapter 1:1 introduces the eternal God as Creator (or Father) “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth” while v2 mentions the Spirit of God sweeping over the face of the earth. So we have two elements of the Triune God mentioned right from the beginning of the bible. The third element, Jesus the Son is hinted at in later Old Testament books but does not actually appear until the New Testament where the gospels have him blazing onto the scene and bringing about irrevocable changes in the lives of ordinary people. John's gospel provides the best known statement about the eternal existence of the Son “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1: 1-2). Thus the bible provides evidence of a Triune God but it took the early church until 381 AD to actually put together the doctrine of the Trinity that we have today.
We call the components of the Trinity Father, Son and Spirit because that is the terminology used in the bible. There are many possible examples to quote but I will provide just two. In John 14: 26 Jesus says “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”, while in Mark 1:10-11 and following the baptism of Jesus we read “Just as he was coming up out of the water he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased.” Thus God comprises Father, Son and Spirit and we acknowledge this each week when we join together to say the creed but how often do we actually think about what we are saying and what it means to our Christian life.
How best to explain the Trinity is a problem that has long concerned church teachers. St Patrick may or may not have come up with the idea of the three leaf clover but it doesn't really work for me because it's possible to pull one lobe off and still have a viable leaf. That is not the case with the Trinity, you cannot remove God or Son or Spirit and still have the Triune God. So I would like to offer an explanation based on high school physics and the study of light. If you shine a white light through a prism it breaks up into its component light parts, being red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, all lights of different wave lengths. These are the colours of the rainbow and one mnemonic for this is the name ROY G BIV. If the various beams then pass through another appropriately placed prism they re-combine into white light but if one of the beams is blocked or the prism is not accurately placed they do not re-form into white light, you need all ROY G BIV colours to form white light and you need all components, Father, Son and Spirit to form the Triune God who created the universe and everything in it.
But this does not explain why it is important for us to understand and acknowledge the Trinity or Triune God. For this we need to look at our interactions with God and realise that our daily Christian life is bound up with all three components. For example, we can only pray to the Father through the mediation of the Son and we need the Spirit to guide our prayer. If we do not involve all three then our prayer is meaningless babble.
Again, God the Father is a God of love, Jesus the Son came to show us how to love and gave us the great commandment to love God and love one another and the Spirit supports us in our endeavours to be a people of love. We need all three to know what to do and how best to do it.
Tom Wright wrote that the Trinity or Triune God should be the focus of our lives and worship but I wonder if this is actually what happens. Do we make every Sunday a Trinity Sunday or do we concentrate more on one or two aspects and ignore the rest. For example, do we concentrate on Jesus the Son and generally ignore both Father and Spirit. Are some churches so keen to call down the power of the Spirit that they seem to forget the Father and Son. I suggest that these are interesting questions that we should all consider. Other Trinity inspired questions are raised by the readings today.
When we come to church each Sunday do we expect to see God as the writer of Isaiah did “the King, the Lord of Hosts”, and the eternal creator of the Universe? Do we “Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name” as the psalmist did? If we do not we could find that we are not giving full due to the glory of the eternal God and we may not be as open as we should be to being led by him.
Again are we conscious that we are living lives that are led by the Spirit as espoused by Paul in his letter to the Romans or is the Spirit something that we do not really know or think about? If we are not spirit led individuals and a spirit led church we might as well stay home.
Finally do we see Jesus as the Son of God and are we prepared to publicly acknowledge this as the unclean spirits did in today's gospel reading. “Unclean spirits” is a term that is often use to denote the evil in the world and the powers of darkness that are set against God, but even they recognised Jesus as part of the Triune God and not just a great healer and teacher, a social worker or a philosopher. Are many of us prepared to acknowledge Jesus in public places or do we just keep quite?
Theses are all important questions for us to consider not just on Trinity Sunday but at other times. They are particularly important questions for the Church in Tasmania to consider as we look towards an uncertain future. We need to be Trinity people and followers of a Triune God as we move forward to grow God's Church in this place because the Triune God is essentially a community of love where the community is Father, Son and Spirit leading a church of active disciples who set out to love their neighbours in the community. And love is sorely lacking in the world today.
Prayer for wisdom in planning for future ministry in our parish
Lord, we pray for your church here in Tasmania at this difficult time in our history. To start to make amends to the victims of members of the church we need to pay compensation and this entails making difficult decisions, in every parish, to raise the money. We thank you that we have resources with which to contribute. Please guide us here in Channel Cygnet to know what is important to keep and what is less important. Show us how to use this shake-up, as a parish and diocese, to go ahead strongly as your church, to use the opportunity to plan for our future ministry so we may love and serve people into your kingdom. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen