Trinity Sunday rolls round again. Last Sunday we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit and so when putting together the church’s lectionary somebody decided that the week after Pentecost, this week, we’d better try to sort out how this Spirit relates to God the Father. And while we’re at it, let’s try to sort out what we think the relationship is between God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ.
So here we are with a day of preachers talking about shamrocks, triangles, the three states of water, icons, Celtic symbols… all in an attempt to help people to understand the Trinity.
But the most important question about the Trinity is – why does it matter?
You could argue that since Jesus never uses the word Trinity it can’t be that important: actually ‘Trinity’ isn’t a
Biblical word at all – it was probably first used by Tertullian about 150 years after Christ.
But just because the word Trinity isn’t used that doesn’t mean that the idea of God as Trinity - Father Son & Holy Spirit – isn’t there in the Bible.
In the short passage from John’s gospel we find Jesus talking of the coming of the Spirit. ‘He will take what is mine and declare it to you’. But Jesus, as he often did, also talks about the Father and his relationship with the Father ‘All that the Father has is mine’.
What Jesus has, what Jesus is, ‘all that is mine’ – is at the disposal of the Spirit. And all that Jesus has and is also belongs to the Father ‘all that the Father has is mine’. Jesus, the Spirit, the Father are in a depth of relationship where they can each say ‘that is mine – and it also belongs to the other two persons’.
A relationship of three complete equals, where each can speak of the other two as if they were part of ‘me’.
This is how Jesus speaks of the relationship between himself, the Spirit and the Father.
Why does it matter that we try to understand this? Why have so many theologians tried to explain the Trinity and argued long and hard about this doctrine?
Because Jesus shows us that this relationship between the three person of the Godhead helps us to understand more about the God of love who comes to us.
When Jesus prays ‘Our Father..’ there is no distance between God the Father, who hears the prayer, Jesus the Son who prays it, and the Holy Spirit who helps prayers to be articulated. There is no distance between the Spirit who is sent into the hearts and minds of Jesus’ disciples at Pentecost, Jesus who promised that Spirit, and God the Father who sends the Spirit.
There is no distance between Jesus who cries out on the cross, God the Father to whom he cries, and the Spirit who carries the cries of all into the heart of the Godhead.
There is, at the heart of God, perfect relationship, perfect communion, perfect love – and that love reaches out to relate, in three persons, with the world God has made.
So in Psalm 8 we are reminded of the God who created everything that is – heavens, moon and stars; the God who is worthy of the praise of every living creature that has been created by God’s power. And yet the writer of the Psalm knows that human beings are loved and cared for – given a special role within creation – loved and cherished.
The perfect love of the God who is three-in-one and who defines loving relationship is not content.
When the perfect love of God is asked ‘What are human beings that you are mindful of them?’, the answer comes eventually in a human form, in Jesus. Human beings are the thing I love so much that I will reach out in love to them – becoming one of them – living with them and then coming to them in the Spirit and living in them – to show them the love of Father Son & Holy Spirit.
Why does the Trinity matter? Because it shows us how God relates to Godself in love and then shows us how God relates to each one of us in love.
Because the Trinity is dynamic and loving and relating – and restless. God – the Holy Three in One wants to recruit new lives and new lives into this relationship. God in Trinity wants to reach out in love to us.
And perhaps there is a final and very timely reason why it is important to think about the Trinity.
This week has been dominated by the shocking news of the incident in Woolwich. There has been a lot of ill-tempered comment about ‘them’.
Them – the Islamic extremists who might have convinced 2 young men that an off-duty soldier was a legitimate target.
Them – people with mental illness or distress who lose touch with reality
Them – the English Defence League who seem to want to capitalise on people’s natural sense of horror by fuelling racism
Them - the media who want to show us pictures of carnage and distress.
God-in-Trinity tells us there is no ‘them’ – there is only ‘us’. God is perfect community and calls us into perfect community – with God and with one another.
We are loved – we can all be included – we must struggle to understand and love others.
We can be changed by God’s love – we can live in peace – many and yet one.
May the love of the Father, the power of the Spirit, and the remembrance of Jesus at this table make it so – in the name of God – One and yet Three, Three and yet One.