The following is a summary of a sermon about The Trinity which I preached at Saint Mary’s ‘The Church in the High Street’ Billericay on Wednesday 3 June 2015 which I thought some of you might find helpful. My Bible Readings were Psalm 29 & John 3:1-17.
Sometimes the words we use don’t always say what we think they say. For example, I remember watching: It shouldn’t happen to a TV presenter with Denis Norden some years ago where an American newscaster was reading the news about two cows, Black and Gus, who had escaped from their field and gone on a wrecking spree in the town. After he’d read the bulletin his colleague suggested that they were, in fact, Black Angus Cows!
Sometimes, the words we use to describe Christian truths are way off the mark as well. For instance, we may say, after someone has shared a testimony of what God is doing in their life, that they are really on fire for the Lord. Of course, we don’t mean on fire, literally, we mean that they are passionate and excited about what God is doing in their life. And often, as we seek to explain the meaning and significance of the Trinity our words do more harm than good. Trinity simply means a group of three and is a term theologians, and we in the church, use to describe God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Did you know that: God the Father appears 4830 times in the Bible. Jesus the Son 967 and Holy Spirit 581. Any guesses as to how many times Trinity is mentioned? Actually, the word Trinity is never mentioned in the Bible!
The Eastern Orthodox Church are famous for their Icons, which are simply paintings of God. The picture attached to this article is a famous painting of the Holy Trinity by the Russian Artist, Andrei Rublev, who painted this in 1410, which show The Trinity as three individual people. It was the first time anyone had depicted God as three different and distinct persons. But that is exactly what they are. Now, I know the concept of the Trinity is a bit confusing for many people and difficult for many to understand and I’m not sure I can make it any easier – as the Dean of Chelmsford reminded us on Trinity Sunday – and, whilst we may not fully understand it we accept it to be true because it is what the Bible teaches.
I want to suggest that The Trinity is not a ‘doctrine’ to be learned, but something to be embraced and experienced. I want to spend a few moments thinking about: the individual work, and purpose, of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and how all three are involved in our salvation and our growth as Christians.
Common Identity: We are children of the same Heavenly Father.
Many people today are searching for identity, for the real them and they try many different ways to find it: career; children; physical fitness; sport, etc. Many people’s lives are spent inventing, or perfecting, a false identity. They wear a mask, made up of their attitude; clothes; and lifestyle; in order to project onto others what they think is the real ‘them’. At the same time, they try very hard to cover up their less attractive traits. Even those who profess to be Christians owe more of their identity to the ways of the world than to the way of the Word. We derive our identity, as Christians, not from Paul or Peter or Apollos or a.n.other or through the values we internalise from the world, but the Father alone. We were made in his image to reflect His truth and light and failure to do that means we have lost that relationship on which our faith so depends. It is God the Father who loves us, draws us to himself and who is the source of all human relationships. Because we share the same heavenly father, we’ve all been adopted into the family of God.
Common Goal: To be rooted and grounded in Jesus’ love.
What unites the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is love – the very essence of their nature, Ephesians 3:17-19. The true identity of God is love. Not anger or hatred or a demanding perfectionism, but love. In turn, our common goal is knowing, through experience, just how vast Jesus’ love is for us. Our faith is not just about facts, although they are important, it is about a relationship, isn’t it? This requires letting go, of being vulnerable, of opening ourselves up to others, in receiving and giving. God loves each of us for who we are – with our masks off. We don’t have to strive to be someone we’re not; we already are someone, special and unique, rich in character and potential. One of the best ways of proving that you love someone is that you want to live with them! That’s why people, usually, marry the person they most want to be with! Jesus proves his love for us in uniting himself to us intimately: he ‘moves in’ when we open our hearts to him. He is not a distant Saviour, like some faceless insurance company, rather, he is intimate, close at hand, interested in every area of our life and wants to experience the intimacy of a personal relationship with us. God’s love cannot be worked out in the singular; the Trinity shows us that, it must be shared. God is a community of love and, in the same way, we too are called to be a community of love.
Common Resource: Strengthened with the Spirits power.
Some people turn God into a very mean and demanding being who gives us nothing but takes everything from us. But we know that’s not true. The nature of love is to be extravagant. The Holy Spirit makes God’s love known, and real, to us. It is the Spirit’s job to perfect what the Father desires and the Son achieves. Through the Spirit we have access to a power that we cannot even begin to comprehend.
The Christian writer Colin Urquhart puts it this way: Some people wrongly try to separate God’s love and power; but they belong together. The Holy Spirit is supernatural and brings both love and power into your life. God has given us power to use in our daily lives, how can we move in faith and love unless we learn to use these supernatural resources for ourselves? Those who try to love and serve God without making use of the power God puts within us are wasting His resources. They don’t listen to the Holy Spirit telling them to use the power and authority God has given us. God sends us into the world in Jesus’ name to be like him and take his power, love, joy, peace and forgiveness into every situation. However, If we take God’s love without the power, we can only do half the job.
Christians often talk about the Holy Spirit as a thing or speak of him as it rather than an equal member of the Trinity. As a result, there’s a tendency for us to become Unitarian in our Theology. This means that we deny the existence of the Holy Spirit and, therefore, reject the fact that God is present in our world today and moving in our hearts and minds – which, let’s face it, is nothing short of heresy! When we let the Holy Spirit do his job he literally expands our horizons because we have too small a picture of God’s love. The power of love transforms; nourishes; satisfies; thrills and changes us. Once we know the Father, through his Son Jesus, we are introduced to a power that is utterly satisfying and totally transforming. It is God’s love for us. It enables us to face the problems and joys of life with courage and gratitude.
All of the above give us, not an abstract understanding of God, but a shared experience of the work of the Trinity in our lives: God the Father, who calls us; God the Son, Jesus, who died for us; and God the Holy Spirit, who lives within us.