Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Who is to be trusted these days? There seems to be a lot of pretense and we end up feeling we’ve had the wool pulled over our eyes. Who will give us basic respect and dignity? Who will listen to us – really listen – without pretense, or the glazing over of the eyes? Who really cares about ordinary people like us? 

We look at humanity and see violence, oppression, inequality, severely distorted balances of power; we see desperation – people who have lost their homes and livelihoods. We see aggression, hatred between peoples and religions, the dominance of self interest. Our politicians are locked into a system where scoring points off each other seems to take precedence over seeking the best for the electorate. We shrug our shoulders in despair because we seem to have no power to change anything.

Personal relationships are not always easy either. 42% of marriages now end in divorce. Relationships seem increasingly transient. Apparently normal households can be deeply dysfunctional. 

Even without anyone else present, individual humans can be badly conflicted. We say we’re ‘in two minds’ about something, or ‘part of me thinks this’, ‘I’m feeling torn’. It is interesting that we carry within ourselves this sense of being more than one person within our individual identity, because this is what we believe about God, and this is what we celebrate most especially on this, Trinity Sunday: One God, Three Persons: One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is interesting too, that, we normally describe our different ‘personas’ in terms of conflict and stress, being divided, whereas we describe God’s threefold nature in terms of harmony and unity. 

There is a beautiful Trinity Icon by  Valentina Samoilik-Artyuschenko which expresses this very subtly: the icon shows the three persons of the Trinity, in a similar mode to the famous Rublev icon, but here the figures are seated closely together, so that their halos all merge; they are one in glory, one in beauty and love. We can see from this that God too has this sense of having different personas, but these exist not in discomfort or conflict, but in harmony and unity. 

The famous trinity of three hares found in a medieval window at Long Melford in Suffolk (two ears each, but with only three ears between them) expresses this same unity and harmony within the threefold being. I love the idea of Father, Son and Spirit sharing ears: it means that when the Spirit hears our prayers, knowing what we are trying to say even when we can’t find the words to express things adequately, then the Son identifies with this from his human experience and the Father takes it to his heart. The ears of the Trinity of hares tell us that all this is simultaneous, because the Trinity shares its ears. Our prayers go straight to the heart of God.

The Holy Trinity has often been thought to be hard to preach on, and, although central  the Christian faith, is often regarded as a bit of an embarrassment – as if it is an obscure mathematical conundrum, only of interest to very clever people who live in a world very different to that of ordinary Chrsitians like ourselves.

But the Trinity is fundamental to our lives as Christians because it teaches us about good relationship and about the things that make for good relationship – about trust, respect, depth of sharing, integrity, deep sharing, about love, about listening, about glory and beauty. It is the Trinity that shows us how to live with other people in the world, and how to live with ourselves, for the same pattern that we see at work in the life of the Trinity can be applied to us as individual people – within us, as well as between us, the Trinity shows compassion, love, kindness, creativity. The existence of the Trinity is a reason for us to seek peace, love, and compassion between nations, peace between people and to within ourselves as people who are being made whole, being moulded into God’s image

We are not God, and we are not perfect. But God the Holy Trinity reaches out to us, every day, encouraging us to relate to ourselves and others in the positive, life giving ways which are essential to its own mode of being. 

I think one of the most important challenges offered to us by the Trinity is actually to relate to people. These days, it is all too easy to communicate without relating, without actually meeting people, talking to them, or seeing their faces. So, for example, you can go to the supermarket and self-checkout , with no face to face contact with a cashier. Or, as seems very common, you can us a staffed checkout but talk on your mobile phone, and treat the cashier as a machine, with no human interaction. We pay money into the bank at a machine, with no human interface, And we all know about trying to get to talk to someone on the phone and getting caught in an endless system of pressing button two, then button one, before reaching a recorded voice which gives you a piece of pre recorded information before cutting you off. 

This might all make economic sense, for the people with an eye on profit margins, at least, but it is not good for humans. The Trinitarian life of God, in whose image we are made, shows us that we need community, interaction, relationship. So our enthusiasm for tea, cake and a good natter at the end of the service is a wonderful and godly thing. I think community is one of the most important things that the church offers to contemporary society. 

We know from the Trinity that, although it is a unit within itself – One God, Three People – it is not insular: the Trinity reaches out to us, and has love for us at its heart. Of course, from God-the-Trinity’s perspective that ‘us’ covers the richness and diversity of humankind. God reaches out to and loves, God carries to God’s heart, people who we might find scary, or weird or simply unfathomable. We are nudged not to be insular, but to branch out and learn to relate to all sorts of people. In the end, this is how humankind will learn to live in peace – if we learn to relate to each other.

I began with questions about the political and social life of the world – our own community, the country where we live, God’s world. I think the Trinity gives us boldness to demand better from our leaders. We, we Christians, know about well functioning, harmonious relationship because we know about the Trinity. We know about power being intentionally good, seeking the welfare of humankind and of the whole creation, because we know that this is at the heart of God. This is a precious and powerful knowledge which gives us power to seek something better, because we know what is possible. 

So let us celebrate this wonderful mystery of our threefold but one God, and may the Trinity’s power and love drive us out into the world to show what good relationship is and that it is possible. This is what makes us a people of hope. Let’s take that hope into God’s world this week! 

1 thought on “Sermon for Trinity Sunday

  1. Thank you Anne for your beautiful intercessions and sermon on the Trinity! I loved the symbolism you described in the Icon and the three Hares. It was very spiritual and gentle and really spoke to me of how I too feel and believe about our mysterious God!
    Thank you Anne.

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