Sermon preached at the Sung Eucharist of Trinity Sunday 2023

‘Firmly I believe and truly, God is three and God is one’

The Reverend David Stanton Sub-Dean and Canon Treasurer

Sunday, 4th June 2023 at 11.15 AM

Today, in union with Christians throughout the world, we celebrate the Feast of The Most Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. ‘Firmly I believe and truly, God is three and God is one’.

In many ways the Holy Trinity is the best way we can find to describe the mystery of God and from the very early church it has been a vital part of prayer and worship, a basic foundation for the Christian Church.

In order for us to deepen our understanding of the Trinity, we must go back to the basics of orthodox, Catholic faith. We need to remind ourselves how the early faith community understood its life and purpose, how it was built on the firm conviction of the Trinity as both a basis for faith and a model for godly living.

That early church community knew their story as found in the Hebrew Bible and in the Gospel accounts. They knew God as their creator and rejoiced in the fact that they were created in his image. Indeed, our first reading from the prophet Isaiah makes this very point: ‘The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth’.

But God was far more than just their creator, God was in an intimate relationship with them as a parent, as a father or a mother. We recall how God hears the cries of the people how he brought them out of bondage, how he cares for them like a hen cares for her chicks, how he calls Israel his children, and weeps over their destruction.

This is not a judging, distant, aloof God, but rather a loving and gracious God who created them and nurtures them. The stories of God as creator and intimate parent abound in their salvation history, and ours.

For this community, found its understanding of God focused in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. God became flesh and dwelt among us, the incarnate word. But it wasn’t until after the resurrection that the apostles were able to make full sense of his life.

We know from the gospel accounts how difficult that last night, before the crucifixion, was as Christ was explaining what had to happen and what it all meant. They didn’t really understand it fully until after the centurion said ‘truly this was the Son of God’.

The disciples finally begin to grasp the full meaning at the Ascension when ‘they return to the temple rejoicing and praising God’.

The new community was beginning to experience the full implications of the resurrected Christ and beginning to know, like Mary, that with God nothing is impossible. The early church was discerning, and rejoicing in the knowledge of God not only as their creator but also as their saviour and redeemer.

Finally, this community understood God as the Holy Spirit. As promised by Jesus, the gift of the Spirit came on Pentecost. It came to the whole community and not just a select few.

One may have thought that the spirit would come to the disciples and their friends only, but the spirit came to the gathered group that represented people from all over the region. They spoke different languages and were from different cultures, yet they heard the word of God in their own language.

This coming of the Spirit, the feast of Pentecost that we celebrated last week, reminds us that we cannot begin to understand the truth of God, unless we are given the power of the Spirit. Even the apostles could not recognise the full truth about the Jesus they knew and loved, without the gift of the Spirit.

The same is true for us: to understand Jesus we need the Spirit. To reach the Father we need to go via the Son. So, it is the mystery of the Trinity that lies at the heart of the Christian life of faith.

Indeed, if we take this further, we recognise that at the very centre of this mystery of God lies his everlasting love and fidelity. Given the very shabby response of the world, the constancy of God’s love can be very difficult to grasp: a love that continues to be faithful even when it sees continued infidelity in those it loves. Indeed, a love so strong that it has even conquered death.

In honouring the Trinity today, we also celebrate the awesome consistency of God’s extravagant love for our world. It’s in the nature of God that his love abides forever.

And if there’s one thing that we all long to experience in our lives, it’s the love we can all depend on; the love that’s not withdrawn when misfortune comes; the love that sees beyond our frailty and faults, because it sets no limit on forgiveness.

None of us has experienced the fullness of this authentic love, yet it is to that love that our whole being aspires. We can catch glimpses of it when we look at our own experience of love within our own communities, with our very families and our deepest friends.

As St Paul says in today’s second reading: ‘Live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you’.

It’s within the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that all three persons reveal the fullness of the unity of God’s love. We experience something of that love when it is communicated in simple ways, through holy people that we meet, those who care profoundly for others, those who put others first.

The message for us is that it’s so often from within the essential atmosphere of love that continued spiritual growth takes place. That doesn’t mean we all have to go and join a religious community, but it does mean that we’re all responsible for playing our own part:

None of us should distance ourselves from helping to make church life, or indeed family life, a place where God’s love gives shape to what happens. That’s why St Paul encourages the divided church in Corinth: ‘Be united; live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you’.

All persons of the Trinity are intimately involved with loving our broken and fractured world. And we, in turn, as children of the one God never outgrow the need of his love.