4 Jun 2020 • From Elizabeth, our Vicar
Trinity Sunday, 7 June 2020
In the words of the Creed we recite, ‘we believe in one God’.
But of course it’s not that simple, and so the creed goes on to say much more than that – ‘we believe’, it says, ‘in one God who is at the same time three persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit’. In God there is diversity, but in God there is also unity, because for the Christian God isn’t just a straightforward person, for the Christian, God is a union –three equal persons who all dwell also within the other two.
As social people we all sometimes have to work together with others; often we can do things together, create things together, achieve things together, in complete agreement - without upset. We can have a shared goal and a shared purpose because we all belong to the same community or the same family or the same group. Yet however closely we cooperate with each other we each retain our own will and our own energy and each of us acts by virtue of our own separate and individual power of initiative. However closely we cooperate with one another we are two, three, or more people – we are not one person.
With the persons of the trinity it’s different, because with the persons of the trinity there is distinction – just as there is between us – but there is never separation of energy, or of will or of purpose. The father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have only one will and not three, one energy not three, and they share a common purpose. None of the persons of the trinity acts separately or apart from the others –there is one God and not three. The Orthodox bishop Kallistos Ware describes the Trinity like this,
‘Each of the three is fully and completely God.
None is more or less God than the others.
Each possesses, not one third of the Godhead, but the entire Godhead in its totality; yet each lives and is this one Godhead in a distinctive and personal way.’
While appreciating that classifications can be inadequate, Bishop Kallistos goes on to say that, ‘we may say that the Spirit is God within us, the Son is God with us, and the Father God above or beyond us.
It can seem very complex and pondering this complexity, Michael Sadgrove, as Dean of Durham Cathedral, has said,
‘On Trinity Sunday we realise the impossibility of ever doing God justice by talking about him. We ask too much of language when we expect it to carry this profoundest mystery of all.’
I feel he may be right. Language is always limiting and constricting and simply by calling God ‘he’, Sadgrove has illustrated his own point; he’s used language to limit and constrict God.
Talking about the difficulties of language, T.S. Eliot says,
Crack and sometimes break under the burden,
Under the tension slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, and will not stay in place.
Those who are fascinated by words and language in the same way as some people are fascinated by number or technology, know the truth of that. They know how hard it can be for thoughts to be transferred to words on the page and still mean the same thing that they meant when they were in the head. Language restrains and constricts our thoughts.
So how can we really speak about God who is so far beyond us and yet so deep within us. God who encompasses all that has been, all that is and all that is yet to come.
The prophet Isaiah said,
‘Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as a counsellor has instructed God?
Whom did God consult for enlightenment, and who taught God the path of justice?
Who taught God knowledge, and who showed God the way of understanding?
God is mystery and western culture isn’t big on mystery. We like to have everything explainable, to see the reason, the aim, the goal in things. Mystery is scary. Most of us can barely comprehend the mystery of another person, or the mystery of our self, so it’s no surprise that we sometimes find we struggle with the mystery of God. But we can choose to engage with that mystery and its conundrums. We can seek God is silence and in prayer. We can accept that God is inexplicable. We can live in the freedom of believing just because we believe, without the need to explain how and why and what and if; without struggling to get the words from our heads onto paper.
Instead of seeing the Trinity as something we must be able to explain coherently, we can look beyond those constraints and see in the Trinity a pattern of relationship that speaks of how we are to act, to speak, to live with other people, and how we are to act towards the world and in relationship with the world. We can choose to be people who seek to be of one heart and mind and will, as we work together for justice and equality and as we strive to take the message of the love of God the Holy Trinity – the message of unity in diversity – into our community and our world.
Reverend Elizabeth Cathie
A Collect for Trinity Sunday
Almighty and eternal God
you have revealed yourself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
and live and reign in the perfect unity of love:
hold us firm in this faith,
that we may know you in all your ways
and evermore rejoice in your eternal glory,
who are three persons and yet one God,
now and forever. Amen.
Praise to the Father, who was and is and is to come.
Praise to the Son, in whose embrace we are brought to your eternal heart.
Praise to the Spirit, who fills us with recreating presence.
All glory and honour be to you, now and forever. Amen.
Take some time to pray in silence for those who are sick,
those who are bereaved,
those who are struggling with the restrictions to daily life,
and those who are on your own heart and mind this day.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
May the eternal God enfold us with love,
fill us with peace,
and lead us in hope
to the end of our days.
And the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
be with us this day and always. Amen.