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An homily for Trinity Sunday

An Homily for Trinity Sunday

A little boy came home from church ( obviously his mother hadn’t been too!) and said that the Vicar told them God was everywhere.

This is indeed true, said his mother.

“Is he in the oven when it’s hot?” he asked

“Yes, indeed” came the reply.

“Is he in the cupboard with the cups in?”


“Is he in the fridge when the door is closed and the light off?”


The boy thought a moment, “ Is he in the tea-bag tin  with a sheep on the front?”

By now his mother was getting irritated with him  and snapped “ Of course!”

And the boy  slammed the tin shut and announced triumphantly “ Got him!”

Mother has a lot more explaining to do!

As humorous as this story may be, there is some truth in it when we reflect on how people view God. There has always been a tendency in Christian history to think that God is small enough to put into a tidy  package which we  are able to control and understand completely.

The Christian creeds evolved over the centuries after Jesus life, death, resurrection and ascension. There had often been bitter squabbles amongst early Christian theologians about the nature of God.  Conflicting teachings arose about the nature of God and  his relationship to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The creeds were an attempt to draw a line under these disputes and made black and white statements about the nature of God which, in view of the tremendous number of conflicting opinions in the early years of the Christian faith, were arguably  very necessary .

Here is article one of the Church of England’s 39 articles written in 1553:

“ There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions, of infinite power, wisdom and goodness, the Maker  and preserver of all things, visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity, the  Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Quite when  credal statements and Church doctrines become an  attempt to wrap God up into tiny packages is hard to say.  Is it fair to accuse these statements of trying to create God in our own image and make him a tame, sanitized God, reducable to a few sentences? Or are they helpful in helping us to understand the nature of a God who is three persons of one substance?

Whatever that might mean!

However we understand the doctrine of the Trinity, it  has to be said that it is the only doctrine in Christian belief which has A Feast Day  given over to it. All other Christian festivals observe a specific historical event. Pope XX11 in 1334 ordered the festival to be observed annually on the Sunday after Whitsunday, what we now call Pentecost Sunday. It has been universally observed in the Christian church ever since. Thus the custom of observing a special feast in honor of the Trinity became increasingly popular in the northern countries of Europe.3 Several synods prescribed it for their respective territories in France, Germany, England, and The Netherlands. In the thirteenth century the orders of the Benedictines and Cistercians adopted the annual celebration of the feast. It was kept on different Sundays in different places, until in 1334 Pope John XXII accepted the festival into the official calendar of the Western Church and ordered that henceforth it should be held everywhere on the Sunday after Pentecost.4

What can we make of the teaching of the Trinity?

I believe that when we speak of God as The Holy Trinity; when we refer to doctrines of the Trinity; when we worship God as Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit; when we bless and greet and baptize people in the name of the triune God; we should do all this with great humility, realizing  our God is so much more than all these words can ever express.

We shall never be able to capture God; to put God in neat package of our own making. God will  always remain more than out own words and  doctrines, our beliefs and expressions of worship.  God is the Holy Wholly other God. That means that there must always be a mystery about God which is tremendous in the sense that it is awesome and overwhelming. The mysterious, Holy God is light years greater than our capacities to explain or understand God.

The Theologian  Hans Kung, in his book “ Does God  Exist” makes this point quite well by relating this story: There was a Bavarian parish priest who announced to his congregation on the Feast of The Trinity that this was so great a mystery, of which he understood nothing, that there would unfortunately be no more sermon”

I’m not so humble as him! Just a few more thoughts.

Having affirmed the deep mystery of God – reflecting that great sense of awe which  Isaiah  had in the reading – is there anything we can say of God to bring Him nearer home to us?

Yes, of course there is – in the person of Jesus Christ. Christians  believe that God came close to us in the human person – Jesus of Nazareth. When we come to know Jesus, then we come to know of God. The Holy Spirit, working in Gods Holy Word, in the sacraments, in every day life, helps us to know and see Jesus, Gods Son.

How one plus one pus one equals one remains a mystery. The relationship that exists between the three persons, yet one Godhead, are not spelled out in detail in the bible. So, the triune God – God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are known through a life of worship, and service rather than in very wordy doctrine. Although our  God language is important, all of our attempts to understand God with out minds remain partial and incomplete.

Once upon a time, so the story goes, there lived six blind men in a village.

One day the villagers told them: “ Hey, there is an elephant in the village today”

They had no idea what an elephant was. They decided that even though they could not se it, they would go and feel it anyway.

All of them went to where the elephant was. Each of them touched the elephant.

“ An elephant is like a pillar” said the first man as he felt the elephants leg.

Oh  no, “ said the second man, touching  the elephants tail, “ It is like a rope”

“ You are quite wrong, “ said the third man, “ touching the elephants trunk, “ An E is like the trunk of a tree”

“ Its like a fan” said the fourth man touching the E’s huge ear.

“ You are all wrong,” said the fifth man as he touched the belly of the elephant ,” Its id definitely like a huge wall.

“ No, it is a solid pipe “ said the sixth man, touching the E’s tusk.

So each had their own idea of what an elephant is like based on their own unique own experience.

It can be just like that with our own understanding of God.

Some of us may say God is like a Father – providing us with what we need, but maybe with elements of chastising us when we go wrong, keeping us on the straight  and narrow path.

Some of us may say God is our Mother – birthing us, nurturing us and caring for us.

How careful we have to be here of stereotypes of mother and father and how different people may have experienced their parents.

Some may say – God is like our brother, sister, friend, companion.

Some may say God is like the wind – we feel God without ever seeing what God is like but know the effect he has on our lives. Others may use images of a butterfly, a flower, a rainbow, a rock, a stone, a mountain, a thunder storm, the sea,  or fire.

For some it might be sensing God in an early morning sunrise or the quietness of a summers evening. In the smile of a young child or the tenderness of someone we are close to.  There may be many simple events that we translate as movements of God’s love.

Some may feel comfortable talking about God primarily in terms of Jesus – God’s Son. So strong may be their sense of companionship with Jesus that to them God is best expressed through Jesus language. Others may prefer Holy Spirit language, especially those deeply nurtured in the Pentecostal experience of God.

We cannot package God up into one description. There is always so much to discover about God, we must always keep exploring. Maybe this  Feast  of the Holy Trinity can help us to remember the tremendous breath and depth of God’s reality and prevent us from wrapping him up into a tidy package.

It reminds us there are many ways we can relate to and experience God – and that in Christian tradition these ways have for centuries focused on God as Father, Son and  Holy Spirit.

We are on a life-long journey of discovery of the God in whose image we are created. We are invited to share in the joy of the God who created us, who saves us, forgives  and makes us whole, who strengthens us and leads us into truth.

Let us ask God The Father, Son and Holy Sprit,  to draw close to us in the coming days and strengthen in his service. Amen.

May 30, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Thank you for your sermon for Trinity Sunday…I was browsing trying to get some ideas and came across your sermon…Some parts will be used this Sunday, with my thanks..It will be used in a small Anglican Church in a
    fishing village in Victoria, Austalia.
    God bless

    Comment by Patricia Chapman | June 9, 2014 | Reply

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