Genesis 1: 1-2:4a; Matthew 28: 16 – 20; 2 Corinthians 13: 11 – 13.
There is a famous 15th century Russian icon of the Holy Trinity painted by Andrei Rublev.
It is based on the story in found in Genesis 18, it depicts the three men who visited Abraham at the oaks of Mamre. In it are three figures sitting around a table with bread and wine and the fourth place is empty. The fourth place is nearest to the viewer of the icon and is laid for the believer. The person adoring the icon, you and me.
The Trinity is not complete until we join this heavenly banquet.
As Christians we believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. We believe that there is only one God. But we know that God is made up of three separate persons. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We say three persons in one God.
Some people try and understand the Holy Trinity by finding objects that have different properties, to represent the Trinity. Water is a good example, as water can be seen in three different forms. Such as running water, frozen water such as ice, or water that has turned to steam for example when the kettle boils. But it still remains water.
We should not diminish God by bringing Him down to our level. We need to believe in the greatness and wonder of God. That God is so much more than we will ever be able to understand.
I think Isaiah had a measure of Gods greatness when he said, Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.
The Trinity teaches us that God is a community. This gives us a wonderful understanding of what God is really like. In the Trinity, there is a never ending cycle of love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So we see that God does not live alone. This is the reason why we as Christians should not live alone. To follow God’s example we need to be part of a Church and part of a community, knowing and loving and caring for each other.
As a human family we are all part of God’s world and through faith we are transformed by Gods love and invited to become part of the Trinity.
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are called ‘persons’ because this is the best word we can find to describe them; three persons in one God. They are not three somethings but three someone’s. We need to remember how imperfect and inadequate our language is when we speak about God. All the persons that we know in our ordinary lives are independent people. But the three persons who make up the Trinity are not independent persons, completely separate from each other as we are. They are always united to each other they form forever the community that is God.
We call the first person of the Trinity, Father because that is what Jesus called God. But remember that most children have two parents, a father and a mother, so we find in God the different types of love a stern masculine love and a soft feminine love. So we can say that the first person of the Trinity gives both strong and gentile love to the Son.
By doing this we recognize that God is not creator at one point in history, and then a redeemer, and then a giver of power. God is all these things all at one time. Nor is God preoccupied with one way of being God at the expense of the others. God is always Father. God is always Son. God is always Spirit. Many people find the Trinity a complicated, puzzling doctrine which does not mean anything to them. Yet the Trinity is one of the most important of all Christian beliefs.
Some people are unhappy about recognizing the persons of the Trinity, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit because they feel that this language is not inclusive or gender neutral. They want the persons of the Trinity to be known as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. So God the Father will be known as the Creator, Jesus the Son will be known as the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit will be known as the Sustainer.
This creates all kinds of problems. To begin with in the Bible Jesus teaches his disciples to call God “Our Father”. (Matt 6:9). Jesus also taught his disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Replacing the words “Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer” for the Trinity does not only do away with male references it changes the theology of the Trinity. By using these words we are giving “an incomplete list of Gods functions”. Many problems arise when we think that we are cleaver than Jesus, and instead of following his instructions we make up our own.
The word Trinity does not appear in the Bible. Even so, the experience of God as Father Creator, as Son Redeemer, as Spirit Guide and Strengthener can be known and shared. We see examples of the Trinity in our Bible. At the baptism of Jesus there is voice of the Father and the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus. The Trinity is there to be experienced.
In our reading from Genesis we are told that God created the heaven and the earth as the Nicene creed says, ‘all that is seen and unseen.’ God created order out of the formless waste, that was seen as darkness. God hovered over the darkness and said, ‘let there be light’. The Holy Spirit is present, he is seen in the awesome wind that swept over the water, The Holy Spirit gives life to God’s creation.
Because the disciples are afraid they remain in Jerusalem after Jesus arrest. Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to return to the Father, but he promises that they will not be alone, that he will send the Holy Spirit to be their comforter and guide. Once again there is mentioned of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
At the very end of Matthew’s Gospel, the risen Jesus comes to the eleven disciples. Here we see God reaching out and embracing our human frailty. This is brought home by the fact that there are only eleven disciples, not twelve, because one has already betrayed Jesus. But when the disciples see Jesus they worship him, but because of their frailty some doubt. Jesus is able to see beyond their failures. He gives the disciples a purpose, a commission. They are to ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ Here again we have the Trinity.
In Paul’s second letter to the Church in Corinth he speaks to the people and criticizes them for the way they are living. They are divided and quarreling and so are unable to live out the life of the Trinity. Paul tells them to live in peace and if they live in peace the God of love will always be with them. They are to ‘Greet each other with a holy kiss’. Finally with that hint of the great mystery of the Trinity, he says this beautiful prayer, which highlights exactly what the Corinthians were missing. ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the communion of the holy Spirit, be with you all’. The reality of God as a Trinity is – Three Persons in One God. The Trinity is there for us to experience and to share with others.
We are to immerse our whole lives in the Trinity, in the power, in the presence and in the peace, of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We are to know for ourselves and to encourage others to be aware that our lives are lived in its Triune presence.
None of the Trinity retires from loving the world. God’s love is sure and everlasting.
As children of God we never outgrow the need for God’s love. Neither do we outgrow the responsibility to share this love with others. In that sense the mystery of God invites us never to abandon the endless task of growing to understand the power behind the world we live in. Today we are called on to reflect on the life of God. The essential meaning of the Trinity has to do with life generating life. The life energy that is thus generated overflows into the entire universe, creating and renewing the face of the earth.
by Revd Peta May