Sermons & services

Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Published Sunday 12th June 2022, at 3:13 p.m.


I was never particularly good at maths, but even I know that 1+1+1=3. Unless you’re a Christian. In which case, 1+1+1 = 1. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity in which we proclaim this central Christian belief that God is one and yet three. Three and yet one. And believe me: don’t try and do the math. It doesn’t work. The doctrine of the Trinity is a part of divine revelation: something we could not have worked out for ourselves, but which God has revealed to us about his own inner nature. That God is one. And yet three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To which we might say: okay, if you say so. But what does that mean to me? So what? How does it impact on my life? And the truth here is this: If we believe that God sits high above us, distant and imperious, then don’t be surprised if that’s how human beings act: their actions reflecting the god they believe. We imitate the Gods we create because we make them in our own image and likeness. Likewise, if we think that God just sits around getting angry and upset all the time – well, the chances are that we will act like that. If our God is despotic and controlling: don’t be surprised if that’s how some people behave. But, if we believe that God actually loves people – well, the chances are that we will love people, too. And, if we believe that God lives in holy and healthy relationship – well, the chances are that we ourselves will try to live in holy and healthy relationship. Because the truth contained in the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is that God exists in loving relationship. We believe that God is not just one person but a community of loving persons. Father, Son, Spirit. The point is that the persons of the Godhead – Father, Son, and Spirit — love and live in ever-giving relationship with one another. And if we human beings are made in the image of that God, then we are made for relationship, too. The image of God within us is not complete - we are not complete – unless we are in relationship with other persons. I’ve pondered on last weekend’s platinum jubilee celebrations, and one of the things that has struck me is the ability of the Queen to be a unifying element in our national life. Around me it was wonderful to see people coming together for street parties: neighbours interacting once again with one another, or perhaps for the first time ever. We’ve had a tough few years. We’ve had the political divisions brought about by Brexit. Then we’ve had the isolation enforced upon us by the Covid pandemic. Both of these events have had the effect of countering the image of God within us: creating division and isolation where there should be unity and community. It’s interesting that in the Eastern Orthodox churches, Trinity Sunday and Pentecost are celebrated on one and the same day. Making the point – as Fr Daniel told us last week – that it is the Spirit that unites and gathers us: the Spirit is the uniting principle within the Holy Trinity. In practical terms, we see that in this place: St James Garlickhythe. Despite all our differences and sometimes disagreements, it is the Holy Spirit that unites us into a single body in which we see both unity and diversity: a pale and often imperfect reflection of that God in whose image we are made. And yet, that is what we do. Trying our best to live out in the practical, sometimes messy, often challenging, never dull, working out of our beliefs in life lived in community. This is why our parishes, our religious communities, are so important. This is the place where we live out our belief in the God who is Trinity. It’s often not pretty, or dramatic: and never perfect. It remains challenging: when does the legitimate desire to hold together diversity, trespass into the imperative to defend and proclaim truth? Put another way, where do we draw the line in compromising truth for the sake of holding together diversity? Yet another of putting it: are there limits to diversity? These are big questions for our time. And yet this is our vocation, our calling. To show to the world that human beings – diverse as we are – can live together in love. Not denying our differences, but recognising that what unites us is our common love of God and our faith trust in Jesus: who came to gather God’s lost children to Him. As St John tells us in his Gospel, when the high priest Caiaphas prophesied “that Jesus should die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad”. This was the vocation of Jesus and it remains ours, too. To reflect in our faith and witness, the mystery of the inner life of the Holy Trinity: the God who is unity and diversity. Into whose love and life Sybill has today been drawn. Today and for all eternity. Amen.