A sermon preached by Graham Low on Sunday 12th June 2022
As I began to think about Trinity Sunday several points came to mind. The first is the remarkable piece of organ music called Variations on the Mystery of the Trinity composed by Olivier Messiaen at the end of the 1960s. He was organist of the Church of La Sainte Trinite – Holy Trinity- in Paris and where we once heard him play some profoundly mysterious music at Mass. Its nine movements last about 75 minutes and cover such themes as The Father of The Stars, God’s holiness, the communicable language we use of God, that God simply is, God is immense, unchanging, eternal, breathing through the Spirit, God is our Father, Love, The Son, simple, the name God gave himself at the burning bush. And characteristically for Messiaen, there is birdsong. This music offers a perspective beyond words.
Another image of the Trinity is that immediately before I was ordained in Chichester the retreat leader stressed that we were to be ordained in a cathedral that was originally dedicated to the Holy Trinity and that this trinity is holy and indivisible. And he said that worshipping that trinity was at the heart of the ministry we were about to begin.
A further image is of my last parish, in Horsham, in a church dedicated to the Holy Trinity. It was a happy eucharistic worshipping community with a choir, sunday school, youth group, drama group, house groups, much involvement in local ecumenical activity, thoroughly enjoying social life with food and drink, and it had a pastoral heart. There was a sense of the trinity about it.
Perhaps these three references to the trinity may remind us that the concept of the trinity is about mystery, as well as a description of God which is accepted by the Christian churches to a large degree, but which remains open to much discussion in theological circles. And within the concept we can sense the way that God shapes our life.
Our gospel readings in recent weeks have stressed abiding in Christ and thus, through him, or in him, our relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Through abiding in Christ we humans share the life of God, not by becoming God, but by being drawn into the life that the Son shares with the Father. The original Greek words here speak of being drawn into the dance of God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit respond to each other in love. Some years ago Malcolm Guite wrote that when we enter the life of the Holy Spirit at our baptism we are called out of darkness, chaos, chance, to improvise a music of our own, to sing the chord that calls us to the dance, three notes resounding from a single tone, to sing the end in whom we all begin: our God beyond, beside us and within.
Trinity Sunday reminds us once again that we are to be drawn into this dance. In today’s gospel the disciples are assured by Jesus that his departure from them was but the doorway to a new beginning. The Holy Spirit would guide them and glorify Jesus to them. In today’s passage from Proverbs, wisdom calls us wherever we can be waylaid – on mountains, roadsides, by city gates, by the temple entrance. We are called to find her and so come to find life and favour from God.
Paul reminds us that it is through Christ that we have access to the grace in which we live, and that we can hope to share God’s glory, as a result of experiencing God’s love flowing into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Our worship of God today, as always flows from the being of God, revealed in Christ. That is what we are invited and bidden to participate in whenever we come to worship.
Todays’ collect is strong on doctrine. Controversial though doctrine may often be, the church needs doctrine to provide a framework in which we can be free to worship. In the fourth century the church was faced with the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ, and that the one God is to be found in three persons. This led the church to start formulating its creeds, and it also often concluded its prayers and hymns with a trinitarian form. About a century later the Athanasian Creed expounded the doctrine more fully, while retaining an element of mystery in its language to give voice to wonders beyond human understanding and language.
A week ago Pentecost was about language that transcends human constraints to proclaim God’s wonders. Today, Trinity Sunday, is about the limits of language to express our worship. Today our hymns and our eucharistic prayer in particular express our response to God’s wonders. But furthermore today is a day when we also mindful that language gradually surrenders to transcendence as we end our prayers in the name of the trinity, and in the eucharistic prayer as we say or sing the words: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts: heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
May we always follow our calling to be lost in wonder, love and praise. Amen.