Sermon for Trinity Sunday
Readings: Isaiah 6:1–8; Romans 8:12–17 & John 3:1–17
I’d like you to think for a moment, that living a life of faith is like driving a car. First we learn the road rules which, in the case of our faith, would be things like the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus. Next we take lessons on how to drive a car. From the perspective of our faith, this could take the form of some organised religious instruction: be that something like Sunday School, religious education at school, preparation for baptism and confirmation, Bible Study, or a program like Alpha. Then finally, we learn from our practical experience of driving, hopefully becoming a better and safer driver through our experiences of driving in different conditions and situations. In the case of our faith, we learn through both the experience of our personal life, and our experience of life as part of a community of faith.
I learnt to drive in a manual car, and I got my licence in a manual car, but for the past 30 plus years I have driven an automatic. My daughter and both of my sons learnt to drive in an automatic, and have only ever driven a car with an automatic transmission, which seems to be fairly typical today. So we could say, that certain driving skills, such as being able to drive a car with a manual transmission, have become irrelevant or unnecessary, due to the changing circumstances of life in modern society. I think we could apply the same thinking to our faith. One of the aspects of faith that seems to lack relevance in everyday life today, is the doctrine of the Trinity. I wonder how often, if at all, we think about God in terms of the Holy Trinity – that is, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
When the Church of England was established in the sixteenth century, after it had broken away from the Roman Catholic Church, the Archbishops, Bishops and Clergy of the time agreed upon what are known as ‘The Articles of Religion’. These are a collection of thirty-nine statements of faith concerning what the Church of England, and now the Anglican Church believe in. You can probably see where I am going with this, so there is no prize for guessing what number one of the thirty-nine articles is. That’s right, it is “Of Faith in the Holy Trinity”.
Let me read it for you:
“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 both visible and invisible. And in the unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power and eternity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
Obviously the language is a little different from what we are used to, because it still reflects the language of the 16th century, but the message still comes through loud and clear. The founders of the Anglican Church considered the doctrine of the Holy Trinity to be central to the faith of the church, and yet we perhaps very rarely talk about the relevance of the Trinity in our everyday life. I would suggest we are probably more used to thinking about our faith only in terms of God the Son, that is, in terms of Jesus Christ. So what relevance does the doctrine of the Trinity have to our everyday life?
The opening verse of the Bible, which is of course from the Book of Genesis, tells us that God created everything: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth.”(Genesis 1:1 NRSV) Here we have God the Father, who has made all things, both what can be seen and what is unseen. We also know from Scripture that God was revealed to us in and through the person of Jesus Christ – God the Son. And we know that Jesus died and was raised from the dead so that each of us might be reconciled to God in a right relationship, meaning that we would be in relationship with God during the time of our mortal life here on earth, and also in the life to come beyond this mortal existence.
In the gospel reading for the Day of Pentecost last Sunday, Jesus told his disciples that when the Holy Spirit came to them, the Spirit would guide them in the truth. This meant that once the disciples had received the Spirit they would come to a full understanding of all the things Jesus had told them while he was with them. It also meant that the Spirit, residing in them, would give them the knowledge and wisdom they would need, to contend with the situations they would be faced with in their own ministry while they proclaimed the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are disciples of Jesus today, and the Holy Spirit, whom we receive at our baptism, has been sent to us by Jesus to guide our thoughts and actions in our daily life. The Holy Spirit residing in us provides us with the strength that we need to persevere when times get difficult for us, and it is also the Holy Spirit that reveals to us God’s purpose and calling for each of us.
So if we think about it, the doctrine of the Trinity is completely relevant to our everyday. God the Father, the Creator of all things, is present in all things around us. Jesus – God the Son – has revealed to us how we should live our lives in relationship with our fellow human beings, and with Creation itself, and God the Holy Spirit guides our thoughts and actions as we live out our daily life.