What a gift it is to be called upon, with one day’s notice, to speak on the unexplainable mystery of the Holy Trinity of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I might be being a little sarcastic!
I spent a few moments thinking “how do I explain the Trinity?”, but then remembered that is the pitfall of many a preacher.
The Trinity – God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a unity in diversity; a threeness in one – the Trinity is quite simply beyond human comprehension, beyond the categories we have. It’s like the particle physics of quarks and Higgs-boson units meeting the general theory of universe creation: things are so complicated that they leave even the greatest minds baffled.
But while we can’t learn about the mechanics of the Trinity, we can look at the relational core. And in the core of the Trinity we find love.
We have the Holy Spirit, joyfully serving Jesus Christ, glorifying Jesus and bringing back the words of Christ to our minds and hearts. The Spirit seeks only to remind us of the truth and of wisdom, and to guide us back to the truth, back to wisdom.
The truth is in Jesus, and in the words of Jesus: he is the Word, the source of wisdom and truth. The Spirit, the fire of the glory of God, able to incinerate the universe in a split second, is in fact gentle, kind, caressing, leading us always not to worship of the Spirit, but to the Son of God.
And Jesus Christ, Son of God, begotten of God, of one being with the Father: Jesus Christ seeks not to exalt himself. He came from God, in the form of God, yet emptied himself, becoming like a servant. Becoming like a human, like you and me.
And being in human form, he humbled himself further, allowing others to hurt him, being submissive even to death on a cross. Jesus did not exalt himself, he served us. Again, the essence of Jesus is serving love.
So we have the Spirit bringing glory to Jesus, pointing all the time towards Christ.
And we have Jesus, serving us, calling us all back to obedience and loyalty to God.
And then there is Father Almighty, the ruling judge of the cosmos, rightfully able to obliterate the evil, sinful, rebellious humans that we are, we who have spat in his face, deliberately ignored his instruction, brought destruction to his good earth, and who abuse the likeness of God in our fellow humans: God the Father, who instead of striking us with judgement, came to us in love to save us, offering us – if we choose it – a way back to Himself.
Thus we find at the core of the universe not hatred, bitterness, chaos or randomness, but love. The Spirit who loves Jesus. Jesus, who loves the Father. And the Father, who loves the Son and Spirit: a Trinity of love that reaches out to us in love.
And love, in case you are unsure, is not the warm fuzzy feeling – anyone can have that. Love is sacrificial service. You know what love is when you sacrifice a night’s sleep to be with a crying child. Or you help wash and clean a dying parent to make them more comfortable. Love leads us to make uncomfortable sacrifices. And the ultimate sacrifice was Christ on the cross, giving his pure life to ransom us from the consequences of our choices.
On the front of your service sheets, you will see a picture of Andrei Rublev’s famous icon from the 1400s. The chaplain in Moscow loves this icon, and gave me a little picture of it, and when we sat discussing our plans for the week, we sat under a copy of the icon.
It shows three angels but represents a picture of the Trinity. You see them all nodding towards one another: Christ and the Holy Spirit bringing glory to God: yet God giving glory back to them. The icon shows the unity of purpose, of mind. There is no division or selfish desire in God.
Yet look at the shape of the two angels nearest you. Follow the line from their arms to their legs, and you see a cup shape emerge: one edge on the left, the other edge on the right.
And in the middle of that cup is the actual cup on the table.
We can’t escape in this icon the image of Christ’s blood, shed for you and for me. Jesus who made the great sacrifice on the cross, spilling his own blood, to save you and me from ourselves, from the alienation we create as we choose rebellion and not God.
So as we come to communion today, as we bring ourselves and our messy lives, our brokenness and our wilful rebellion against God, let us remember the essence of God’s love for us: his willingness to sacrifice and suffer to offer us a way back.
We won’t understand the Trinity intellectually, but we can know the love that binds God, and pray that we may have the grace to practice sacrificial love to our family and neighbours more and more. And as we learn to exalt Jesus and deny ourselves, we too will begin to reflect the love of God found in the Trinity.
Let us pray:
Help us Lord to understand the extent of your love towards us. Help us to repent of our selfish ways and follow you, and learn to live in peace and love, caring for the people around us. Help us Lord to welcome the work of your Spirit in our lives, pointing us to Jesus, who shows us how to live rightly and bring glory to God. Amen