The recording above is the full audio recording of this week’s service.
Good Morning and welcome to you all whether you are joining with us online or here in the building with us.
Opening Prayer – Collect for Trinity Sunday
faithful and unchanging:
enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth,
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love,
that we may truly worship you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
On Trinity Sunday let us stand as we declare together our belief using the words of the Nicene Creed
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is,
seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
As you will already be aware, today is Trinity Sunday. It is the one day in the church’s liturgical calendar that does not remember or celebrate a festival or event but is actually all about a doctrine. And it is for that reason that many preachers try to avoid speaking about it at all costs – in fact some have been known to book leave to avoid preaching on it. And I have to admit, having volunteered to preach on Trinity Sunday I did wonder what I had set myself up for. However, the Trinity is central to our beliefs – and to the belief of most mainstream Christian churches expressed in the various creeds, including the Nicene creed we have used this morning. So we cannot hide our heads in the sands and try to avoid it, however difficult it may be or whatever the anxieties about teetering into heresies.
The concept of the Trinity is not easy – and has been mired in controversy since it was first agreed at the Council of Nicaea in AD 341 and amended at the first Council of Constantinople in AD381. But it was not until the end of 4th century that the version of the creed we would recognise today was finally agreed. And throughout this time, as I said, the church was dealing with various controversies (or what became labelled as heresies). Now I am not going to spend any time on this you will be pleased to know – there have been huge tomes written about it with theologian tying themselves in convoluted knots – and it can become a very dry and merely intellectual exercise when what we need to look at are three important questions:
- Is it true i.e. can I say the words of the creed with confidence?
- Is it relevant or does it matter?
- What is the impact of the Trinity?
Is it true?
Well it is certainly true is that the term Trinity cannot be found in the Bible – it is not a term that Jesus nor any of the apostles ever used. In fact it was not until the late 2nd century that the first recorded use of the word can be found. However, the three fold nature of God is woven into the gospels and other new testament writings as well as in the Old Testament. Think about the reading we heard earlier today – which included probably the most well loved and well known Biblical verse – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. Salvation came about because of the gift of God of his Son. But what about the Spirit you may ask. You only have to look earlier in the passage, at the start of his conversation with Nicodemus, when he talks about being born of the Spirit. But if that is not sufficient for you, let’s look at some other passages.
Last week was Pentecost and Neil preached on the gift of the Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus to his followers – the Counsellor, the Advocate, the gift from the Father in the name of the Son. . This was after Jesus had explained that “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” And you will find more of this in the following chapter when Jesus declares “All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he [the Spirit] will take what is mine and declare it to you”.
At the end of Matthew’s gospel we have the great Commission where Jesus refers to all three aspects of the Godhead. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit”
And in 2 Thessalonians 2:16 Paul wrote “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word”.. The word ‘comfort’ here is the same ‘paraclesis’ that is used in John to talk about the Spirit
But does it matter?
As I have mentioned, the Trinity is usually considered to be a complicated theological concept – it is implicit but not explicit in the New Testament. As Paul Oakley said to me a number of years ago, it is easy to get yourself tied up in knots trying to explain the Trinity – so talk about how we relate to the Trinity.
So to respond to the question of whether or not the Trinity matters, I believe it does matter because God matters and how we experience God matters. Yes, God is God, God is Jesus and God is Spirit – but the key is in the dynamic relationship they have with one another and the relationship the Triune God has with us. It is much more than a theological doctrine but an expression of the Godhead as love.
To know God as Saviour is to know Him as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But there is an inherent danger in emphasising one element of the Trinity above another. If we concentrate solely on God the Creator and Father (or Mother – because let’s not forget that God is both male and female) to the exclusion of the Son or Holy Spirit we lose sight of the sacrifice of Christ and the the source of life giving energy and guidance who provides the means to live the life that God wants. Or if we concentrate solely on Jesus as Saviour then we lose the focus of the fact that ‘God so loved the world– that he sent His son’ as a means not only of our salvation but for the world he created. And finally, if our focus is solely on the Spirit and the charismatic gifts He gives we can lose sight of God as Creator, Son as Redeemer, and the role that the Holy Spirit played and plays in both of those aspects of God’s work..
So yes, the Trinity matters because how we experience God matters.
What is the impact of this
The inter-twined love of the Trinity is a perfect example of intimacy and relationship and how we should respond and behave towards each other. If we are serious about what we believe, what our faith is, then this has to have an impact on the world. If we can see beyond our own needs and own wants, to see not just what the world needs but our neighbours and our community, then the life we live as community, in the community, will be changed. If we can acknowledge that, as part of following Jesus, we are all accountable for initiating, building, and maintaining relationships, in building that community, then perhaps we will reflect more the heart of God and what a life of discipleship looks like
The diversity of God as shown in the Trinity should affect us in our worship, in our personal lives, in the wider world. The unity of the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the love and trust, giving and receiving that each part of the Trinity gives to the other should challenge us about the divisions within our institutions, within society, in our relationships, and in ourselves. Above all, the love of the Trinity should fill us with awe and thankfulness – that the God who is eternal now lives within us, that the Son who came to die for us now meets us in communion, that the Triune God invites us to wonder and adore, to repent and believe, to trust and receive
In our reading today Nicodemus’ view of God is challenged by Jesus. The question we need to ask ourselves is – what is our view of God? Do we limit God to just Jesus or as Father by not embracing the breadth of the Trinity?. Do we find some aspects of Godhead more challenging than others and do we ever question why that would be?
The Trinity can be difficult to understand, especially if you allow it to be no more than an intellectual argument. But at its heart is the famous statement that was read this morning. ‘God so loved’ – the immutable, inexplicable, almighty Creator loves us. He loved us enough to send His son to die for us. He loves us enough to send His spirit to live within us. I am loved. You are loved. Because God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is love.
- What do the three persons of God each offer us? Do different persons of the Trinity speak to different aspects of us?
- How do we address God when we pray – and what does this say about how we visualise and relate to God?
- How does our relationship with one person of the Trinity lead us into relationship with the others? Do we need to experience God through all of these persons?
Prayers of Intercession
God our maker, you so love the world,
that you entrust us with its safe keeping,
to cultivate, nurture and tend the garden;
to relax and enjoy the produce of its bounty;
to push away at the boundaries of science,
and make our own contribution.
Grant us wisdom and understanding.
God our Saviour, you so love the world,
that you bequeath us your ministry,
to spread the good news, to care as neighbours;
to speak out against what is not right;
and herald the coming of your kingdom.
Grant us wisdom and mercy.
God the Holy Spirit, you so love the world,
that you fill us with your power
to make a difference and bring about change;
to draw others to a deeper knowledge of you
and leave a better legacy for generations to come.
Grant us wisdom and grace.
We ask in your name: Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Holy Trinity of God.
The Lords Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore
The Father says ‘I have loved you from before you were born
and I will love you when life is no more’.
Through the Father’s love you can be set free.
Through the Son’s sacrifice you can know you are free.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit you can live in the
freedom that was bought for you.
The Lord says go now and live – not as slaves
but as those set free
to live and serve the Lord
The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.
The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.
“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”