Trinity Sunday Sermon

In the name of God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

So. I arrived back from my holidays all relaxed and tanned and chilled out.

And then I looked at the preaching rota.

First I found that I had scheduled myself one weekend to preach at a big diocesan service – that wasn’t so bad, I thought. I rather like a bit of drama.

But when was I scheduled to preach next for the Sunday morning congregation.

My finger ran gently down the preachers list that I had carefully constructed weeks ago.

Ah yes. 3 June. Jubilee weekend – Hmm. Quite tricky preaching about the monarchy in Scotland these days. Lets look and see what Sunday it is. Perhaps there will be a jolly story in the gospel to build something erudite upon.

Which Sunday is it on 3 June?

Ah. Trinity.

And immediately the questions begin.

Now, you may have your questions on Trinity Sunday about the One in Three and the Three in One.

I had just one philosophical question.

Why, when one has a curate, does one find oneself scheduled to preach on Trinity Sunday?

However, scheduled I was. And here to preach I am.

And then I realised something.

I realised that I was showing a weariness and a bewilderment about one of the great glories of the Christian Tradition. Maybe I was making it hard for myself.

I’ve a feeling that people get frightened about the Trinity because it feels like a mathematical problem that can never be solved. One in three and three in one.

Many people fear mathematics. And fear coming upon a mathematical problem that makes them feel silly because they can’t solve it. Arithmetic and Algebra and Calculus scares people very often. Yet I know, as someone who did his first degree not in theology but in sums, that often people are more frightened of the fear of mathematics than the solving of the problem itself. Relaxing and thinking and mulling things over can solve an awful lot of questions.

What would thinking about the Trinity be like if we let go of the idea that it is tricky to think about and hard to get our heads around? What if we just relaxed and let God move us, beguile us and enchant us.

What will we discover about God if we think about the Trinity not as a mathematical conundrum but as a calling card, or an encouragement to wonder, or an invitation to join in with a divine dance of faith.

Remember. I’ve said it before. I don’t preach to explain, I preach to beguile. And no Sunday is better for that than this Feast Day when we try to remember the Holy Trinity.

One of the things that I’ve learned to take much more seriously this year is the importance that a lot of people attach to questions about the nature of God.

We’ve run our beginners course, the God Factor three times now. Each time, we ask people to list the questions and concerns, the discussion points and the areas that they want to have covered in the course. Each time, those big questions about God keep coming up.

Does God exist?

Is Jesus God?

What is this idea about the Trinity?

It has been made very obvious to me that those questions are at the forefront of people’s minds.

I’ve a feeling that the relentless disparagement of religion by the (I think) rather shallow thinking of the new atheist movement has led some people into questioning mode.

If there are people, intelligent people, who take the idea of God seriously, how do they conceive of that God? Who is the God whom these Christians worship?

Let me just leave that question hanging for a moment. I’ll come back to it in a moment.

Let me say something about the Queen. I’ve a feeling that true Scottish Episcopalians tend not to talk about the monarchy that much in public. Having backed the wrong side a couple of centuries ago, we find the whole business of thinking about the monarchy really rather difficult. I know from my time editing the magazine of the Scottish Episcopal Church that there is no topic more sensitive than the monarchy. If someone says something controversial in any way about the Queen, I’ll get far more response than any number of controversial statements about the Usual Topic.

I’ve met the Queen once. At a big tea party in a university that was opening a new building. The queen didn’t seem to like the building and persistently asked the university administrators whether they had had to get special permission to build “such low ceilings”. I’ve a feeling that it wasn’t the ringing endorsement that they expected.

But after I’d me the Queen – everyone I met for a week said, “ooh, What was she like?”

What was she like. The curious thing is, we don’t know. There is an enigma, a mystery that surrounds her. We know that there is someone very significant there with a unique experience of human life that none of the rest of us can really grasp at.

When I was writing this sermon this week, the Archbishop of Canterbury put out a statement about the Queen which really caught the media. He said that in his dealings with the Queen he had found her to be friendly, informal and extremely funny.

People were entranced by that description. I’d very much like to think that at the heart of the enigma that is the monarchy there really is someone who is friendly, informal and extremely funny.

But does this have anything to do with the nature of God?

God somehow also seems to have a nature that we can never quite know and which can never quite be pinned down. God also clearly has a unique perspective and insight. God also inspires people to ask ….but what is God like?

The doctrine of the trinity sounds very mysterious. Yet it is one of the ways in which Christians have tried their best to answer a question which can never be completely answered. What is God like?

The one in three. The three in one.

The Father, the Son and the Holy spirit.

The creator, the redeemer, the liberator.

Now, here’s your home work for the week. Sometime in the week sit down and have a think about God. Roll those classic definitions of the Christian faith around in your mind and see whether you understand God more.

And then when you have done so. Try something new.

Ask yourself what words the church might have used to describe God if it had never settled on the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. How do you understand the different ways in which God can be known?

And then try taking those three words that Rowan Williams used to describe the Queen and imagine what the Church, the Christian Faith and your own experience would be like if they were true of God.

In the name of God who is friendly, informal and extremely funny.


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