Trinity Sunday, 4th June 2023, St Anne’s Lewes Isaiah 40.12-17, 27-end; 2 Corinthians 13.11-end; Matthew 28.16-end
On Trinity Sunday we celebrate something wonderful which stretches the limits of our human understanding. Because God exists outside the boundaries of space and time which constrain us, we can only ever talk about God in images – in metaphors and similes and allusions. Even Jesus himself is described by St Paul as the image of the invisible God.
When we come to think about the Trinity – God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and yet still one God – we have a wealth of well-worn images to choose from. There's the shamrock, with its single leaf divided into three, which, according to legend, was used by St Patrick when he preached about the Trinity. There is the example of water, ice and steam – three properties of one element. There is the poet George Herbert's beautiful musical analogy, when he describes music as 'three parts vied and multiplied'. And there is the ancient picture of a divine dance, in which Father, Son and Holy Spirit move eternally towards and around one another in a dynamic of mutual love and draw us into the dance with them.
But I want to invite you to think about this Sunday a bit differently: to imagine it as a staging post on a journey – a place to rest and reflect and look back on how far we have come. This journey began on Advent Sunday, at the start of the Christian year. During Advent we heard the stories of the patriarchs and prophets. The Old Testament image of God is not a comfortable one; all powerful and remote in his holiness, he sometimes comes across as violent, jealous and capricious. Gradually, as Israel suffered the ignominy of exile in Babylon, a new picture began to emerge, of a God who suffers with his people and will not let them go, even when they rebel against him. And, as we have travelled through Christmas and Epiphany, Lent and Easter, that picture has come to life in Jesus, the Son who shows us God the Father in his own person, reaching out to the poor and insignificant, loving, healing, dying and rising – sharing our human life in order to transform it. So now, when the Holy Spirit has come in wind and fire at Pentecost, we know that this is not the power of anger or jealousy but the power of love. The Spirit reflects the truth about Jesus just as Jesus reflects the truth about the Father. They are three, but they are one.
There are echoes of this journey in the loveliest of Jesus's parables, the story of the Prodigal Son. When the prodigal is down and out among the pigs, his view of his father is of a remote and frightening figure who might take him back on sufferance as a servant, but who would never forgive him. But when he summons up the courage to go home, he finds that his father is running towards him with open arms, full of love. That love is so powerful that it reaches out to the boy and enfolds him, just as the Holy Spirit makes the grace of God come to life in our own hearts.
This isn't the end of our journey. Today is not just a staging post but also a signpost. In the second half of the Christian year, which lies ahead of us, we start to think about the outworking of our faith in this Trinitarian God in our lives and in the world, and about the promise of an eternal life in which we will have no more need of pictures and images and metaphors, because we will see God face to face in all his glory. But for the time being we have all that we need to know. That is the confidence that comes across in our readings this morning. 'Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength', promises Isaiah. 'I am with you always, to the end of the age' says Jesus to his disciples. 'The God of peace and love will be with you', says Paul to the young church at Corinth. May this confidence be ours today, and may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.