22nd May, 2005

Trinity Sunday

8am Low Mass & 10.30am High Mass
Sermon Preached by the Rector Fr Ian Elliott Davies

with gratitude to Mother Patricia Gillespie

Isa 40:12-17, 27-31 shall renew their strength, run and not be weary, walk and not faint
II Cor 13:11-13 all the saints greet you
St Matt 28:16-20 “go and make disciples…”

Athanasian Creed, page 864 of the BCP

All of us remember playing, when we were young children, with our toys. My favourites were cuddly teddy bears, St Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologia and something called Lego, which was a kind of building brick from which you could make helicopters, police cars, fire engines and farm houses. My brother Richard, his favourite toys were Action Man, trucks, farm yard animals made out of plastic and spiders, real British spiders. Now and again there would be a dispute, a conflict, a moment of selfishness and anger when one of us would shout MINE! and clutch at the Lego truck, cuddly teddy bear or hairy, long legged spider and refuse to allow the other brother to play or share. Our parents would have to explain to us, “you can play nicely and share with each other or not at all if you’re going to be angry and selfish.” Young children learn the limits to their possessions. The places and boundaries of where “mine” ends and “yours” begins.
Just as little, tiny babies learn “my toes” by reaching out and touching them. In the same way adults too must learn the boundaries around their own lives. It is part of maturing, growing and defining our own identity. Where do I end and you begin? How far may I step over the line into your space, physical or emotional? How far do I let you step over the boundary into what is mine? Where are the line, the boundaries to be drawn? Mr Freud a hundred years ago taught the world and all of us about Ego boundaries, social, sexual and cultural boundaries. Today contemporary psychological wisdom suggests that developing good differentiation and good boundaries is a sign of maturity and health.
Trinity Sunday is all about boundaries. Strangely enough not so much about the boundaries around what is mine or Father Stuart’s or yours or the Church’s or society’s; but boundaries, if there can be such a thing, around what or who is God the Most Holy Trinity. Boundaries around the Most Sacred Mystery of the Universe, Life and Everything That Is? eek- well a Very Happy Trinity Sunday to all of you! The Athanasian Creed, written by the Bishop of Alexandria in the Fourth Century is meant to help clarify some of these issues:
That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity,
neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory
equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty.
And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.
And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord.
And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.
Is the mystery of it all clear now? Are all God the Most Holy and Sacred Trinity’s boundaries neatly lined up and carefully defined for all of us now?
The temptation to analyze and categorize is normal and human. But I’d guess that God has a somewhat different perspective from eternity. How does one define boundaries around a boundless, limitless and ever-living God? The early Church Fathers wrote at great length about the “uncircumscribable” three persons of the Trinity using a really posh Greek term “perichoresis” – a mutual and lively self-emptying, self-giving love- almost a dance, a choreography of the sacred three together. It is a dance, a movement, a rhapsody that the Spirit invites us to join.
God understands the brokenness, the fractured character of our humanity and longs to heal, bind up, make whole what our, often childish selfishness, scatters- and God does that in the most astonishing way. Grace and salvation do not suddenly drop into our laps and all we have to do is unwrap them- grace and salvation are actually ‘at work’ deep within each and every one of us: God waits on us, pauses to hear us, invites us to participate in God’s endless, eternal self-giving conversation.
What might help to make sense for you about the Trinity is the simple truth that the God we worship is essentially a relationship. God really IS love. One person alone cannot be love. It takes a Lover and a Beloved for Love to be real. And our God is the fullness of love that overflows boundaries beyond the Lover and the Beloved. The Trinity reminds us that love overflows, always reaching out beyond itself. It is not just the “two” of us here — God and God’s church; if the love of the Holy Trinity is here it MUST reach out beyond us to the world. From a Trinitarian perspective, that old saying about “two is company, three’s a crowd” looks different. In Christ, in the Spirit, in the Father, in the One God, we are part of “the crowd” that is the Communion of Saints.
Finally, what are we doing when we listen to, or pray, or sing or recite a Creed, either the Creed of St Athanasius, or the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed? We are not making a scientific statement about the way atoms or economics or the laws of physics work. None of us, not even St Augustine or St Athanasius understand the entirety of this conversation, but by affirming or confessing a Creed we are we are participating in the history of God’s action in the world: and we are recognizing some boundaries, our limitedness and our frailty and that allows us to still play our part, to share our faith and to grow and mature in love.


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