All we need is Trust
A sermon for Trinity Sunday by Jan Coates, 7 June 2009
So, this is Trinity Sunday. I have to say that the concept of the Trinity is not all that mysterious to me – being a multiple personality (like most Mums), it isn’t hard to comprehend the concept of being three in one and one in three, although there are times when being three separate physical identities would be really useful. But there is more to the mystery than this: trying to reduce it to such simplicity does not do justice to the doctrine, yet making it so difficult that no-one can understand it doesn’t help either. Is there a happy medium? I wish there was, but I don’t see it: we just need to accept that the Trinity is the Trinity, and it’s something we may never fully comprehend. But isn’t that the case with most of the things we are called to believe in our fellowship with Christ? There are many things that are hard to accept: forgiveness, love, guidance, criticism, even some of the Apostle’s Creed and the Ten Commandments. How can the God who doled out retribution to the Egyptians the way he did in the Old Testament also be the God of love and forgiveness presented to us in Christ? Even the idea that God is omnipresent and omnipotent is hard to work out. My psyche is such that I cannot comprehend a conscious entity that is everywhere all the time, never mind the bit about being all-powerful. Try explaining to non-Christians the place of God in the major catastrophes of our world – and then please explain it to me.
Like Nicodemus in John’s Gospel, we realise that logic, education and life experience will not necessarily show us the truth, and we accept the teaching of Christ. Not everything can be explained: like the wind, we don’t know where things come from, or where they go, only that they happen. We need to ignore sensibilities that say it isn’t possible, the reason that asks why and how and even why not. Things happen that are beyond our capacity to comprehend. Our need to know and control must take second place to believing that God really does know better; we should accept the referee’s decision and get on with the game. The life that comes through Christ, who was lifted up to focus our trust on God, depends on our faith in that Christ. I have faith that my car will start in the morning; that my kids will be safe at school; that my husband will come home from work each night. There is no real basis for that faith. Think about your day: how often do we put our faith in people and things – to work in a particular way, to happen the way we envisage, to grow a certain way, to react in a certain manner? We place faith and trust in all sorts of things with no logical basis for doing so. We do it without thinking, often without even realising that we are doing it. We place our trust in inanimate objects, strangers, family and friends. So why do we have so much trouble putting our faith in Christ? Why is it so hard to trust that God will provide what we need?
A book with an unusual portrayal of God is ‘The Shack’, which I know a number of people have read, or at least heard about. I haven’t finished it yet, but the concept of a human being spending a weekend with the Holy Trinity is only the first level of confrontation. Next we have God portrayed as a large, jolly black woman, Jesus as a not really handsome, but striking, young carpenter, and the Holy Spirit as a surreal shimmering woman – all of which requires, as someone said to me, ‘suspension of belief’ so as to not to be distracted from the gist of the story. But it is a portrayal that gives reason to pause and think. There is such a strong bond between them of love and caring; the kind of selfless love that gives everything, and then gives some more. The love that draws you in, to believe that this is the way that life should be lived: that in Christ, in God, in the Holy Spirit, we find what we need, without proof, despite our life experiences, in defiance of reason or logic.
Nicodemus, presumably an eye witness to the miracles Jesus performed, couldn’t get his head around what Jesus was saying about the Holy Spirit. He is told there is no proof that what Jesus says is truth: it has to be taken on trust. No-one has seen, or will see God, face-to-face. No amount of logic will explain the ways of God: no amount of education will explain the works of Christ: and no amount of reasoning will confirm the existence of the Holy Spirit. If Nicodemus had trouble with it all, it really isn’t any wonder we are having trouble with it when we are so much further removed from the source.
So, how do you see the Trinity? The Father: male, with long white beard and hair, Jesus: young male with great carpentry skills, and the Spirit: ethereal and unseen? Or, the Father: dark skinned, close cropped beard, Jesus; skilled orator and good looking, the Spirit: a tongue of flame? The physical characteristics are not all that important. It is what the Trinity represents that matters: the open community of love and peace. The community into which Christ invites us, not just here, as we join together to share the bread and wine each week, but every day of our lives wherever we are. The Trinity, no matter how you see them – as two men and a woman, as black or white or something in between, as three separate entities with a great bond of empathy, as one entity with three different aspects to their personality - is central to our life. I need the humanity of God in Christ, I need the all powerful guide of the Spirit, and most of all I need to know that someone loves us.
Do we need to understand the Trinity to believe in it? Can we live by logic, reason and proof alone? Or do we find fullness of life by believing in the one ‘sent on a cosmic rescue mission’ of love and redemption? The reasoning might be confusing, the logic non-existent and the proof invalid, but none of that makes the Trinity any less believable. None of it makes God’s love any less real. None of it makes Christ’s sacrifice any less awesome. All we need is to trust.