So we have come again to Trinity Sunday, that one Sunday a year that most Rectors are perfectly happy to let someone else preach. We feel like that because the doctrine of the Trinity is totally incomprehensible, and so any attempt at explaining the Trinity tends to come off the tracks pretty quickly. The Collect of the Day proclaims that God has given us “grace, by the confession of a true faith”… but many priests find it easier by far to preach to hundreds at Christmas then to discuss the Trinity…on a warm, drowsy morning in June!”1 If I flee to the word “incomprehensible” like St. Anthansius did in his creed (that we will chant in procession at the Sung Mass/just heard), I just hope that you all don’t find this sermon to be equally incomprehensible.
The aforementioned Collect of the Day is instructional, however, as are most collects of the day. Most collects have a structure. We address our God who does things: Almighty God who dost, or hast, or whose Son dost or hast. Then we state our petition: grant that we can do this or that, make us mindful of this or that, let us walk in the way of him or her. Then there’s the doxology: through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Ghost….
And so in our collect for today we acknowledge the God who has worked hard to reveal Himself to mankind, who has given us grace, who has exercised power so that we even can acknowledge Him for who He is, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and then have the privilege to worship Him.
This is no small thing: the doctrine of the Trinity separates Christianity from all other religions, even the ones we have in modern times deemed “Abrahamic”, Judaism and Islam along with Christianity. While a trinitarian God is not out of line with Judaism, to Islam the Trinity is anathema. The Quaran says the “It befitteth not (the Majesty of) Allah that He should take unto Himself a son,” and so while they honor Jesus as a prophet and are very kind to Our Lady, it’s difficult to make the leap to saying that we worship the same God. That said, I very much enjoy talking with our Muslim friends about the issue, and I think much can be gained in the conversation.
That conversation is not always comfortable, but the Trinity is worth it. Like I said before, God worked really hard to reveal Himself as Trinity, and “within the three divine Persons is the entire story of God’s interaction with humanity, from creation to the second coming. The lectionary reinforces this: we hear “in the beginning” and “even to the end of the ages.” It is not that the Trinity is in the whole Bible: rather, the whole Bible is in the Trinity. For the Father to be the Father we know through Jesus Christ, He can be no other than that God revealed from the law of Moses to the Apocalypse of John. For Jesus the Son to accomplish what He did, there can be no other Father and Spirit than those whom He revealed. The Spirit we know could proceed from no other Father and be sent from no other Son than are revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Change any of the details as we know them and the whole system mutates,”2 collapses in on itself.
And yet, still, incomprehensible. But God doesn’t exist to be comprehended; rather, we exist to love and to be loved by God. We exist because God loves to create and to then share Himself with His beloved creation, human-kind, to share that relationship He has even within Himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so that we might not only find real, eternal life for ourselves, but have that kind of relationship with each other.
That describes a pretty awesome God; incomprehensible and yet knowable, beyond our sight and yet self-revealing, impossible to grasp and yet we receive Him in the palm of our hand. Well, I guess I am perfectly happy to preach today in the Name of that blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
1Grace by Confessing Truth, The Living Church, 248-11, June 15, 2014.