A sermon for Trinity Sunday 2020 preached by Fr. Richard Howells
Trinity Sunday – 2020.
Today the Church celebrates the revelation to us of the nature of God, namely that God has been revealed to us as Trinity – the creator Father, the redeemer Son, and the sustaining and empowering Spirit. One God, three persons, equal and from all time.
It is on the face of it a very difficult idea, indeed libraries of books have been written about it, and the history of the early church was littered with increasingly ill-tempered arguments about the specific details of the relationships between the three persons. My own favourite thought on this comes from St Anslem who was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 11th century. He advocated approaching such difficult things bearing in mind the idea that so often “faith seeks understanding”, in that order. ‘Fides Quarens Intellectuam’, first we believe, literally trust, and in time the reality of that faith brings understanding. It might sound odd, but it isn’t that abstract – many people remember when for example they first fell in love, or imagined themselves committing to another for life. We trust in the love we feel, but only in time is there a deeper understanding of what that can mean. Sometimes difficult choices in life can only be tackled by trusting in our truth, in our beliefs and walking forward seeking understanding, and having both hope and patience.
That God is Trinity means that at the heart of all things is relationship, connection, richness in difference and unity. The persons of the Trinity need each other at the very deepest level, without each part there is no whole. I think this is a wonderful idea, and one which has eternal importance for humanity.
Presently the world is being shaken by many trials. The Corona virus has shown us how we are connected in our vulnerability, our need of each other. We have come to understand the value of others we have perhaps never given a thought about, and have come to see the increased danger some are in, and how to maintain unity we need to try to level out these inequalities that serve to divide humanity, for we are nothing without the other. Equality we are coming to see needs to be created continuously, it doesn’t exist naturally except that in the very heart of God all are of equal value.
In this past week there has been a huge response of pain and anger to the murder of George Floyd by a policeman in the US. Racism is a huge scar not only on America but the world over, and violence especially officially condoned violence turns hatred and prejudice into lethal action. If as Christians we accept our profound connection and need of each other, accept that relationship is at the very heart of God, then anything that divides humanity, anything that causes hatred, or pain, or suffering is definitively not of God. Seeing in another only that which is different, fearing that difference, accepting without question the starkly different possibilities and outcomes other people lives have, all this isn’t of God. The Trinity’s three persons must lead us to believe that in diversity there is richness, and in unity there is strength. But I wonder if as most Christians don’t spend a lot of time wondering about the Trinity, humanity spends little time trying to really imagine the lives of others. If we did how could we accept that the colour of your skin can get you killed, can keep you from healthcare, economic security, can condemn you to prison? It seems we need to make the fundamental relationship to others the guiding though of humanity. Racism is disgusting, but it thrives because of other divisions, power, wealth, freedom, education, health, opportunity, hope, these things are not equally structured for all people. We who have privilege, power and wealth probably never stop to wonder why- being white, male and western for example is a pretty good start in life, but we still see our successes as earned, and others’ exclusion as their own fault.
What is being offered I think by these tragic events is, not unlike the virus period itself, a moment to really listen to what is being said and question how this can still be the reality for so many people alive in the world today? We are being called on this Trinity Sunday I believe to reflect on the relationship at the heart of God, one of equality, love and mutual dependence, and to question how we have built a world where so many people are not included, are marginalized and brutalized. Finding our necessary connections to every other person is surely the starting point?
Fr. Richard Howells