Sermon for Trinity Sunday
Now apologies if some of what I say this morning rings any bells. I have used these analogies before and I can’t think of better ones! The idea, the concept of the Trinity often has us tied up in knots. We are not alone – for centuries us humans have struggled to comprehend this mystery. Theologians with their massive intellects, with brains far bigger than ours, have wrestled with it and written great tombs about it in efforts to try and explain and pin it down.
Words have their limits. There are spaces between words and it is in those spaces that the mystery exists.
It is in the space in between the words that can be the vehicle of grace; that somehow can reach us, touch us and then the incomprehensible can suddenly, inexplicably begin to make sense.
Pictures, paintings, and images speak into our hearts in ways that just words can’t. Images fill in the gaps.
Like when you see a beautiful sunrise – you can try describing it but it doesn’t quite capture it in the same way a picture can. Like when you try and take a photo of fireworks at night – when you look back at the picture the next day it is just a small flash of light in the sky- rather disappointing – it doesn’t look the same as when you were actually there looking up at it in person.
So it is with the Trinity. Words can’t capture a dynamic flow, a cosmic dance of three divine beings, an energy – a movement.
So we are going to look at three different ways of imaging the Trinity.
One is a painting, one is a fidget spinner and one I will describe and you will need to employ your imagination!
So first is this image. Do you know what this is called?
Abrahams Hospitality created by Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev in the fifteenth century which was based on the reading from Genesis that we’ve just heard.
In this icon there are three primary colours which illustrate facets of the triune God.
He used Gold to depict the Father – illustrating perfection, fullness, wholeness – the ultimate source.
He considered blue the colour of the human – both sea and sky mirroring one another and therefore God in Christ taking on the world – taking on humanity. So Christ is in blue and he his displaying his two fingers to tell us that he has put matter and Spirit, divinity and humanity together within himself.
And then there’s green representing the Spirit – a quality of divine aliveness that makes everything blossom and bloom, grow and thrive – a transforming presence.
The Holy one in the form of three, eating and drinking in infinite hospitality and utter enjoyment between themselves.
If we take the depiction of God in the Trinity seriously, we have to say ‘in the beginning was the relationship’.
Every part of it was obviously mediated on with great care: the gaze between the three, the deep respect between them as they all share from a common bowl. And notice the hand of the Spirit pointing towards the open and fourth place at the table.
Is the Holy Spirit inviting, offering, and clearing a space? If so, for what? For whom?
If you look at the front there seems to be a little rectangular hole painted there. Some historians say that that there was glue there – perhaps for a mirror.
So as you stood and gazed upon this picture you yourself would have transported into the scene – a table laid, waiting for you to join in, to participate in this divine flow.
Lets move to the next image. You will need to use your imagination for this so can I invite you to close your eyes.
The Franciscan philosopher/theologian Bonaventure (1221–1274) described the Trinity as a fountain fullness of Love. Picture three buckets on a moving waterwheel. Each bucket fills and empties out, then swings back to be filled again. The Father empties into the Son, nothing held back. The Son empties into the Spirit, nothing held back. The Spirit empties into the Father, nothing held back. The reason they can empty themselves out is they know they will be filled again. They know that the centre of the universe is infinite love.
But if you don’t believe that infinite love is the centre of the universe, you live in a scarcity model where there’s never enough—food, money, security, mercy—to go around. You can’t risk letting go because you’re not sure you’ll be refilled. If you’re protecting yourself, if you’re securing your own image and identity, then you’re still holding on.
The Three all live as an eternal and generous self-emptying, the Greek word being kenosis.
Your ego remains full of itself, which is the opposite of kenosis. This is the nature of almost all human institutions and systems created by the egoic mind.
This third way of looking at the Trinity involves this fidget spinner.
When still, a fidget spinner clearly has three different lobes; however, when it spins we lose sight of the distinct wings and simply see unbroken movement or flow. Even more significant than the qualities of the individual members of the Trinity is the flow between them. At the Trinitarian level, God is a verb more than a noun, God is a flow more than a substance, God is an experience more than a deity sitting on a throne. And we live naturally inside that flow of love—if we do not resist it.
Infinite love is planted within humans and all of creation. Everything is attracted to everything: life is attracted to life; love is attracted to love; God in you is attracted to God in everyone and everything else. This is what it means for everything to be created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God placed this alluring attraction of life toward life in everything that God created. Thus, we might say the Trinity is the soul of creation.
So these are three different ways of describing the Trinity.
But as we said at the beginning, words can’t do it justice and, in many ways, miss the point. This flow, this divine dance between Father, Son and Holy Spirit is something to be experienced, to be felt, to be embraced; something to be joined in with.
Poetry can sometimes fill the space between the words too, so I’d like to finish with this poem of the Trinity by Malcom Guite. You may like to close your eyes.