Friday, May 16, 2008

Mad Priest Trinity Sermon

Since I worship at Trinity Cathedral, Trinity Sunday is a very big feast day for us. The Bishop offiates, and we do conformations. And there is usually good food to be had after the service. I have therefore become very interested in the mystery of the Trinity, and found the Mad Priests' Trinity Sunday sermon this year especially useful and insightful. You really ought to read the whole thing, but here are some highlights:

Nowadays, the doctrine of the Holy Trinty is still very important in Church politics. For example, a church has to hold to it to become members of the World Council of Churches. And the doctrine has also become very important in modern theology as a key to understanding relationships between Christians. But my guess is that most Christians don’t think about it much. They accept that it is something they are supposed to believe in but, being human, they still see the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as three distinct individuals and relate to them as individuals.

I have to admit that is the way it is with me. I affirm the Trinity when I recite the Creed every Sunday morning, and I’m happy to accept the mystery of it. But when I think about the three persons of the Trinity the mystery becomes the old man with a beard off the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Robert Powell and a pigeon. What can I say? I’m a human being and unable to think in paradoxes. And to be honest, if it was to be proved that our idea of the Trinity is wrong it would not effect my faith very much. I am Christian because of the words of Christ , my relationship with the Father and the help of the Holy Spirit. I am not a Christian because of theology, although I love theology dearly.

However, having said that, I do believe that there are things we can learn from the Church’s description of the Godhead that can help us as individuals and as communities of believers, live together in a more Kingdomlike manner than we tend to do. This morning I want to look at three characteristics of the Trinity that we can use as a model for our own lives.

Firstly, the Trinity is unity. It is the most perfect example of unity that exists. God is perfectly one. The paradox is that although we perceive three persons within the Trinity, God cannot be divided into parts, God is always one. God is perfection. To divide God into pieces would make him less than perfection, and so less than God, and so not God at all. God has to be one.

And what should this perfect example of unity mean to us? Well for a start it means that the Church, the bride of Christ, should always strive for unity, within itself and with God. At the moment the Church seems to be pulling itself to pieces. Every time some faction disagrees with another faction, the first thing that is threatened is that the aggrieved party is going to leave and set up their own church, their own integrity, and they are no longer in communion with anybody else because they could not possibly share the lord’s Supper with anybody who disagrees with their point of view.

Schism and threats of schism are not examples of good Trinitarian behaviour. The Trinity pulls itself into one, it brings together, it does not rend asunder. For God’s people to pull themselves apart, to pull themselves away from each is not following in Christ’s footsteps. We are all distinct people, and we remain distinct, but within the Church, each one of us, individuals that we are, should be coming together with each other to celebrate our diversity and to celebrate our unity. Such a thing is possible because we see it in the example of the Trinity, its just a lot more difficult than turning our backs on each other.

This leads to my second point. The Trinity is Community. Again the most perfect example of community. We see the three persons of the Trinity working together as one. Each person in the Trinity is an aspect of the one God, each seems to have its own function, but each function would be worthless without the functions of the others. God is perfect community, and his Church should strive to be the same. Belief is communal, it is not an individual act, you cannot be a Christian in isolation, that would be a contradiction in terms, because so much of our faith is concerned with being a community, with loving each other, with loving God, of being part of the vine of faith, with each of us offering our individual and distinctive gifts to each other and to God. Working together as the community of the Kingdom of God.

Thirdly, the Trinity is inclusive, not exclusive.The Trinity wants to involve everything within itself. The Father wants to draw the whole of creation back to himself. Jesus involves the outcast within the kingdom. The Holy Spirit involves the whole world within the chosen people of God. With this example the Church of God cannot be exclusive, we cannot refuse admission to the Church to people who embarrass us, or annoy us or who are different to us in some physical or mental way, because God is not like that. As I said, God wants to draw his people to himself, it is his people who so often choose to walk away from him, not visa versa.

Read it all here.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Thanks. I enjoyed the sermon and being introduced to the Mad Priest. I just posted a reference over at