Trinity Sunday 2018 B
Isaiah 6 1-8
We all know in our own lives how important relationships are – that was one of the things we were celebrating last weekend with the royal wedding and our own parish weekend. It shouldn’t surprise us to find that relationships are also important for God – or perhaps that should be the other way round – its because relationships are important for God that they are important for us too Either way, its this question of relationship that we consider and celebrate on Trinity Sunday, as we contemplate this most difficult of doctrines. Three in one and one in three… one God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. The more you think about it the more obscure it seems. Smoke gets not only in your eyes but in your brain – as it did for Isaiah in the temple….
Never mind all the old illustrations – 3 legged stools, shamrocks and clovers, ice/water/gas, the school children’s favourites of the jammy dodger – biscuit, cream and jam – or jaffa cake: chocolate, orange, sponge…. – .
Let’s look instead to scripture to help us with this.
We know that God made us in his image, and that in Genesis God declared “It is not good for human beings to be alone”. And as we look to Jesus to see how that need for relationship was expressed in his life – a human life lived to perfection- we see how he engages both with the people that he encountered in his earthly ministry, and also deeply, intimately with his heavenly Father, in the power of the Spirit. It’s a part of the wonder and generosity of God that we are invited to be part of a relationship that is already perfect. In fact, God longs to include us…..
So although the Trinity as an explicit doctrine is nowhere set out, explained, in the bible, we can see it being lived out in Jesus, as he turns continually to his father in the power of the spirit.
It is amazing that though God exists in relationship with God – God seeks relationship with us as well, and draws us into God’s redemptive work in the world.
That’s the message of the Isaiah reading.
We hear of the prophet coming, as we do ourselves, to worship God …perhaps with no great expectations.
But againstall expectation, he has a transforming experience…. he sees God in the royal court, with cherubim and seraphim in attendance. A vision of heavenly glory that puts even the most extravagant royal wedding celebration to shame. Heaven and earth touching as worship takes place.
Isaiah responds as many of us would in the face of such glory and purity, trying to turn away, hide himself, bewailing his unworthiness, seeing the impossible gulf between himself and God, the hem of whose robe (the hem alone) filled the temple. Woe is me…he says
I’m not equal to the vision…small, inglorious, I don’t belong in this holy place, tarnished by life’s guilt as I am.
But God sees things differently.
God sees: not inadequacy but potential…God offers Isaiah pardon, transformation – and a clear call to mission.
Just so in the gospel reading Jesus offers Nicodemus new life, transformation… in words that are hard to grasp even for this sophisticated theologian and Jewish leader… hard because the ideas are so new…. Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” 8The windblows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ 9Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’
Ideas that are hard because they are so clear and yet so improbable …. 16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
In both these stories – Isaiah and Nicodemus – we see a call to relationship…
who shall I send, who will go for us?
except a man be born again….
And so we see – though we may not understand – that the relationship of God in Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit bound together in love – is not a closed circle, it’s open, reaching outward to us… we are invited to join in, we are drawn into God’s love and God’s work.
How? Not being great Hebrew prophets: not being learned Jewish theologians – we may find it hard to see what we can do that would be worth anything……
I have a video on my phone, sent by my son. It’s of my granddaughter, Martha, 7 months this week, learning to blow a raspberry. Alan can be heard in the background, blowing the first one. Martha squeals with excitement, screws up her face, and manages a really spitty prhhphph. You can hear it………..
So what? What good is a raspberry? and yet everyone who has seen this video is melted by it…. by the effort Martha is making, every bit of her working to produce this fascinating sound, by her squeal of effort and joy – and by her success.
I wonder if this joy and pride and loving amusement is what God feels as we begin to follow him… baby steps, wobbly and not always getting there, not knowing why what we do matters but trying anyway…. and if those of you who are parents think back to proud moments with older children, who amaze you by their independence, their competence, their understanding of things you cant even grasp (speaking as the mother of a philosopher and a jazz musician….) – perhaps that is how God longs to feel about each of us….. except that of course there is nothing, even philosophy and jazz, never mind nuclear physics, that God can’t grasp. Because he made them… and he gave them to us.
So we are invited to join in with God in God’s work, to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to follow the example of Jesus and to do the things that God the Father created us to do. Again I ask, how?
There are many possible answers – the one I’m going to offer you wont surprise you!
Our new parish vision…. still much work to do on what it means in practice, but it offers us a structure to work with, and its dynamic and full of potential, like the mustard seed that inspired it, which has within it the shape and spirit of a great tree.
Together in Christ, growing in faith, serving in love. We do like things to come in 3s.
Together in Christ, growing in faith, serving in love. Being, growing, doing.
There isn’t a neat fit – one for Father, one for Son, one for Holy Spirit, but each relates to each in many ways – much to reflect on, contemplate and – please lets – make part of our lives
Together in Christ, growing in faith, serving in love.