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15th June 2014 - Sunday Morning - Ness Tobin more info>>

Trinity Sunday 2014
Isaiah 40 v. 12-17, 27-end
Matthew 29 v. 16-20

Good morning. Let us pray.

Dearest God, may my words be acceptable to you. Help me to deliver your words and help those listening to hear your message for them. Amen.

A couple of weeks ago, at a staff meeting at Maureen's house, we were deciding what duties I would undertake as part of my placement here at St. Chad's. It was decided that I would do a sermon and I was given the choice of 2 dates and 2 readings. When I volunteered to do the one on Trinity Sunday, (for, as well as being Fathers Day, that's what today is) I was met by, how shall I put it-shock!

In fact, if I'm more honest I was met by expressions which clearly showed me that I must be barking mad! And I wondered why? I then started to think about it, and realised what a task I had undertaken. I confess that I felt a little daunted about the subject matter. Trinity. How on earth was I going to talk about something that theologians, for the last 2ooo years, had never really clearly defined? How can God be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit but also one? How on earth does that work? My trepidation about the subject was increased when somebody told me that vicars tend to go away on Trinity Sunday, leaving their poor curates to tackle the problem! However, I am not a curate, and Maureen is still here, so lets have a go!

So I then thought that perhaps a good way to start would be to look at what we do know from the readings we had this morning. The Isaiah reading is about the Father and focuses on the vastness of God. We are told that God measures and balances the earth in his hand; nations, to Him, are 'like a drop from a bucket.' He is all knowing and can not be instructed or contained. But perhaps this is where the clue to Trinity is. God can not be contained. We have a tendency to put life into neat and understandable boxes, don't we? These are usually based on what we physically see, or on definitions. Think how often we ask people what they do for a living. That's not always a bad thing -it shows you're interested in a person, and people often do it because it opens up points of conversation. But think how much there is to a person that can't be labelled or boxed. What excites them and why? What grieves them? What are their hopes and fears? What, if anything makes them feel close to God?

You see, we can't define and label everything about a person. So how much more are we unable to define and label God? Trinity is undefined and vast.

In the reading from Matthew, on the other hand, Jesus the son is present in a very physical sense. We are told that, in his home town of Galilee, Jesus' disciples went to the mountain he had directed them, and then he came to them. He prepares them for the task ahead-but does not do this from afar, but from alongside them. Indeed, Jesus' physical presence is a continuing theme of the New Testament. He healed a blind man by putting mud and saliva on the man's eyes, he healed lepers by touch. The woman with a haemorrhage was healed when she touched his cloak.

He washed his disciples feet. He ate with them, and with those he met.In this passage we are told that some of his disciples worshipped him- but others doubted him. Even at this stage in the story his humanity is so real that some doubt his divinity. As many doubt him now. But Jesus doesn't condemn the doubters, he doesn't judge them. In other gospels we read that his response is to allow them to touch his wounds. In Matthew, Jesus involves all of his disciples in the task ahead; doubters and worshippers alike.

And then Jesus speaks of Trinity-telling the disciples to baptise the nations in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But what follows is really interesting. He says, 'remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.'
Now we are told in the other gospels, that Jesus ascends to heaven. So he is not with us, on earth, in a physical sense. But here he promises to be with us, to the end of the age. So what does he mean by that?

Well, I would suggest that that is where his Holy Spirit comes into play. By sending his spirit God and his Son are with us; all around us and within us. Christ's spirit is his presence-a presence that gives us strength when we are weak, hope when we feel hopeless, love when we are loveless.

So, there we have Father, Son and Spirit. But all this still doesn't tell us how they work together. I have heard some liken Trinity to water. Water can be water-but it can also be ice and steam, depending on the conditions surrounding it. Other people have described Trinity as like wine and water-distinct liquids but when mixed undistinguishable from each other, containing each others essence. My daughter, Cara made a fathers day card here for her dad which likened Trinity to a caterpillar, cocoon and butterfly-the same but different. I think these images are really helpful but they still lack something for me. I prefer thinking of Trinity as a little like family resemblances. I have an older brother and people often say that they can tell he's my brother. However, this is not because he particularly looks like me-well at least I hope he doesn't as he's a man, and I'm a woman!! but, apparently we share mannerisms and expressions, and people, on occasion say, 'oooh, I just saw Chris in you,' or, 'oh, yes, I can see that your related.' We are different-but from the same place and share many experiences. In a sense, although we are different, we live in each other. Those of you who have children will see you in them and them in you. I remember when my daughter was a baby she would suddenly have a facial expression, or do something which would really remind me of my husband. But this isn't just something unique to families. If we look carefully we can see those we love in others smiles, in acts of kindness. And those of us who have lost loved ones will often see them in special places. And we most always see them in memory, don't we?

You see, whilst we struggle to decipher and define the three aspects of Trinity we are in danger of missing one crucial aspect.

On a day when we celebrate good relationships between fathers and their children, we are reminded that Father, Son and Spirit would not be what they are if they were not in relationship with each other. And I think that's what is important about Trinity. Their relationship.

So what does this mean for us? Well, firstly, I think we shouldn't worry about defining Trinity because Father, Son and Spirit are mysterious and unanswerable, and acknowledging that is, actually, an important part of worship. Instead of thinking with your head about what Trinity is, perhaps we should try experiencing God's relationship in our heart. Father God has the whole world in His hands. He sees the whole picture. So experience resting in His love.

Jesus the son is your friend. He's been on earth long enough, and had enough pain, to know how you feel. Exactly how you feel. So cast your burdens on him. He told you to do that. Leave a space for him to sit beside you.

Spirit is wind, dove, light, water. She's outside in the trees and in birdsong. She's inside in the faces of your loved ones, in smiles, in your memories. She will guide you and comfort you. Spirit is love-but she's also strength. She will be with you when your strength is gone. Experience spirit within you.

And lets share this relationship with others, by our friendship and care for each other.

Because what's important, I think, is not having all the answers, but being open to relationship. Don't try to work it all out, don't try to define Trinity- but rather try to experience Trinity. Experience relationship. Live relationship with others. And, as it says in Isaiah, in the power of God's love, with his spirit leading you on- you will run and not be weary, walk and not be faint. Indeed, you will fly on wings like eagles. Amen.(Isaiah v.28-end)

Ness Tobin
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