(2 Corinthians 13.11-end, Psalm 8, Matthew 28.16-20)
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
What do you do with the bits of your faith that you don’t understand? We all have ideas and situations that we struggle to face in terms of our personal faith. No person, not even the highest of bishops knows all the answers in their fullest. That is the reserve of God, infinite wisdom and love.
So – do you tuck the difficult bits away and ignore them? For some people they become the stumbling block on which their faith survives or falls. For others, it is a case of living with mystery.
The Holy Trinity is one such concept. Except God is not a concept, but how else do we begin to understand?
In Anglicanism, we often use three strands to help us explore our faith – scripture, tradition and reason.
We can only begin to scratch the surface, but let us go first to scripture.
The Bible tells us that “the Lord is our God, the Lord our one God.” (Deuteronomy 6.4), and Jesus doesn’t dispute this. When he was asked which is the greatest commandment he began, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is the one Lord…’” (Mark 12.29)
But there is more. At the Great Commission, as we heard in our Gospel reading, Jesus told the disciples, “baptise them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28.19), and St Paul signed off his second letter to the Corinthians with a Trinitarian formula.
Not three gods, but one God.
Next let’s look to tradition. This is important, because it reminds us that our faith might be personal but it is never wholly individual. We belong to a Church, in time and space, and thankfully great minds have been wrestling with these questions for two thousand years. It takes the weight off us a little. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can share in their knowledge and insight.
The early years of the church involved much discussion and debate, particularly about Christ’s nature, whether he was purely human or divine or both, until at two church councils in the 4th century the matter was settled and the Nicene Creed was drawn up. 1600 years later we still say the Creed at every main Sunday Eucharist, for what we pray is what we believe.
Or if you prefer something a bit more recent, back in 2005 Archbishop Rowan Williams gave a lecture to the Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan in which he tried to explain the faith to a predominantly Muslim audience. Sometimes the best way to learn about something of our faith is to imagine explaining it to a non-Christian.
This is a short extract. Williams said, “We say that the one God, who is both source and outward-flowing life, who is both ‘Father’ and ‘Son’, is also active as the power that draws everything back to God, leading and guiding human beings towards the wisdom and goodness of God. This is the power we call ‘Holy Spirit’.
So when we speak of ‘the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’, we do not at all mean to say that there are three gods – as if there were three divine people in heaven…
Certainly we believe that the three ways in which God eternally exists and acts are distinct – but not in the way that things in the world or even persons in the world are distinct.”
And you have your own reason. To read and discuss and reflect on the Holy Trinity.
Some things will always be a mystery to us here on this mortal plane. As St Paul wrote, “At present we see only puzzling reflections in a mirror, but one day we shall see face to face.” (1 Corinthians 13.12)
That’s alright. Living with mystery is okay, more than okay actually. For mystery draws us into the eternal God. However, mystery doesn’t mean God is unknowable, for God has revealed himself to us in Jesus, the Word made flesh, and in sending the Holy Spirit to us.
In fact that tells us something really important about God’s nature. The Holy Trinity tells us that God is relational – within the Godhead and with us.
And so our relationships are really important and should be nurtured for they reflect the very nature of God, who is Love.
And it reminds us how great and majestic God is, who made us in their image, to reflect their grace and truth and love.
O Lord our governor, how glorious is your name in all the world! (Psalm 8.1).